There’s no way the writing staff of ‘Game of Thrones’ haven’t read ‘The Art of War.’ There’s definitely an influence on ‘Game of Thrones’ from this book in both a general way and on the character of Lord Baelish and his strategies.
I hope it’s not all I’ll ever do, but I know I’ve played enigmatic characters. For me, the good characters are people who get places, are devious, are cunning and tricky and hard to pin down. Obviously, if you play one and you do an okay job of it, that’ll be on people’s minds.
Both ‘The Wire’ and ‘Queer as Folk’ had a big scope. They were panoramas, telling ambitious stories about two cities, Baltimore and Manchester, for the first time.
Everything’s borne out of human experience, of course – rejection, humiliation, poverty, whatever. People aren’t born bad, no matter how harsh the circumstances. There is a person in there, and that person is not made of ice.
‘You’re Ugly Too’ isn’t a comedy, but it has a lightness of touch with a hard edge. But it’s essentially a warm story tinged with a bit of melancholy in the great Irish tradition. I’m very proud of that film.
I heat myself up over the fact that I am never going to be as good as I want to be.
I do what I can, but I’ll always give it a shot. You’re not going to see me playing a Welsh character any time soon, not because I wouldn’t love to. I went up to Wales once and read for a film with Rhys Ifans, and haven’t been asked back since. We did have a nice time on the train on the way back.
It’s always more interesting to take on someone that’s going to have hidden sides or a fatal flaw, because there’s going to be more to play with – more conflict, internally or in and around them – but it’s probably the thing of finding the positive in there.
I like the Edinburgh Film Festival, and I’ve liked what I’ve experienced of Glasgow’s Film Festival too.
I don’t do a lot of reflecting. I’m usually about getting on with it.
I hate it when people tell you you’re good when you know that you’re not.
Every couple of years – no, that’s every couple of weeks – I think I’m going to give up acting.
I’ve made a point of trying not to play the same part, and of moving between theatre and film and TV. The idea is that by the time you come back, you have been away for a year and people have forgotten you. If you like having time off, which I do, that’s a good career strategy.
For me, now, working and children is it. There’s nothing more to life.
It seems to me that most characters, in anything, are flawed in some way, just like most people. You look for the good in the flawed people and vice versa, and then try and make them appealing in some way.
There was a year between school and getting going as an actor when I basically just watched films. Video shops were the new thing, and there was a good one round the corner and me and my brother just watched everything, from the horror to the European art-house.
I find still photographs make me quite self-conscious.
It’s always a good idea to let the audience make up their own minds.
When I was a teenager, the actors I was really into were Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn. I saw ‘Rumble Fish’ on my 16th birthday, and around the same time, it was ‘Falcon and the Snowman’ and ‘Bad Boys’ from Sean Penn.
To start, I wasn’t really interested in acting at all, and I didn’t make much impact. The first play I was in was on for five nights and I didn’t show up for two of them and nobody noticed. But I stayed because that’s where my friends were, and after a while I found myself wanting to inhabit other people’s worlds and lives.
I don’t really differentiate between different genres: if there’s a good part going, I’ll go after it, and it’s preferable to me if it’s something I haven’t done before.
I have Googled myself, yeah, I think everybody has. I try not to make a habit of it – in fact I made a rule once never to Google myself, which made me happy.
I have been in control of what I’ve been doing, of the career I’ve put together.
I didn’t want to go to college or work in an office or have a nine-to-five job. I knew that quite clearly before I left school.
I’d quite like to do a musical. I’d probably have to develop that myself.
‘Heroes’, ‘Desperate Housewives’, ‘The Sopranos’ – they’re all very stylised. ‘The Wire’ is much more rooted in realism and honesty. In American television, I can’t think of anything I’d rather have been in because it has got something to say and that is the kind of thing I want to do.
