Why? Well, Game of Thrones went on to be a huge success and everybody involved earned an absolute fortune, of course. But when it was originally offered the money was not all that great, shall we say say. Plus I was going to be killed off fairly early on, so I wouldn’t have had any of the benefits of the long-term effects of a successful series where your wages go up with each passing season. So I passed on it, and Mark Addy was gored by the boar instead. (I lied. I did google it.)
The money thing is par for the course. There’s always been a tendency for American productions to treat British actors differently from American actors. In other words, to get them cheap. When I first went to America, I discovered the problem with British agents, which is that they always see the other person’s point of view. In America they don’t give a shit about the other person’s point of view. They just protect their clients. They’re like Goodfellas: “Fuck you, pay me.” British agents, on the other hand, are like, “Well, they can’t really afford that sort of money, Brian, they haven’t got that much. So do you think you could do it for less?”
It used to drive me up the wall. I’d be like, “I don’t want to know about the other side. I’m not interested in their problems. I’m only interested in doing the deal,” which is how U.S. agents operate, and although it sounds mercenary it’s also healthy because it’s no nonsense, everybody knows where they stand.
So anyway, with a Game of Thrones, or any show like it, there’s a risk element. You could sign up to do a Game of Thrones and it gets cancelled, and you don’t know why it gets cancelled because you thought it was great, but there you are.
I did a series for the BBC called The Game in 2014, which I thought was excellent. Written by a guy called Toby Whithouse who had written Bridget Jones’s Diary and Being Human, it was a spy thriller set in the 1970s. Tom Hughes played the lead. He was good. Johnny Aris was in it, and Johnny I’ve known since he was a child. His dad was Ben Aris, a wonderful actor who died of leukemia, sadly, and Johnny was at school with my son, so I’ve known him since he was twelve. Vicky Hamilton, who I love as an actress, was in it, too.
In other words, it was a very happy job. What’s more, it brought me back home, which was great because I’m always looking for opportunities to return to the UK. Unfortunately, there’s nothing enticing financially, but there is in terms of the quality of work and The Game was something I thought was great.
But they canned it. It was one of those where a new set of bosses come in, and being very keen to assert themselves, go, “Oh, it’s not my show, so we’ll cancel it.”