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George R. R. Martin asked Miltos Yerolemou not to go bald for Syrio Forel as he was ‘exotic’ enough

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Destiny often plays funny tricks on people. It has a strange way of manifesting itself. For example, Iwan Rheon, who played Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones, was originally up for Jon Snow. And we’re thankful he didn’t, because he was great and terrifying as Ramsay, and Kit Harington was perfect as Jon. Miltos Yerolemou, famous for playing Arya Stark’s teacher Syrio Forel, almost didn’t play his much-beloved character. He was originally up for a different role, but was changed due to his hairy appearance.

 
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Even Syrio wasn’t supposed to be as hairy as Miltos, but Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin told him he was exotic enough for the role and needn’t change. In a recent live Instagram session with Game of Laughs, he revealed:

“Yeah, we [David and Dan] talked about it. They said, “Do you mind if we shave your head?” And I was like, “Yeah sure“. As an actor, my favorite thing is the transformation. I love changing the way that I look. I always like looking different whenever I do a job and being unrecognizable. So yeah, I was very happy to do it, but then George R. R. Martin intervened and he said I didn’t need to. He said, “The reason why I wrote Syrio Forel that way, that he was small and bald and spoke in a very strange syntax”. He kind of speaks back to front, a little bit, you know.”

“He wanted him to be different to all the other hairy men of the North. With their broad swords and the hacking and the slashing, you know, they’re uncouth. The Braavosi are very sophisticated, they are from a very affluent place. They are a very cultured place. And so he said I was exotic enough, I was different enough, there was no need to make me bald.”

He went on to reminisce his auditioning process for Game of Thrones:

“I’m amazed. As you can see I’m much greyer than I used to be, that’s how you know it’s been 10 years. I never knew anything about Game of Thrones when we made it. The first season particularly. We knew it was a very successful series of books that were very popular around the world. I remember us talking about it, standing outside the hotel after the first read-through. And we were all like, we’ve never heard of Game of Thrones, this obviously is like a big deal. I’m always flattered, and humbled, and surprised that my character got famous, all those people are so very excited to hear from me.”

“My character was on the screen for a very short amount of time. In fact in the books, he has even less presence. Because I remember David and Dan, the show creators and writers saying, “We only have the two scenes originally written by George R. R. Martin, which is the first lesson and the last lesson.” And they wanted to write another scene, which is of course the famous God of Death scene. And they made that up, which obviously doesn’t exist in the books. But they created it because they wanted more screen time for Syrio Forel, because in the books Arya Stark talks about her lessons, and talks about Syrio Forel all the time.”

“The actual, physical connection they have in the books is just the first lesson and the last lesson. Which I think is very interesting because obviously, he has a huge influence on her, along with her other teachers like Jaqen H’ghar, the Hound, and of course Jon and her father. But it always reminded me of, I always say this, and I think it must be really boring to anyone who’s heard me say this before, but I always liken that relationship to Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. You don’t see a lot of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he’s gone before you even really get to know who he is. But he’s the teacher that starts the journey of the hero. And in our case, it was Arya Stark. He kind of dies or gets consumed by the force, you know, whatever it is, we never know. But his impression leaves a very deep impact on Arya.”

“And of course, I got the role just like every other actor would. We auditioned and I did that whole first scene, that’s what I had to learn. Three and a half minutes of audition. Most people were only doing 30 seconds of auditions, I had to do 3 and a half minutes. We do many auditions of course, as actors, and I did this over and over again. But when I realized when David and Dan were coming to meet me in person, I realized that I was really close to getting it, or losing it. That’s when the fear kicked in, you know, not today (chuckles). As we know, the rest is history.”

Miltos also talked about how he was originally up for the role of Lord Varys:

“They gave me Lord Varys to read first of all. And they liked it, they liked my read, but that obviously didn’t sit well because I’m far too hairy, right, to play him. I think the audition was the scene where he goes to meet Ned Stark after he’s been injured and is in prison. He tells him to recount what you’ve said about Cersei and you know, the illegitimate son and take the black and stay with your family. It’s a great speech he gives Ned. The great thing about auditions for actors is that, when you have very good writing, it’s much easier to do a good job.”

Can you imagine Miltos Yerolemou playing Lord Varys? Or Syrio Forel being bald on Game of Thrones? Talk to us in the comments below!

 

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