When last we saw Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), the cunning character known to many as Littlefinger on “Game of Thrones,” he was planning to sow discord between the recently reunited Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington).
That scheme may be just one of several Baelish contrives in Season 7 of the epic fantasy, which premieres Sunday, July 16, on HBO. It’s all part of his determined quest to seize the Iron Throne of Westeros, but is this complicated character driven by a lust for power or a desire for revenge against those who have wronged him?
Probably neither, says Baelish’s real-life alter ego.
“I don’t think it’s anything really nihilistic,” Gillen says. “It isn’t a quest for power and ‘I want to own and rule everything.’ As much as anything, it’s about really enjoying playing around with people and having his way with them, watching his plans unfold. He also likes the danger of it, I think. It’s about playing the game and loving it, being addicted to that, like a compulsion.”
It’s also driven by a determination never to be humiliated again like he was as a teenager, when the older Brandon Stark gravely wounded Baelish in a duel over Catelyn Stark, Sansa’s late mother.
“Brandon Stark sliced him in that duel, then wouldn’t even finish him off, which was the ultimate humiliation,” the actor explains. “So he’s coming from a place of being humiliated way back when he actually was a sweet boy. It’s not so much a revenge on the world he seeks, he just wants to make sure that never happens again.”
Gillen also doesn’t think Baelish harbors romantic feelings for Sansa.
“Honestly, I think a lot of people have made more of that than is actually the case,’’ he explains. “I think both Baelish and Sansa are using each other and each is aware of what the other is doing, and they both enjoy it. As far as romance goes, it’s just not that clear cut. There are shades of that in there, and I don’t always want to explain everything. It’s whatever you make of it, but that relationship is a bit ‘something else.’ Of course, Baelish has enjoyed watching Sansa bloom under his tutelage into the player that she is. She’s quite a strong, clever, manipulative person herself.”
The actor says he would consider reprising his role in a “Games” spinoff, but he thinks it more likely HBO is looking for a prequel.
“Also, there are so many other very interesting characters that we haven’t seen much of,” he adds. “You could do a ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Are Dead)’ thing that would be a very interesting way of opening up this world via some lesser players. But it’s a rich world and we know that people love it and have a big appetite for it.”