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The virtuous one

Life's exclusive interview with veteran actor Liam Cunningham, who plays Ser Davos Seaworth in the hit series Game Of Thrones

Liam Cunningham in Bangkok. Photo © Polyplus

Liam Cunningham is quite a funny bunny -- a stark opposite of the character he is best known for portraying: Game Of Thrones' dependably virtuous knight, Ser Davos Seaworth. While in Bangkok earlier this month, he unflinchingly munched the head off fried insects at the street stall and gleefully admitted to nicking tiny props from the set every year, be it the small wooden stag or coins from Braavos. He asks the props man first of course, and most of it ends up on his daughter's "wall of awesome" in her bedroom.

The veteran actor is no stranger to Thailand and his first visit, which took place 15 years ago, was when he was on a three-month shoot for the film Stranded (2002) in Krabi. This time, the Irishman was back in town earlier this month courtesy of HBO shacking up with AIS. Viewers in Thailand can now follow the latest Game Of Thrones on AIS Playbox, with the second-to-last season premiering on July 17.

Leaking no hints about what to look forward to in Season 7, besides the fact that the bold, grandness of the cinematography has exploded from the size of a 20-by-20 painting to the AIS backdrop he stood in front of, Cunningham hinted at what the teaser trailer could possibly be getting at.

"Why are they looking at the camera? Why are they walking around? I really like the song [Sit Down by James] that plays with it as well. It may be an indication of all those little things that have been around for a long time."

Cunningham clearly enjoyed playing tourist at the Grand Palace and ruins of Ayutthaya during his days off here, but without a doubt, it is playing this Thrones character that has been the highlight of his career.

Liam Cunningham as Ser Davos in Game Of Thrones. Photo © HBO Asia

"Professionally, I've managed to keep quiet for 25 years," he explained. "Just doing my thing with theatre, indie films and some mainstream films, but this thing has pulled me out in front of the public. I'm not anonymous anymore, which is very strange because it's not why I started acting. I really love acting, I didn't do it to become famous or wealthy."

Having been in showbiz long enough to know a good part when he sees one, the 55-year-old is thrilled to be the character that speaks up for the audience -- the one that raises his hand to do the right thing when a sea of murky and power-hungry characters toe the grey area.

"It's fair to call GoT a Shakespearean drama and I mean that as a big compliment!" The theatre pro, who's also starred in productions of As You Like It, added: "What's brilliant about it is the intelligence of how it's written. Jamie was this horrible, self-centred Mr Gorgeous at first -- but what's interesting is your allegiances shift. Cersei does terrible things and you don't agree with what she does, but you understand why she does it. It's one of the grown-up elements of the show, unlike old Westerns in America with bad guys wearing black hats and good guys wearing white hats and it was all clear cut."

As a fan of the show too, who also enjoys watching his co-stars' storylines, Cunningham is a big fan of Tywin Lannister.

"Brilliant character who scares his own children," gushed the Irishman. "That's a very strong character. As an actor, when you watch somebody acting something and they do it well, you'd go, 'Oh, I wanna do that!'. Charles Dance portrayed it magnificently."

Being a show that brings to light the possibility and probability of what power can do to somebody, one of the most controversial deaths -- the burning of a child -- was the character cut that hit the illiterate knight the hardest.

"I remember how director Alex Graves said this show is weird," he recalled. "He says, 'This morning, I've filmed one of the most difficult, horrible scenes I've ever had to film in my career', and in the afternoon he says, 'I'm filming one of the sweet, most beautiful and loving scenes. This show wrecks my mind!'. I love how you can do these battle scenes and then also have these beautiful scenes with these young ladies as well. It's great for an actor because it's not just one thing."

To battle the intensity of the material he portrays, Cunningham goes to boiling a large pot of coffee and reading his scripts in a locked room, gasping alone inside.

"When I hear my daughter pass my room, I scream 'Aaaaah!', and she goes, 'Oh my god what is it! What is it!'," he laughed. "Then I shout back, 'I can't tell you!'. Sometimes I do it for a laugh though, just to annoy her."

That he is a father of three, with his children all now well into their teens, might have a hand in how well he meshes with his grade-school co-stars.

"I really liked Davos' relationship with Shireen and Lyanna Mormont. He recognises the strength of character in a young child. I really liked that," said Cunningham. After five seasons of learning how to read with boss' daughter Shireen Baratheon, played by Kerry Ingram, last season he bade farewell to his young castmate by giving her an Irish-made silver stag. She too, gifted him a pillow with an embroidered stag (the sigil of their house) and the book Grammar For Dummies.

"She's got a good sense of humour!" he smiled. "She's a cool girl."

With many of his scenes revolving around interacting with Shireen, this is possibly one of the largest plot developments for Ser Davos. Can we be sure that his character remains the shred of humanity in this show we can still cling to?

"My character is probably the most enjoyable I've ever played," he said. "I've played a lot of bad boys and not so interesting guys, but this guy, I just like the fact that he has a good heart, is a loyal and decent man and is incredibly brave. I wish I was like him in real life! Doing the right thing is more important to him than anything. He's presented with the option to keep his mouth shut, but he doesn't and says, nope, this is wrong. I, as Liam, admire Davos and I think we should all try to be brave like Davos in our own way."

Game Of Thrones returns for its seven episode seventh season on July 17 at 8am Thai time on HBO on AIS Playbox for home viewing and AIS Play for mobile viewing.

LIAM’S LEADER ANAL YSIS

His two gold coins about the potential rulers of Westeros

Daenerys

She uses those three big weapons that she has and sometimes in questionable fashion. To win something you have to beat something and that's difficult decisions for that young lady to make. She's a young lady even though she's a queen.

Jon Snow

I think Jon Snow would be good, but I don't think he wants it. He never wanted to be king. It's like that old saying — some people have greatness thrust upon them.

Tyrion

He looked like he would be the right man for the job. Would he be? I don't know, he likes drinking too much. It's difficult to know.

Verdict

Carice van Houten was asked this too and I have to agree with her. She said I would like to live in a world that was ruled by Samwell Tarly. But there's no way that's going to happen and she's probably right.

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