An aura of serenity emanates from German-born Sibel Kekilli as she talks Game of Thrones, her plans for a crazy night on the town with Game of Thrones mastermind George RR
Martin and her involvement in educating Bulgarian Roma women on the dangers of
human trafficking alongside nonprofit Terre des Femmes.
Soft-spoken, candid and oozing
charisma, before presenting her film Head-On
at Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema, Kekilli apologized for her English (which
is in tiptop condition) and recalled the downfall she experienced with fans
when, spoiler alert time, her character, Shae, betrayed her lion, Tyrion Lannister (“Because it’s in the script!” she recalls telling a bewildered woman at Comic-Con when confronted her about the unraveling of Thrones’ season four).
In a casual talk with SFR, the Lola-winning actress opened up about her
Westeros experience, Chinese food geographical deviance and the rewards that come
from accepting rides from strangers.
What’s your first-time impression of Santa Fe?
I have to tell you the story about my travels. I flew—is it flew?—from Hamburg
to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Denver with a one hour delay. I was on my
last plane and they said they were having electronic problems and we would have
to wait 20 minutes. After an hour, we were too late and were told Santa Fe
didn’t accept any more flights because of the weather, so it got canceled. They
didn’t give me a hotel room because they said it was ‘a weather thing,’ ‘a God
thing.’ A guy that lives here was also trying to get to Santa Fe and offered to
share a car. I looked at him and was, like, ‘OK, he’s well dressed, he’s a
good-looking guy, he can’t be a killer,’ so I said ‘Yes, let’s drive.’
So you drove here with a stranger?
Yeah. After waiting four hours for our luggage, I told him he didn’t have to
wait, but he told me he had to wait too, because he had fish in his luggage.
He’d gotten 20 pounds on, is it Groupon? He said he was in the fish industry so
later we had to stop in a gas station and bought crushed ice for it. He was so
Did he know who you were or what you were doing in town?
No, no. I asked him if he knew Game of Thrones and he said he’s watched some episodes. He was so cute, really [laughs].
Moral of the story: You can get into cars with strangers.
Only if they have fish! It could be worse; it could have been cocaine or
And you have no clue who he is?
No. He drove the whole way and didn’t let me pay, he was so nice. He said he
lives in Taos and is married to a German girl, so of course, I trusted him.
Did you talk in German to him?
No, he couldn’t!
How many languages do you speak?
I try to speak German, Turkish and
Moving to Thrones, have you had the proper time now to mourn Shae?
To mourn means...
Like the time after someone dies, you mourn them.
Ah, OK. When you’re sad? I mean, I didn’t have that much time. I was really sad
and still am. This year was the first year that I haven’t been on the show, so
it was really hard to be home and not on Croatia at the beach—working, of
course, not on holiday. It was hard, because at first people didn’t trust Shae
and in the end, they were like, ‘I knew it, she’s a whore!’ I thought people
hated me, so I didn’t have time to mourn.
Your character got more play in the TV series than in the books and you gave her a
lot of dignity, a lot of respect, and in the end, you went against that. How
did you prepare yourself for that transition?
I had an acting coach and I also talked to [showrunners] David Benioff and Dan Weiss and when I read the end I said, it’s not my Shae! I tried to understand her and why she was doing that. When Tyron told her she was whore, it was over the line. He took one step too far.
Talk to me about working opposite Peter Dinklage. Was everyday and adventure? Did you guys have any inside jokes?
Yes, absolutely. Most of the jokes I didn’t understand. I think around the
third season he said, ‘Sibel, I can’t make jokes about you, because you don’t
understand them.’ Three years later. I was, like, ‘OK, thank you.’ I really,
really, love him. He’s such an amazing actor and human being. Can I say that?
You also try to be as good as he is; it’s like a ping-pong ball.
Speaking about Shae’s death scene in particular,
did you know it was coming?
Yeah, but I was hoping...
You know, George only kills the ones he loves.
Well, I wish he could hate me. I said to Dan, David and George, ‘I don’t want
to die! I'm not gonna play this shit.' You know, act on that trial scene and
that killing scene, and they said, ‘Sibel, you have to. You’re an actress.’ And
I told them I wanted to be the queen and that I didn’t want out from the
So you knew going in what was going to be her fate?
Yeah. I was hoping not, but yes. Because, even if you know it, you still hope.
A series is like a family, like growing a friendship, and then it’s gone.
Some hardcore fans had troubles with that scene
because they’re purists and it didn’t fully adhere to the books. Where you
concerned at all?
At the beginning, as I said, they were, like, ‘This is not the Shae from the
books. The Shae in the books was younger and more of a gold digger.’ So they
changed it and they got defensive. At the beginning, they were between we don’t
trust her and we love Shae and at the end, it was, like, ‘Ah…OK, we hate her.’
And now, because of this experience, you are now
here in Santa Fe and are gonna get to hang out with George.
We’re gonna paint the town red…till 9 o’clock! [Laughs]
That’s right, Santa Fe tends to sleep in early. So
what are going to be doing in town? Do you have any experience with New Mexican
I was in Mexico City, so I don’t know if it’s similar. I really don’t know. I
don’t want to insult anyone here. Is it the same?
You could say a lot of it stems from a similar
root, but it has more cheese and green chile.
So more American? Like in Germany, the Chinese food.
How is that?
It’s a bit Chinese, but more German, you know what I mean?
I think that’s fair to say. It’s like the Chinese food in Germany.
I don’t want to insult anyone!
I’m going to start using that one in my
regular life, because no one will have a clue what I’m talking about.
In China, they have more spices, that kind of thing [laughs] and in Germany,
because Germans can’t eat that much spicy food, it’s a bit less spicy.
I think you’re gonna like it.
I love spicy food. George told me it was spicy, so I’ll love it.
What else will you two be doing?
We’re going to a cooking school to learn how to do our own margarita. With the
highness here, I feel dizzy, and the
margaritas? I will die tomorrow.
Pace yourself or you might end up making more stranger friends. Regarding the film
you’re presenting, Head-On, I know it was a proud moment for you. How do you look back on it?
George wanted to show my movie here and asked me actually, which one I
preferred, Head-On and When We Leave. Both were very important
in my career and they were internationally successful. When We Leave was shot in 2010 and Head-On, 2004. I said, actually I like both movies, but I think Head-On is more rock ’n’ roll. We won the Golden Bear with it, and Dan and David told me they casted me because they saw Head-On, so I thought maybe that was a better connection.
Artistically, what other projects are on the horizon for you?
I’m trying to get a Game of Thrones spinoff. That’s the reason that I’m here, actually, George doesn’t know it.
You could be a sexy White Walker...
Yes! Dan and David told me I’m coming back as a zombie [laughs].