|Lord of fantasy Sean Bean on the summer hit ‘Game of Thrones’ and his new series ‘Missing’
By ROBERT ABELE
When it comes to actors in roles, there are certain truisms: Robert DeNiro makes a great gangster. Meryl Streep kills with accents. And did British-born Sean Bean ever meet a period drama he wasn’t perfect for? Currently holding up the principled end of the conniving-character spectrum — honorable yet suspicious Winterfell Lord Ned Stark — in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Bean chuckles at his reputation for bringing easy authenticity to classically-minded stories set far from our modern world.
“I actually enjoy playing these period parts,” says Bean, who apart from plenty of Shakespeare and English literature parts has played iconic warrior roles like Odysseus in “Troy” and most famously, Boromir in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. “I seem to fit into that genre. I enjoy it. They always tend to have very interesting characters. There’s history behind them, more than with playing somebody in a contemporary piece,” he says.
Bean, 52, was one of only two names executive producers Dan Weiss and David Benioff, along with author George RR Martin, thought of when they first began turning Martin’s fantasy novel series “A Song of Fire and Ice” into a TV show. (The other was Peter Dinklage, who ultimately played charmingly conniving Tyrion Lannister.)
“There aren’t many people who can occupy a world like this convincingly,” says Weiss. “There are great actors who just don’t feel at home in these costumes, carrying a sword and riding a horse. But Sean has spent a lot of time in various versions of the past, and he can convey so much gravitas. It was an absolute joy to watch his character come to life in a way that’s better than even we could have imagined.”
It’s been a tough road for Ned Stark this season. Someone tried to murder his youngest son. Then Ned had to leave his wife behind in cold-but-comforting Winterfell to serve as Hand to the King in sunny yet treacherous King’s Landing. On top of it all, he discovered that the King’s wife (Lena Headey) is having an incestuous affair with her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and that Prince Joffrey — next in line to be the King — is the product of their union, not the King’s and Queen’s. Last week’s episode ended with Ned’s capture after he tried to prevent Joffrey’s ascension to power.
Of Ned’s decision to bring honor and loyalty to a snake pit like King’s Landing, Bean says bluntly, “He’s in a losing battle.”
While “Game of Thrones” has already received its second season renewal, eyebrows were raised when Bean also took a role in ABC’s “Missing,” an Ashley Judd thriller that was picked up for next season. What does this say for the future of the Stark patriarch? Bean is coy about how he would manage shooting both shows.
“It depends if I’m in the other episodes,” he says of “Game of Thrones.”
He’s bullish about “Missing,” though, in which he plays a CIA agent whose wife (Judd) is on a mission to find her son, who’s disappeared. “There are a lot of twists and turns,” says Bean, who has already filmed scenes for the series in Croatia. “It’s like ‘Game of Thrones’ in a sense. You don’t know where anybody’s loyalties lie. I’m looking forward to getting into that.”
One thing you probably won’t see Bean doing, however — despite his revered status with “Rings” and “Thrones” fans — is attending any fantasy conventions in an attempt to relive any Boromir and Ned Stark glory. “I think once you’ve done a part, you leave it alone,” says Bean, who’d much prefer to spend his down time gardening and reading in his London home. ‘I’m quite proud of the parts I’ve played, but I don’t want to capitalize on them like that. Sometimes it’s better to let things live in the past.”
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