I suppose there are actors who are worried about their public image. But I’ve never had any trouble playing unpleasant characters. It is only a part. Which is why you do it -because you are interested in exploring something you never could or would be.
It might take me an hour to get to feel at ease with somebody. I don’t find it easy to go into a room full of 10 people and give it all away. In the pilot season in Los Angeles I’ve done that a couple of times.
I can read people, and if the other person doesn’t want to say anything, I’m fine with that. People say things when it’s time to say them.
I do consider how I spend my time off carefully because I’ve got two kids.
I’m always attracted to bold, risk-taking scripts.
People say ‘The Wire’s bleak, y’know, but I see it as a love letter to Baltimore, and it’s one written in a very strange and complex way.
In drama you can either pretend everything is OK, or you can show the world as it really is in the hope that it gets better.
I myself started out quite young; when you’re working, professionally, even if you are in your teens, you just want to be treated the same as everybody else. You just want people to see you as an actor and not as a kid.
I really like coming-of-age dramas. It’s probably the most intense period in anyone’s life, those years before you become an adult. Dramatically, there’s so much to explore there. And it’s nice to be around young talent coming through.
I’ve probably had my best time acting – or not acting, or trying to not act – on things like ‘The Low Down’ or ‘Treacle Jr.’ I’m happiest doing things like that. Not just because they’re lead roles, but because there’s more freedom in them.
I try to keep my integrity. I don’t want to be in ‘Hello!’ or on ‘Celebrity Big Brother.’
I’ve made a point of trying not to play the same part and of moving between theatre and film and TV. The idea is that by the time you come back, you have been away for a year, and people have forgotten you. If you like having time off, which I do, that’s a good career strategy. Or at least, it’s my strategy to keep my head together.
So-called reality TV, which dominates British channels, is destroying what made it cherishable to me and lots of others in the first place. I loved Alan Clarke, Ken Loach and Alan Bleasdale’s work. In fact the first TV dramas I ever saw were ‘Screen Twos’ produced by David Thompson, who also produced a lot of Alan Clarke.
The first time I played a killer, in the 1997 film ‘Mojo,’ I went to my local video shop and got out a video of real executions and a history of the Third Reich. The guy in the shop was giving me a look. I thought this would help, but I don’t think it made any difference, and I don’t want to see any more executions.
I’ve enjoyed working on the TV series that I’ve worked on, in particular something like ‘The Wire,’ where there was so much time to tell the story and develop a character. I learned from that that it’s best not to lay all your cards on the table straight away.
Because work takes up a lot of time, you have to choose your moments for really letting rip. I hang out with my friends and my family and I spend time with my kids when I’m not working. They don’t see my being an actor as exotic. For them, it’s just an everyday thing. Sometimes it’s amusing to them and other times, embarrassing.
Becoming a father has made my life a lot more interesting. It’s like everything slows down because time goes slower, and you notice that you’re actually awake for so many more hours. Your waking hours elongate because you’re doing things at a child’s pace.
It’s nice to have a few names. I use a few names myself. I use a few different surnames. I call myself James sometimes. I actually use my mother’s name as a professional name. But if someone calls me Mr. Murphy or Mr. Gillen, I don’t like that. I don’t like being called ‘mister,’ and I don’t like being called ‘sir.’
There’s a lot of ‘Game of Thrones’ stuff used in a lot of pastiches. I don’t know if I’ve seen a Lego ‘Game of Thrones’ yet, but there must be one. And there’s an animated thing that’s been going on for quite some time, and Littlefinger is a newsreader in it, and it’s great.
My own rapping skills are quite good, actually. You get this thing, I think it’s called Songify or AutoRap, and you talk into them, and they auto-tune it and make it into a quite interesting musical number. And I got one where it builds it into a rap.
I don’t like DVD extras. No. Especially when they do things like put out alternative endings? I find all of that a little bizarre, because there should only be one ending. I don’t like to be told, ‘Oh, we could have had it this way,’ for the director’s cut.