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Sibel Kekilli Interview: "Game of Thrones" Star Says, "Shae Would Be the Perfect Queen"

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Image attributed to Nela König

Sibel Kekilli

Crossing over into American television on the critically acclaimed hit HBO show Game of Thrones, award-winning German actress Sibel Kekilli steals the show as Shae, the concubine and lover of Peter Dinklage, Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister in the series. Originating as a guest appearance in the first season, Kekilli’s massive audience appeal expanded her role in Season 2 to series regular and is a central dominating force in Season 3.

While new to American audiences, the thirty-two year old’s accomplished acting resume has garnered her two Best Actress Lolas (German Oscar equivalent) for her roles in Gegen Die Wand (Head On) and Die Fremde (When We Leave), the latter procuring her the Best Actress Award at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. Kekilli also currently stars as investigator Sarah Brandt on the leading German TV crime series Tatort.

“When Dan and David called me to say that I would play Shae in the series, they promised me that the character in the series would be bigger. And even George R. R. Martin has admitted, with a big smile, that the Shae in his books is not as good as the one in the series.”

Kekilli began her acting career after being discovered by a casting director in a Cologne shopping mall, which led to her award-winning performance in Gegin Die Wand, the story of two Turkish immigrants who get together in a marriage of convenience but learn to care for one another. Following the film’s success, she has had a busy career with numerous TV appearances and feature film roles.

The daughter of Turkish immigrants, Kekilli was born and raised in Heilbronn, Germany, and currently resides in Hamburg where she devotes much of her time to Terre des Femmes, an organization that raises solidarity and awareness about violence against women, specifically in families of Islamic background. 

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Sibel, nice to meet you, and thanks for taking the time today. Game of Thrones just keeps setting ratings records, and it has already been renewed for a 4th season. How do you feel about being a part of such a successful television show?

Sibel Kekilli: I didn’t expect this huge success at the beginning. Somehow it feels a bit strange that so many people are watching the show (laughs). But I am really grateful to be a part of this magnificent series.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): To what do you attribute its success?

Sibel Kekilli: First of all, the George R. R. Martin books were very successful themselves, which I believed helped a lot to build a fan community, and Dan B. Weiss and David Benioff have done a great job transforming Martin’s books to keep the audience in front of the television guessing. You never know who is going to die next. It is quite unpredictable.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It certainly is unpredictable. Had your read any of George R. R. Martin’s books?

Sibel Kekilli: Not so far. Frankly, I did not want to read them so that Shae’s role on Game of Thrones, which is quite different from the books, retains its own character and authenticity.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Were you a fan of the epic fantasy genre?

Sibel Kekilli: To be honest, not really. But after watching the Game of Thrones series, I am really fascinated by this genre and quite into it. Maybe I will now have to spend more time in front of the TV watching things like Lord of the Rings (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you audition for the role of Shae?

Sibel Kekilli: Yes. I auditioned with the producers in London.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What were you told about Shae’s characteristics and personality?

Sibel Kekilli: At the beginning – nothing. After I got the role, they told me what the character was like and the storyline between Tyrion and Shae.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Were you told that she would be different or more mysterious than the character in the book?

Sibel Kekilli: When Dan and David called me to say that I would play Shae in the series, they promised me that the character in the series would be bigger. And even George R. R. Martin has admitted, with a big smile, that the Shae in his books is not as good as the one in the series.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): “Every man who has tasted my cooking has told me what a good whore I am.” Shae has had her fair share of saying some pretty good zingers. What are some of your favorite lines or scenes so far in Season 3?

Sibel Kekilli: Well, the whole chain scene in Episode 7 is really good where Shae is once again really true to herself and does not allow Tyrion to buy her. The line in Episode 1 is good in the scene with Sansa: “Why should I make up the story when I know the truth?”

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How would you describe Shae and Tyrion’s relationship?

Sibel Kekilli: In the very beginning, it was more like a working relationship. Like, “I give you this,” so I get something for that. After a while, there emerged some feelings, and I’d call it love.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What can you tell us about Shae and Tyrion’s relationship in the rest of the 3rd season?

Sibel Kekilli: It will be more dangerous for both of them. That’s all I can say right now.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I know you cannot say, but is there a chance that Tyrion will murder Shae or have they even hinted that Shae may be killed?

Sibel Kekilli: Well, you have to ask the producers. But if you ask me, Shae would be the perfect queen.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me what you like most about Peter Dinklage as an actor and as a person.

Sibel Kekilli: He is one of the funniest guys I have ever met. His acting is just amazing! I love watching him play and acting with him.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Please tell me about your work with the organization Terre des Femmes.

Sibel Kekilli: Terre des Femmes is an organization that supports campaigns against domestic violence, honor killing and circumcision. These are three topics I find really worth fighting for, especially when certain religions claim the right to do it. There are no excuses at all for abuses like that.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you currently working on other projects?

Sibel Kekilli: I am playing an inspector in a very famous German crime series called Tatort. It is a little bit like CSI: Miami or CSI: New York. I have recently finished one season, and the next shooting starts in a couple of weeks.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

Sibel Kekilli: I love to relax and like being at home with my lovely dog.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Can you find a great hamburger in Hamburg?

Sibel Kekilli: Have you ever been to Hamburg?

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I have not unfortunately, but it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Sibel Kekilli: Yes it is, and you will find some delicious burgers. If you’re ever here, I will be happy to show you around!

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