Peter Dinklage sits in the stairwell of a centuries-old Croatian fort wearing his scuffed battle armor. A gap in the fort’s thick stone wall provides him with a view of a peaceful blue sea. “It’s so great,” Dinklage says, “not to be wearing a costume with Velcro on it.” It’s a great quip, dryly delivered, and sounds not entirely unlike his breakout Game of Thrones character, Tyrion Lannister. Taking a break between scenes on the set for Thrones season 2 last fall, Dinklage had recently picked up the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor, then returned back to work on the show’s eagerly anticipated second season. In addition to praising the Thrones team’s attention to wardrobe authenticity, the actor spoke to EW about his Emmy win, the new season and his hope for Tyrion’s future.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When your name was called at the Emmy’s, what was your first thought?
PETER DINKLAGE: “Uh-oh. I have to get up there in front of a lot of people.” I was a little shy about that, but it was a fun night. I promised myself I wouldn’t get too cynical about it and it was the best advice I could give myself.
Does the win change anything for you as an actor?
No. I mean, it’s lovely to be recognized. I can’t deny that, but life goes on. I love that we were shooting the show when the awards happened, because I wouldn’t have liked to have gone back home and sit there and stare at it.
You could be submitted for lead actor this time, given how much focus is on you this season.
I don’t know how that all works out, but yeah. We’ll see. [Note: Dinklage and HBO later decided to submit him and other cast members for the supporting categories]. Or maybe I can just blow the entire season and be terrible and they won’t want me.
Do actually worry that you might go on set and be bad?
Well, you gotta have a certain amount of confidence to pull this type of stuff off, especially this character. But I sort of make it not my confidence, but the character’s confidence. So maybe that might seem like I’m confident. It’s really just masking it.
Is there anything you do to get in the mindset to play Tyrion?
Sometimes on sets, I shut down, try to focus. But this one, I find myself socializing a lot more. And maybe that helps, because Tyrion’s so social and puts himself out there. Other than that, I’ve never been one to really prep for a role too much. The greatest preparation for a TV show is to already have one season behind you.
What’s been the difference in shooting season 2 versus season 1 so far?
The mood generally seems to be much better. We all know each other, we’re like a family. For me, it’s a very different season in terms of Tyrion because season 1, I’m a prisoner half the time, on the road, or being thrown around. And this one, I’m Hand of the King, so I’ve been shooting mainly interior sets, so it’s been a bit more civilized and warmer.
You still have to shoot the battle scenes, though. Is there anything in particular they’ll have you doing for those?
For all those people who were disappointed that you didn’t see the battle last season, they will be pleasantly surprised that I do engage in a serious battle this year. I think that was a brilliant way of dealing with my character [last season], ’cause he’s not a fighter. He’s sort of more of an intellectual. I thought that was great. But this season, for all the people who miss battles, we definitely will serve them up.
Is it fun to be a leader this season?
The character, Tyrion, enjoys it. He’s surprised by how much he enjoys it. So you gotta sort of get in that mindset. It’s fun because this is a character that’s been shit upon his whole life. I mean, he comes from great wealth, but he’s treated very poorly, so now there’s a newfound respect where if somebody calls him a name, he can have them killed. He never had that before. Tyrion definitely enjoys that part and he’s trying desperately to hold onto it. He’s enjoying it while it lasts ’cause he’s not sure it’s gonna last very long.
What’s been the toughest thing to shoot so far?
Last season we shot one scene on horseback on the side of a cliff during a serious windstorm. Although it didn’t seem like it from what we shot, the horses were very nervous. One guy was thrown from the horse literally a couple feet away from the edge of a cliff. Other than that, it’s been a real joy … I guess what makes it difficult is that you want to do justice to the material. Sometimes, when the material is really good, you put expectations on yourself to make it the best possible show. You’re not just serving up the regular hash and doing your job and going home. When [the cast and crew] go out at night, we don’t talk about the weather. We talk about the show. We go out to dinner and we’re still talking, we’re in it, which is such a testament to the show.
Are you still going from script to script instead of reading the books?
I read the first book and then I stopped because I really am picturing people I know as the characters and I’d rather — no offense to them — but I’d rather come up with my own characters in my head. Like I could never read a book after I see the movie version. I’ll just be thinking of the movie and that sort of negates the whole idea of a book. They’re lovely books, but I also don’t want to know too much about my character’s future. I like to know all about his past, but I don’t like to know his future, ’cause I’m afraid I’ll play the end result a bit. The less I know of my future, the better.
Since you’re not reading ahead, it’s not a spoiler to ask: How do you hope your character ends up?
He’s been treated very poorly his whole life. So I like to think that he finds happiness. He deserves it.
Ready for the April 1 return of Game of Thrones? Oh no you’re not! Pick up this week’s issue going behind-the-scenes of season 2 with our nine-page cover story. See our Q&A with Emilia Clarke. Read our recaps of season 1. Bookmark our Thrones content hub.