Interview: “Game of Thrones” Gethin Anthony Isn’t Afraid of a Little Manscaping

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Gethin Anthony in Game of Thrones

While the past decade has seen gay visibility on television grow by leaps and bounds, that increased visibility hasn’t occurred equally in all genres. Two genres in particular — science fiction and fantasy — have proven to be decidedly less than gay-friendly even though both are very popular with gay folks. But thanks to shows like Torchwood and Caprica, even sci fi shows have taken great strides of late.

Which leaves fantasy as the laggard. Despite the success of movies like Lord of the Rings and shows like Merlin, GLBT characters in fantasy have mostly remained discouragingly few and far between. Unless, they were coded gay villains, of course.

But that all changed this year with HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on the bestselling books by George R.R. Martin. While the books have a sprawling cast of hundreds, including a number of queer characters, it was far from a sure thing that the series would actually feature the characters, or not de-gay them if they were included.

Thankfullly, not only were the gay characters included, their parts were even beefed up a bit, including that of Renly Baratheon played by UK actor Gethin Anthony. While the show hasn’t given us anything as sexually explicitly gay as we’ve seen with the heterosexual characters, the fifth episode did feature Renly and his lover Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) engaging in some … manscaping.

AfterElton.com recently caught up with Anthony to discuss rehearsing for that particular seen, acting in a show based on such beloved books and much more!

AfterElton: Were you a fan of the books before you got involved with the project? Or did you only become aware of them once you were cast?
Gethin Anthony: By the time I had to read for Renly, I had managed to read the first book and was more savvy about the world and the different characters, so it was kind of exciting to go in and read for him with a bit of that behind me because it is a big complex world to get your head around.

AE: How did they describe Renly to you when you read for him?
GA: They kind of described him as an interesting character who has a big secret, which instantly got my interest. They sort of explained that he’s related to Robert and all of that. And because I was more up to speed with the books, I kind of knew there was a relationship with Loras, and I was interested to see where they would take it. I was kind of excited with the way that turned out.

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AE: Now Renly is unusual because he’s a gay character in a Medieval setting which is not something we see a whole lot of.
GA: No.

AE: Tell me about the discussions you had with the writers, and the thought you gave portraying that aspect of the character.
GA: That was foremost on my mind because I sat down with someone at HBO before we got into filming to figure out what was at stake for Renly and
what was at stake for Loras, and I myself and Finn Jones, who plays Ser Loras Tyrell, and Brian, one of the writers who sort of is invested in making sure that the world is complete and follows the books as close as possible.

We all sat down and had a good old chat about what was at stake for the characters and what would happen if they were found out. Was being homosexual in this world a dangerous thing? We asked a bunch of questions that we kind of answered ourselves and then we went from there really.

AE: I have to ask you about a scene that was funny and interesting and sort of caught us off guard. The now famous manscaping scene.
GA: [laughs] Yes, that thing. [laughs] I remember that well.

AE: The reaction was mostly positive. Some people thought it was maybe a little stereotypical that the gay characters are into body shaving but I myself found it sort of ironic and cheeky, kind of an in joke. Now that’s not in the books, so how did it come about?
GA: The way it came about, like midway through the series the guys were sort of writing scenes and trying to get them behind closed doors and to get into why characters make the decisions that they make, so it was kind of important to see Renly with Robert, which is another important scene that happened and the hunting scene, and also obviously Renly with Loras.

And that [particular] scene came out of trying to get behind the closed doors and see a little bit of that world which, of course, reading the books you wouldn’t have got to read about it because it’s a very different take on those characters.

We were really excited that they were going to show a bit of their relationship. I think the manscaping element seemed to be affectionate, so I don’t think we thought too much of it being any kind of stereotype. We just sort of saw it as them being affectionate together and having fun together in a weird context.

AE: Did you have any trouble getting through that scene, keeping a straight face or delivering your lines?

GA: To be honest while we were filming it I think me and Finn, well you know, we enter into these character’s world and we have to believe what’s going on is honest and real and at that point we were great.

I think the problem arose when we were at my flat the night before. We went to rehearse the scene and like let’s just get through this and that was hard to get through because we just sat in my bedroom in London just kind of going through this scene. [laughs] We just have to get through this scene because it’s going to be a continuity nightmare.

That was hard to get through without laughing and we just sat in my bedroom rehearsing but once we were on set everything was okay. You know, we have moments with the director and he kind of looks you in the eye and says, “Yep, this is what we are doing. Just have fun.” And we enjoyed it.

AE: Now you mention that that episode was sort of behind the doors and the show is fairly explicit with sexuality. Is there any chance that we’ll see a bit more romance between the Renly and Loras coming up or is that not happening at this point?
GA: Not to ruin it for anyone, but you’re not going to get to see any more of Renly and Loras this season. I’m pretty sure in the next season we’ll kind of see them in their element.

AE: What’s it been like working with Finn Jones?
GA: Honestly, just fantastic. When the casting happened, it was about a year ago and when it went public, I think it was Facebook actually, I got a hold of Finn’s Facebook because we have a mutual friend in London and I wrote him and said, “Look. Do you want to meet up and sort of hang out? Because we’re going to be playing these characters and it would be nice to have a relationship before we get on set.”

So I sort of took him out to watch football with a couple of friends, you know that kind of thing, and we just had a few drinks here and there and that was great, really nice and Finn was totally up for that. It was great.

AE: The books have a huge very passionate and vocal fan base, what’s been your experience with the fandom so far? Are you reading what they are saying about your character? And if so, what do you think about their reaction?
GA: Well, I first got a taste of the fans at the Belfast Moot, which the fans call it. They are really huge fans of the books. A few of us had a drink beforehand. You are sort of aware of the massive responsibility you have because people are so invested in the books and the material and the characters and you really want to respect that and honor that. It was really lovely for me because people were so excited about the television show we were making which is really cool. When I was researching it for my meetings there were so many bloggers and postings on the Internet, so I did become aware of how excited people were about the show. I’m sort of looking around less as the show goes along, so I take it that people are responding well to the material. [laughs] And that’s kind of what we hope for, I should think.

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AE: I’m curious, working on a Medieval set, lots of swordplay, horses, it seems like a fair bit could go wrong. Any funny stories or memorable moments from when you were filming?
GA: One of the first weekends I was out there was actually the gay pride parade in Belfast. It was before I started shooting and it was just really a cool thing to see because Belfast is a city that has had its troubles over the years. But seeing the young people out for gay pride was really fantastic and that was one of the most memorable moments. I spent it with some family friends and it was just a really exciting time to be a Belfast. I’m hoping to be there again this year.

AE: Now if you, Gethin Anthony, were dropped in the middle of this world how well would you be able to play the game of thrones?
GA: [Laughs] That’s a very good question! I can honestly say because there is no point in pretending, I don’t think I’d play particularly well. I think I would flounder a little bit. It’s all very political, so I’m not sure how well I would fair.

AE: Any question I didn’t ask you that you’re dying to talk about?
GA: No, but I tell you what, I read your interview with Avan Jogia

AE: Oh, yes.
GA: I read that interview on AfterElton and I tweeted about it, and the Straight But Not Narrow campaign got in touch and we might do something. I might do a promo this summer and that’s something I just came across from reading your site, and I think that’s really cool.

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AE: Oh, that’s great. That’s terrific. That’s a great project and I think you’d be a great addition to it.
GA: Yeah, he’s just a young guy and he sort of started running with something he really believes in and that’s pretty awesome. I’m really excited to be involved.