Stephen Dillane as Stannis Baratheon and Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth in Game of Thrones. Photo: Supplied
You might understand a Game of Thrones actor trying to avoid fans, but Liam Cunningham is trying to keep a low profile from author George R.R. Martin.
The 53-year-old Irishman plays Ser Davos Seaworth, loyal adviser to Stannis Baratheon, one of the contenders for the throne of Westeros.
Cunningham has not read Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books in advance – “They’re very thick, aren’t they?” is how he describes them – and he has not yet received the scripts for Series 5, which begins filming at the end of July.
So he’s reluctant to be described as a “fan favourite”, the kind of Game of Thrones character who has an unfortunate tendency to be bumped off.
“Stop saying things like that, you’ll put thoughts in people’s minds,” Cunningham says.
“What if George sees this, and he’s in a bad mood? Anything could happen!”
In Australia to open the official HBO Game of Thrones exhibit, Cunningham is as excited to chat about the show as any fan, and is openly adoring of Ser Davos the “Onion Knight”, a one-time smuggler turned steady counsellor to sober Stannis.
“I love the fact that he’s a very low-born, low-rent kind of criminal, and he’s one of the few decent characters on it... he’s principled, he’s a classy character, he has nobility,” he says.
“Knowing this show, anything could happen - he could turn into a serial killer in the next series.
“But whatever happens... I’ll go where the wind takes me.”
At the end of Series 4, Stannis and Davos finally found themselves in new territory – meeting up with the wildlings and Night’s Watch north of The Wall.
Cunningham says he, Stephen Dillane (Stannis) and Carice van Houten (Melisandre) felt like “aliens” when they finally got to film on a part of the set they’d never seen before, 45 minutes out of Belfast.
“To hit the wall, if you’ll excuse the expression, and to see it with people there, and to be working with Kit Harrington, it feels like you’re stepping into another show, it’s really weird,” he says.
“But you tend to get a feel for the scale of the show when you do something like that, and there is a feeling of two worlds colliding.”
Born in Dublin, Cunningham was an electrician before getting into acting in the early 1990s.
He is best known for supporting roles such as an IRA fighter in 2006’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley, and a priest in 2008’s Hunger (in which he and Michael Fassbender share an astonishing 17 minute long single take), and describes Game of Thrones as a dream show for character actors.
“Everybody is influencing everybody else’s life, everybody is a danger to everybody else... the lines that come out of people’s mouths could only be said by that particular character.”
When Cunningham receives his Series 5 script, he knows it will be 99 per cent what winds up on screen.
“With George’s blueprint, and the two guys [showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss] writing the scripts, it’s just a joy to be saying the words,” he says.
“That’s kind of unusual, it’s kind of like doing a play, which is the highest compliment I can pay these guys.”
He says die-hard fans in Sydney should jump at the chance to see the exhibition.
“They’re not replicas, they’re the real swords, the real costumes, the real props, the stuff that people have come to love in the show,” he said.
“In a week’s time, it has to be put back in containers and taken straight back to Belfast, otherwise I’ll be acting naked.”
When he does get his new scripts, Cunningham is hoping for more scenes between Ser Davos and Shireen, Stannis’s studious and caring daughter who taught the Onion Knight how to read, and is now a father figure to her.
“You look at them and think 'Christ, is something going to happen to these two?'. Because we don’t want either of them suffering at the hands of these ne’er-do-wells,” he says.
“But again, with George, you know, anything can happen.”
The Game of Thrones exhibit runs from July 1 to 5 at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.