Tonight is the final episode of season 1 of Game of Thrones on HBO, then we’ll have to wait a year. In looking forward to the episode tonight (and on the side wondering if GRRM will even be able to watch it, in Poland, or will he have to wait until he gets back?), I find myself looking back on the series as a whole. After the final episode I fathom I’ll do an overall series review, but for now I want to talk about one man, Mark Addy.
Mark Addy was, outside of hair color questions, the one actor I was unsure of with the original casting. The child actors were largely unknown, but all looked right. I’d tune into see Sean Bean read the phone book. Peter Dinklage was an obvious choice. I liked Lena Headey in both Terminator and 300. But Mark Addy? I knew him well, there was a time when Still Standing was my favorite sitcom. But, this was the guy from Still Standing, A Knights Tale, The Full Monty, and Friar Tuck in the most recent Robin Hood movie. This was a comedic actor, and he wasn’t even tall.
Looking back though, I think he easily did the best acting of the entire cast for season 1, which is not to say the rest of the cast were slouches, they weren’t, but Addy nailed it.
His best scenes where when he talked about Lyanna. They’re some of my favorite scenes from the series. Mark had to portray bawdy drunk, raving mad, jovial, annoyed, lecherous, and tearfully sad – sometimes all in the same scene. He elevated the performance of the actors who worked with him. What was Lena Headey’s best scene as Cersei? The one where she shares a private moment with Addy’s Robert. What was Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s best scene as Jaime Lannister? The one where he tells Addy’s Robert about Mad King Aerys. What was Sean Bean’s best scene as Ned Stark? Probably one of the scenes with Robert, perhaps a tie between when they visit the crypt in Winterfell together, when they talk of Jon’s mother, and when they talk of Daenerys’s assassination.
It is telling that every actor that had a scene with Mark Addy performed best in that scene. They were feeding off the powerful performance Addy was putting on. The only sad thing is that we never had scenes of Robert going one on one against people like Littlefinger or Tyrion, those would have been great scenes too. If the definition of a supporting actor is one who helps the lead elevate their work, Mark Addy is the paragon of best supporting actor.
Supposedly GRRM jumped on the Addy bandwagon during casting when he saw him read the scene about Lyanna in the crypt, and that scene was so powerful, so adeptly done, it remains one of my favorite scenes from the series to date, and definitely my favorite from the premier. My other favorites would be the assassination attempt in Bran’s bedchamber, for the directing of it (which was awesome), the scene where Robert tells Cersei they never had a chance, again for the acting. Then probably the Baelor scene, for the writing. I find that the scenes where I have most appreciated the acting, all involved Mark Addy.
I know much of the buzz has been about Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion, but I am going to disagree with that. Dinklage was a critical darling prior to Game of Thrones, the one member of the cast really who was, so it would make sense that he remains so, but his performance was not nearly as strong as Addy’s. Not that Dinklage is any less of an actor, but the material simply is not there for Tyrion this season. Tyrion was largely a one dimensional character this season, he required far less range to pull off.
People of course like Tyrion, as they’re supposed to. Likewise, people dislike (or feel indifferent to) Robert Baratheon, as they’re supposed to. But it should not be a character popularity contest. You may rather hang out with Tyrion than Robert if you had the choice, but that shouldn’t matter is a discussion of the actor’s performance.
In anycase, Tyrion’s best material comes in later seasons, Robert has no more material. I wouldn’t want to see Mark Addy miss out on recognition because Peter Dinklage gets the critical attention, when I know Peter Dinklage will be getting the attention next year, and the year after. There is no doubt in my mind the Mark Addy’s performance was the best of all the actors this season, and he deserves recognition for it.
When Addy’s Robert Baratheon talks of Lyanna and his voice breaks as his eyes well up, there is magic.
I leave you with this scene, as exhibit B. I couldn’t find a clip of the scene from Winterfell’s crypt online, that scene is exhibit A.