Ser Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight, spent several seasons of Game Of Thrones as Stannis Baratheon's (fingerless) right hand man and all around bullshit detector. Since Stannis's defeat and death in season five, Davos has served a similar role for Jon Snow, offering heartfelt inspirational speeches, forging a bond with the mighty Lyanna Mormont, and generally being the most decent man in Westeros.
Whether he's selling fermented crab to the impotent men of King's Landing ("I'd hurry to your favorite establishment, or you'll put a hole in that chainmail"), correcting people's grammar ("fewer"), bantering with Jon about his crush on Dany ("I noticed you staring at her good heart.") or offering poetic pearls of wisdom ("Nothing fucks you harder than time"), Ser Davos has become a perennial scene-stealer, and one of the only people fans really just want to see happy and alive at the end of the show.
The day after the season seven finale, we got the chance to talk to actor Liam Cunningham about the end of the penultimate season, Jon Snow's leadership abilities, spoiler culture, spinoff ideas, and the narrative possibilities offered by incest.
What's it been like nearing the endgame stage of the show, with the world of Westeros contracting and all the major characters starting to run into each other? Well, I'll tell you, from a personal point of view and from an acting point of view, I was selfish enough when I came into the show and realized how good it was that my ambition was to hit the last season. I've achieved that—of course, typical selfish actor, I want to get to the last episode now.
When that will happen, I have no idea, because I haven't seen one word of the new scripts. They're hopefully going to arrive in the next three to four weeks, I hope. We haven't even been given an official start date for filming yet. All the cards have been kept very close to certain people's chests.
I'm sure they don't want anything to leak out this time. I'm sure. Listen, it's unavoidable. In the digital world it's going to happen. One point about that—talking about leaks and all that—you know what's wonderful? People's attitude to this. Those leaks and whatever, people don't want their Christmas presents in November. They waited. They didn't let this thing go and it was absolutely glorious. We got a chance to experience this altogether. It's a bit of a kick in the teeth for the naughty people that did that.
Because at two o'clock this morning in Dublin, where I'm speaking from, with my family on the sofa—some of us stayed up, some of us grabbed an hour of sleep first—we all watched it at the same time with everybody else. I think it's a fantastic thing to be able to experience it at the same time as everybody else.
And clearly this hasn't affected the viewership numbers. If anything, there's more people watching it live now than ever before. Absolutely. It's a wonderful thing. Listen, it's the water cooler isn't it? Who wants friends that turn around and go, "Guess what happened?" I'd dare say there's been various people who have probably gotten various punches in the head from their friends saying,"Shut the hell up! I want to watch it the same time as everybody else." Quite right.
Davos has spent a lot of time over the last couple seasons with Jon. Do you think at this point he's a good, effective leader? Even if he's a good person, do you think he makes good decisions on behalf of his people? You know what's a great thing about it is that the similarities between Davos and Jon are pretty obvious. They're good people. They want to do the right thing. Jon's had greatness forced upon him, and even more so now with the information that Bran has confirmed.
He may not be experienced, he may not be as battle hardened as my previous employer Mr. Stannis Baratheon, but at the same time, if you surround somebody who's got a good heart with good people, then as the old cliché goes, "The truth will set you free." In Westeros, who else would you want to see with the power? As Davos or as myself the actor, I'd prefer to see that in the hands of Mr. Jon Snow I think.
Now that we finally know the truth about Jon's parentage, what do you think of the Jon/Dany pairing? Can their love survive a little bit of incest?[Laughs] I can hear the smile on your face as you speak.
Now the dramatic possibilities there are absolutely titanic. They're fantastic. From an actor's point of view, and from a writer's point of view, and an audience point of view—if you think about the fact that as audience members we have been flies on the wall of all this. We have information that neither Jon Snow nor Daenerys Targaryen has, that these two are nephew and aunt. And not only that, but because of Jon Snow's lineage, he is now her boss.
