Spoilers, Barbarians, and the Circus: Ian Beattie

This work was originally published by the University Observer in September 2015.

Fans of Game of Thrones will be readily familiar with Ser Meryn Trant, member of the Kingsguard under King Joffrey. He is a sadistic, brutal and all-round vile character, appeasing those he serves through nefarious means. So it was lucky that Ian Beattie, the actor behind Ser Meryn, could not be more different. Bouncing around in his seat at MCM Comic-Con, he enthusiastically shared how the show has impacted his life, how he attempted, rather unsuccessfully, to avoid spoilers on set, and all that he has in store now that his time on the show has come to an end.

“It has made a huge difference to my career, certainly,” says Beattie, looking very relaxed now that he has ditched the Iron Throne for a seat in the RDS. “Before Game of Thrones, I got occasionally very prestigious jobs, but they were also not as regular. Game of Thrones just took me up to a whole different level and got me into many, many more rooms than I previously would have gotten into.” He has showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss to thank for that. The pair have overseen the show since its inception in 2011 and have developed its memorable storylines. “Anyone who has seen season five will know that I was given a ridiculously good send-off,” Beattie says.

As the conversation progresses, it becomes clear that, despite becoming an integral part of one of the biggest fantasy shows of all time, Beattie remains a fan at heart. Speaking about conventions, he says, “I absolutely love them! I love interacting with people and finding out what their theories are, because I’m a huge fan of the show as well.”

In order to avoid spoilers, Beattie did not read full scripts. Instead, he only read passages that contaed his scenes. “One of the funniest stories I experienced in Game of Thrones [was when] we were in season four, and it was the last day of filming in Belfast. I was filming with Jack Gleeson and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau [King Joffrey and Jaime Lannister, respectively]. We finished the scene and Charles Dance was there and he said, ‘well, the little bastards have finally killed me,’ and I said, ‘No, you’ve just given me the end of the season!’”

With the rise of social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, spoilers for popular TV shows like Game of Thrones are becoming harder and harder to avoid. Beattie notes that it’s not just social media that causes such a common problem; BBC News, one of the biggest news outlets in the United Kingdom, posted an article on the ending of season five shortly before the episode was due to air. “Many people want to know what happens next, but most people don’t,” says Beattie. “And the reason I think Game of Thrones has been so incredibly successful is, no matter how invested you are in a character, nobody is safe, and that makes for the most compelling television.

The figures for the last season averaged approximately 8 million viewers per episode, and the season’s debut alone was downloaded illegally 13 million times. Game of Thrones is showing no signs of slowing down. Beattie feels another reason for the show’s continued success is its filmic quality. “It’s a game-changer for television. It is film quality. And the attention to detail! You don’t even see it all, you have to pause the TV [and say], ‘look at that, look at that, look at that.’ They have created a world, and they have created it so well.”

Beattie’s start in acting began at an early age, when he used to tour Northern Ireland in a circus with his father. “From that age I always wanted to act, there was never any question.” Speaking directly to anyone with an interest in entering the business, Beattie says, “if they know that that’s what they want to be, then that’s what they’re going to be. Simple as that.”

Now that he has now left the show, Beattie can finally appreciate it without fear of encountering spoilers (unless he has a Facebook page). Speaking about where he thinks the series is going in the future, he notes that there are many characters alive in the books who have died in the show. “I’ve got a funny feeling their days are numbered. The genius that is George RR Martin knows what happens in the shows. He and David and Dan obviously spend a lot of time following storylines. I strongly suspect that anyone who didn’t make it to the end of season five will not be making it to the end of book six.”

Now that Beattie’s time in Westoros is at an end, what has the Northern Irish actor got in store for the future? “Quite a few things actually,” he assures. “The first thing [is] a series I’ve just finished for the History Channel called Barbarians Rising. It’s the Roman Empire versus different Barbarian tribes that went against them. It’s an eight part series that’s coming out early next year. Very excited about that.” Exciting indeed, but it’s what Beattie says next is what will intrigue most. “Next month, I start filming a film in Belfast with Timothy Spall as Ian Paisley, Colm Meaney as Martin McGuiness, and I will be playing Gerry Adams.” With the glasses, the beard, and a mimicry of Adams’ recognisable Belfast accent, you only have to close your eyes to imagine that it is not the enthusiastic Game of Thrones actor before you, but the Sinn Féin leader himself.

From the circus tent, to one of the biggest fantasy franchises of all time, Beattie’s career has gone from strength to strength. And with a plethora of projects in the works, this trend seems set to continue.

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