Asking the real questions
During Dutch Xmas Con we had the chance to speak with Sibel Kekilli. Mostly known for her role in the populair HBO series Game of Thrones (GoT) where she played as Shae, Tyrion Lannisters mistress. Of course a quick google search will tell you everything you want to know about Sibel. Yes, she lives in Germany. And yes, she had an acting career before she played on Game of Thrones. We are pretty sure Sibel is bored with answering the same questions over and over again. So we decided to make this interview a bit more Girl Gamer Galaxy proof. We hope you enjoy reading Sibel’s answers to the questions we prepared for her.
‘The Game of Thrones’
HBO’s Game of Thrones popularity is immense. Thousands of people can’t wait to see the next season based of the book series ‘A song of Ice and Fire’. So it isn’t that strange that we would love to know more about how it was like to be cast as Shae on the show.
They started filming the first season in July and the audition was in June.
How did you get from playing roles in German movies to playing Shae in one of HBO’s most populair series? Sibel: Actually, the showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, they watched Head On (Gegen die Wand, 2004). And even if it was a six years old movie by then, they invited me to do an audition for their show.
That movie was from 2004…Yes, we are well informed. So they were impressed by your acting? Sibel: Haha, very nice. So yes this was in 2010. It was before they started to shoot at all. They started filming the first season in July and the audition was in June. So, this was just shortly before they started filming. And my reaction was: Oké, wow! Yeah, of course, HBO! Why not?
Were you already a fan of the book series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ or did you have to do some research? Sibel: I did started to do some research because I didn’t know the books by George R.R. Martin at that time. But when I told people in Germany, like friends… they didn’t know the books either. Obviously the show gave a boost to the popularity of the books.
Who is Shae?
When I met George R.R. Martin for the first time, he said to me: Your ‘Shae’ was better then my ‘Shae’.
We read that your character in the tv show was slightly different from the character in the books. They adjusted it especially for you, that’s how impressed they were with you! Sibel: Yes, that is true. I still feel honoured by that. The showrunners Dan and David said: Oké, of course you’re not getting the main part, but we will make your role bigger. And they changed it. And I really, really love them for that. When I met George R.R. Martin for the first time, he said to me: Your ‘Shae’ was better then my ‘Shae’. And all I could think at that moment was: Wow, George is actually saying this to me. I was really happy.
Coming from the author himself, that is a big compliment! Aside from giving you a bigger role, what else did they change about your character? Sibel: I think that in the books Shae was a bit more of a golddigger. But I really think that she loved Tyrion. I know some people doubt this. My reponse is: Look. I (Shae) loved Tyrion, I loved Peter Dinklage. But this relationship… he was not always nice to her. People seem to forget that. She was there when everyone left him after the war. She asked him to go away with her, but he said ‘no’. Then she said: Fine, I will be here with you. Even if you marry another girl, even if you marry Sansa. Every other woman would say: I’m hurt. You hurt me. Why are you like that to me? But she was still there, after he got married.
Shae and Tyrion Lannister
She had devoted her life to him
So what do you think actually happend between Tyrion and Shae? Sibel: Tyrion wanted to save Shae. That’s why he insulted her, called her a whore and asked her to go away. But I think it was way too hard for Shae to just leave. Remember, she is a poor girl who fell in love with this guy. And then he was put on trial. This is when Tywin Lannister and Cercei found her, both very powerfull characters. I think this was all too intimidating for her. They knew she was his mistress. So I think she was somehow forced to be at Tyrion’s trial scene. But that’s my opinion. I feel she did’t think that she had a choice. She did as she was asked.
If you really think about it, it makes sense. Shae was in a dangerous position. But you must admit there were some mixed feelings playing a role as well. Sibel: Yeah, you are absolutely right. She wanted to have revenge, too. She was hurt. She was desperate because she lost her love and her hopes. After everthing he put her through. She had devoted her life to him. So they did change this a bit, but in the end I think it was almost the same ending as in the books.
Everything must come to an end?
So how far in, during the filming of the show, did you know your character was going to die? Or did you start reading the books during the filming of the scenes? Sibel: No, I read two of the books at the end.. But I knew that Shae was going to die, because of course there were spoilers everywhere. My friends would tell me: ‘You know how you are going to die, right?’ Yeah, thank you so much for telling me that! Haha. But I wasn’t upset. I actually thought that my part would end in the first season. And I was happy to be proven wrong.
Shae didn’t die in the first season. She had a part in GoT from 2011 to 2014 and they made her original role bigger. If George R.R. Martin would say: ‘Sibel, I have a way to bring you back.’ Then, would you do it? Sibel: Yeah, I would be begging. I tried asking Dan and David. But they said: Of course, you can come back as a zombie. Haha! But in all seriousness, sometimes it’s really good to have an end. Some shows go on and on for 15 or even 20 years. And the characters kind of start to lose their charm. I think the way Shae died was very memorable. It was a good ending for my character. It was an important scene for me and for Tyrion.
Who is Sibel Kekilli, apart from her role in Game of Thrones?
I grew up in this culture, I am from this culture.
Of course one role does not define Sibel as a person. She has been involved in humanitarian causes for years. We asked her about the work she does for Terre des Femmes, a non-profit women’s rights organisation that fights against violence towards women.