What is Tyrion going to do with that information? What is Cersei going to do with that information? How soon, as an audience, are we going to be gratified with finding out when [Jon & Dany] are going to get that information? Not only that, this is set against a backdrop of the Night King on top of a missile, Viserion, who has just smashed The Wall. We have seen at the end of this magnificent episode that they have broken through. They are in the Seven Kingdoms, and that particular threat has to be dealt with. It's extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary dramatic possibilities. I look forward to it like you wouldn't believe.
To play devil's advocate for a moment: considering how unhappy so many of these leaders have been in Westeros, how much violence they've brought upon their people, is there any chance the Night King might actually be a better ruler? That maybe everybody would be a little happier at this point if they were dead?[Laughs] Everybody won't be a little bit happier if we were all walkers! No, I don't think that's going to happen.
Listen, it's now turning into a struggle of good over evil. I said this dramatically, I think some people blew it out of proportion, but I was kind of looking at the Night King and his army as almost like climate change. It's an extraordinary thing that's coming. It's the end of days and they have to deal with this immediate threat as quickly as they possibly can. The familial problems and the lineage problems that are happening with Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are going to have to be, perhaps, put to one side, but it's going to be very interesting to find out who is in the room when that information is finally given. Where we leave the story is with Daenerys Targaryen and Jon in a boat on their way to Winterfell. Bran's got that information, so this could come out really quickly. So you know the dramatic possibilities are mind bending, they're fantastic.
Do you read any fan pieces, analysis or recaps of the show? Do you have any that you like in particular? Listen, there's enough speculation that goes on in my house when I already know what's going to happen and I have to bite my lip and not say anything because I don't want to ruin it or spoil it for anybody. But I do pop onto Twitter now and again and I love the fact that the audience are still trying to work it out. They want to know but they don't want to know. The amount of people that I've got on the street who dive out in front of me, who beg me for a little spoiler—it's all over the place, and it's great fun. I'm loving it. It's a testament to the quality of the writing and the storytelling on this, but after seven years people are still going, "What's going to happen?" It's the heroin of television.
That's a perfect way of putting it. What happened to Davos's wife Marya? When was the last time he saw her? Don't forget we have seven sons as well. Maybe that's going to be the spinoff. Maybe that'll be Better Call Davos. Him and his wife and his six remaining sons.
I would watch that. Listen, George [R.R. Martin's] world is a different world than the David and Dan world, and we would never get to the end of book one if we dealt with everything. We've got to have little pieces of these magnificent characters; it's David and Dan's responsibility to get the essence of these characters on screen. As they say about drama, especially television drama, it's life with the boring bits taken out. I think what we're dealing with is these incredibly interesting hands that these particular people have been dealt, and the minutiae of their family life isn't important. Listen, I'd be happy, more than happy, to expand on those in the much-awaited Davos spinoff. [Laughs]
How does it feel to be a hero to grammar sticklers? A hero to who?
To grammar sticklers. I don't know what grammar sticklers are! What is that?
Oh, like grammar Nazis, people who... [Cunningham thought I was asking about people who nitpick over things like "modern" words creeping into the show and the timeline confusion] Oh listen, to hell with them. Listen, if you're looking at that stuff, move on. Enjoy the drama. Enjoy what's going to happen. Enjoy the Night King coming through that world with that ballistic weapon that he's got. If people are taking that level of interest, then it's well and good. We've manufactured a language for this show, people dealing with those tiny, tiny details. But these are human beings. We're trying to portray human beings with all their faults and all their beautiful little foibles. That's what's glorious to deal with on this. Those little things I do not concern myself with them.
Oh, I think it's great that's he's kept Stannis' spirit alive through correcting everybody's grammar. Ohhh yeah, ohhh that stuff. Yeah, it's wonderful characterization, and it just shows you exactly what David and Dan have, they've been so aware of what's going on from season one up to as far as this. I love those things.