Carice Van Houten Declined This 'GoT' Role Before Being Cast As Melisandre

by Sophie McEvoy
Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Game of Thrones may be over (well, the TV version anyway), but with its conclusion comes a whole host of new trivia from the show's cast and crew. One actor recently revealed her role in the show could have been very different, as it just so happens that Carice Van Houten was initially asked to play Cersei before being cast as the red priestess Melisandre in the second season.

"I thought the queen would be a great part, and [the producers] asked me to audition, but I couldn't do it, because I was shooting something else," the actor told Vulture in 2012. "I think it was Intruders, with Clive Owen, and there was no way." Instead, the role went to Lena Headey, who van Houten had nothing but praise for. "It makes sense, because they're sort of the same wood, as we say," she said in an interview with The Times. "But it all turned out for the best, because Lena couldn't be a better Cersei".

As SYFY WIRE notes, even when van Houten was offered the role of Melisandre the actor wasn't entirely sure she was fit for the task. "Apart from the fact that it was well written, I just thought, 'Is this for me'?"

To get a second opinion, she turned to comedian and commentator Seth Meyers who "out of everyone she knew, she figured he would be the person to ask", due to his love for GoT and the fantasy genre in general. After Meyer told her that being up for the role was "the coolest thing ever", she went for it.

Helen Sloan/HBO

"I was thrown into the deep end," van Houten said. "Every year, I tried and tried to get [the producers] to tell me more, and only got a minimal amount of information. But that was also good, because it made me create something for myself. And I hoped they would let me know if I was going in the wrong direction."

Even after getting the role and tackling her first big scene — the Battle of Winterfell, no less — van Houten was still apprehensive, but understandably so. "I had to be all-confident, religiously stern, sexual, all these things, and I was sh***ing myself, because this was my first day! I just had to bluff my way through it," the actor said. "Keep my back straight, and keep my head straight."

Well, she certainly did and became one of the show's most iconic characters — despite Melisandre's limited screen time. "I would have been interested in learning about her past a little bit, but at the same time that's what made her mysterious, that we only got slivers of hints," van Houten explained to The Wrap after being asked what she would have liked to have done with the character in the final season.

"I would have loved to have some sort of little scene with Cersei. I'm so curious what would have happened if those two women got together. That would have been an interesting meeting."