Photo credit: Andreas Dauerer
You are very vocal about your support to Terre des Femmes. Sibel: Yes Terre des Femmes is something that I am very passionate about. We have been working together for twelve years now. They help women in a very direct way. If someone asks for help, I can give them a number they can call and a place where they can go. And I really appreciate that. Of course there are organisations that are helping in a more ‘global way’. There is nothing wrong with that, but I really like that Terre des Femmes helps women directly. They are a small, but still very important organisation.
What kind of issues does Terre des Femmes help women with? Sibel: Terre des Femmes will hide you if you need to get away from your family. I know that, for example, in the Turkish culture, people only want to talk about how beautiful the Turkish culture is. And don’t get me wrong, I agree. But it can also be a dangerous culture for women, for girls. They can be forced into marriage, or they grow up in a violent enviroment, with a violent family. Not to blame the direct family completely. Especially fathers are under a lot of pressure from there relatives because they are being told ‘you have to take care of your daughter’. This can results in them not letting their daughters go out or let them do things other girls their age do.
Why are you so passionate about this cause? Sibel: These issues still exist. I think it’s really important to not hide from these issues. I grew up in this culture, I am from this culture. So I have to say something about it. I have to say: These are the problems, so please don’t look away. But not just me. Other people from this culture have to do this as well. And you, the German or Dutch neighbour. You see what is going on in this family. You can’t simply say or do nothing.
‘Just five more minutes’
By this point we are told we have five more minutes for our interview. But Sibel doesn’t seem to be anywhere near finished speaking about Terre des Femmes and asks for more time.
Sibel continues explaining why this cause is so important to her. Sibel: Together with Terre des Femmes I am fighting against honour killings. You don’t hear much about them. People don’t like to talk about it. It’s sometimes swept under the rug. People pretend it was an accident, I don’t know. Maybe the media doesn’t like to write about it. If so, then I think that, that is wrong.
We assume that people are afraid to speak out. That if they say anything, something bad will happen to them as well? Sibel: Of course! I’m not getting applause for speaking out either, at least, not all the time. Some people in the Turkish culture ask me why I am doing this. Why I am making our beautiful culture look bad. The culture I grew up in.. they are really proud. And they are like ‘I don’t want to hear criticism about these things’. But it is my duty, I have to say something. I can’t pretend that our culture has no flaws. In stead of that, we should aknowledge it. Only then can we work on these flaws and make it better.
Because obviously the Turkish culture is your heritage, your culture. But you also want to improve it? Sibel: Yes. It’s a shame. I feel like Turkey is going backwards, or taken steps back. Sometimes I wonder “Why are they afraid of women?’.
Sibel tells us about ‘Project Florika’. A project from Terre des Femmes that supports Roman girls (in Bulgaria) in their fight against forced prostitution and human trafficking.
You mentioned your visit to Bulgaria. Sibel: Yes the Roma in Bulgaria. These girls..We really need to give them a chance to get an education. Because the girls from this community, they don’t really have one. The boys don’t have a chance either. People assume they are outlaws, thieves, etc. The girls, they are oppressed by people in and outside their family. So they have to fight against both sides. Terre des Femmes is really doing a great job with helping them.
Sibel and some of the Roma girls. Photo credit: Andreas Dauerer
We were moved by the way Sibel talked about Terre des Femmes and their work. If you are interested in knowing more about this organisation. Take a look here, before you continue to read about the rest of the interview below.
On a lighter note…
After such a serious subject we wanted to end the interview on a lighter note. To get to know Sibel a little bit better we showed her a few sets of pictures. We asked her to make a ‘snap decision’ and make a choice!
Playing soccer or playing with Barbie dolls?
Apple or Microsoft?
Sibel: *Sighs* I am using Apple, but I think we are to focussed on these products. Everybody is using them. They are controlling us, both of these brands. But yes, I am addicted to Apple as well. Unfortunately.
A healthy meal of fast food?
Sibel: If I have to be honest, I would have to say fast food. If I would lie, I would have to say a healthy meal. But I actually love acovado too. Haha!
Wine or Beer?
Sibel: That one is easy. Wine. Haha!
That makes us think about Tyrion Lannister: ‘That’s what I do. I drink, and I know things’
Sibel: Haha. Yes!
Career or Family?
Sibel: Oké, my boyfriend is right there (looks over her shoulder to boyfriend). But if I have to choose between having a family or a career, I’d say career. Did he hear me?
Sneakers or High Heels?
Sibel: *sighs again* I hate high heels.. but I have to wear them. I choose sneakers!
Winter Wonderland or White pearly beaches?
Sibel: Oh my god. They are both beautiful … (Sibel asks her boyfriend what he thinks she would prefer. He almost immediately points at the white pearly beach. It turns out that he is the one that likes the Winter Wonderland)
Books or comics?
Sibel: We are at a Comic Con, I know, but books.
Cat or Dog?
Sibel: Aaahh it’s the wrong dog. Because I like bigger dogs. But dogs. I had a Rottweiler actually. Unfortunately he died… (There goes the ‘lighter note’)
Going out or staying in bed with Netflix?
Sibel: I’m too old so *points at Netflix card immediately*
And of course, last but not least: House Lannister or House Stark?
Sibel: Haha! Uhm, this is a tough one! Let me think, wait.. they killed me (points at House Lannister). Haha. But Sansa married a Lannister (points at Stark).. Ow Jeez. I like Cercei’s role and I loved Tyrion, so I take House Lannister.