Game of Thrones' Sibel Kekilli on Shae's Shocking Decision: 'Don't Hate Her!'

sibel kekilli interview

Warning: If you haven’t seen the Game of Thrones Season 4 finale, hitch a ride on the nearest dragon and head to a different TVLine story. Everyone else, read on.

Is there a fate worse than being sentenced to death?

Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) got to ponder that question after enduring multiple jaw-dropping twists during tonight’s Game of Thrones Season 4 finale. (Read Kim Roots’ episode recap here!)

After escaping prison with the help of his brother Jaime and thwarting his execution in the process, Tyrion discovered his true love Shae (Sibel Kekilli) in the bed of his father Tywin, who’d presided gleefully over his trial despite suspecting his innocence. Tyrion proceeded to strangle Shae to death, and then later ended his duplicitous dad’s life with an arrow (after Daddy Dearest referred to the fallen Shae one too many times as a whore).

RELATED | Game of Thrones Season Finale Recap: The Lion Game

TVLine caught up with Kekilli to discuss how her character wound up coupling with pretty much the worst guy in King’s Landing, why Thrones fans shouldn’t hate Shae for it and which of Tyrion’s actions redeemed him in her eyes.

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TVLINE | When did you find out your character was marked for death in the Season 4 finale?
I thought for sure Shae was going to die in the third season. [Laughs] So I was surprised when she lived, and at the end of last season, I asked [executive producers] Dan [D.B. Weiss] and David [Benioff], “When is she going to die?” And they said, “Yes Sibel, we have to tell you, it’s going to happen in the fourth season.” I said, “No! Really? The beginning or the end?” And they said, “The end.” So I begged them every second: “Please don’t kill her! She will be a good queen!” But it didn’t work. [Laughs]

TVLINE | Had you read the books beforehand, or did you just work with the material you were getting in the scripts?
I haven’t read the books. When I was at the audition in 2010, before they started to shoot the first season… after my audition, I googled Game of Thrones and I thought, “OK, Shae is kind of a small part, or a superficial part.” But Dan and David told me, “Trust us, in the show, she will get more depth. It will change from the books.” So I decided not to read the books — not yet.

TVLINE | There are two big scenes that served as a precursor to what happens in the season finale. First is when Tyrion goes to his last resort to get Shae out of King’s Landing, telling her she’s nothing but a whore to him, that they’ve had their fun, and that she has to go so he can be with Sansa. Did Shae know he didn’t really mean it or did she really believe him?
Shae is clever, she’s not stupid. That was the reason she never believed his words [after the wedding to Sansa] — not until that final point. She was like, “Oh, come on, you don’t mean it. You’re just afraid of your father, your family.” But Tyrion changed his behavior toward her. He was colder to her, from episode to episode, and in the second or third episode this season, she could see how tender and lovely he was to Sansa. Of course, he felt responsible for Sansa, but it hurt Shae very much. And so, as we say in German, it was “the last drop in the glass” when he tells her, “You are a whore. You can’t bear my children.” He stepped over the line. She was so loyal. For four years she was there for him — even when no one else was by his side. She took care of Sansa, even after he married her. She got hurt — and at a certain point, you don’t think anymore, you just react emotionally.

TVLINE | And lest we forget, Shae pushed for Tyrion to run away with her, to leave King’s Landing and his family behind.
She said at the end of Season 2, “Come with me to Pentos!” But he didn’t want to go. I really think Shae is not someone who fell in love often, but if she does, it’s 100 percent. She was ready to die for him, to go through hell, but at the end she’s a low-born, so when he says, “You’re a whore, go away, I don’t want you here,” she’s essentially left to be what she was before she met Tyrion — a prostitute.

TVLINE | So, what was Shae’s state of mind when she came into the courtroom later in the season and lied under oath while Tyrion was on trial for his life — told the court he’d plotted to murder Joffrey?
I try to understand why she’s behaving like that. She got hurt very much, and all her hopes just disappeared into the wind. Like an earthquake, the foundation she was building on their relationship was just broken. And at that moment, it was revenge, and I really understood that. After years of being loyal, cleaning [chamber] pots for his wife, being treated like a dog, she’s like, “I’m here for revenge. And I wouldn’t be here if you, Tyrion, had left the country with me. You forced me somehow to do this.” And did she have a choice, anyway? If Cersei wants something, if Tywin wants something, she’s a woman without family, she’s on her own. She didn’t have a real choice to say, “No, I’m not going to this trial.” It was revenge, but it was also blackmail and coercion.

TVLINE | Right. If she’d said no, she’d probably have suffered a pretty horrific fate.
Absolutely! And Tyrion wouldn’t have known that. Cersei or Tywin would’ve said, “We found you. You have no choice. Testify or die.”

TVLINE | Shae’s final scene: How did you feel when you first read the script and realized she was in Tywin’s bed?
Oh God. [Sighs] When I act, I try not to think like Sibel. I try to think like Shae. But, again, she didn’t have any choice after the trial scene. The people hated Tyrion after the trial, and she had been with him. Who could she be with after that? There was one choice. She had to choose the most powerful man in King’s Landing. And who is that? It’s Tywin. If she wants to stay alive, she has to take that step. In the end, she thinks Tywin is in the room, and she says “My Lion.” That expression was for Tyrion only. He was her lion. But because she’s a prostitute again, she’s lost all hope for a regular life, she’s trying to get rid of everything that reminds her of Tyrion — to make nothing special of what they had.

TVLINE | Your final scene — there wasn’t a lot of dialogue between you and Peter [Dinklage], and yet there was a lot of pain and horror communicated. What’s her state of mind as she sees him?
The first thing is shock. “Why is here? He should be in prison.” But the biggest feeling is guilt. “Oh God.” She did that to him at the trial, and now she’s lying in his father’s bed and using words that were supposed to be just for Tyrion. And then there’s fear. “What’s going to happen to me now? I’m here on my own, and I have to fight for myself. I’m going to die or he’s going to die.”

TVLINE | A lot of Game of Thrones fans will think Shae is just the worst for coupling up with Tywin, for hurting a guy as popular as Tyrion. Do you feel the need to defend your character?
Tyrion is untouchable, honestly! [Laughs] They started to hate her even during the trial. But over these four seasons, she was playing with fire. Some people never trusted her. Some people were jealous of her, because they loved Tyrion so much. So she was always the loser in that sense, you know? [Laughs] I just feel pity for her — not as a victim. So yes, maybe fans will hate Shae because she is in the bed of Tyrion’s father, but maybe they shouldn’t forget that because of her, now, the father is dying too!

TVLINE | Is that some kind of twisted redemption for Shae? Tyrion’s feeling of, “I’ve just murdered the woman I love, but nobody can say something bad about her”? Is Tywin’s murder a victory for Shae?
If I was Tyrion, I’d think, “You destroyed my life. You destroyed my love. You forced her to say things at my trial. Now you’re sleeping with this girl when you never allowed me to be with her. And you took her from me, so now I’m killing you.” That’s the last thing he can do for us, for himself.

TVLINE | Is it hard for you to root for Tyrion now that he’s killed Shae?
I understand him somehow, but I was like, “Why is he so scared of his father? Why didn’t he just follow his heart with Shae?” Even if he stayed [in King’s Landing], he could have said, “No, I am not marrying Sansa!” As a fan, I would be angry at him, “Stand by your love! Follow your heart, Tyrion!” But he had a tough life in this world, where people don’t really respect him. Like he said at the trial, “I’m a freak!” That’s not easy, so I understand him.

TVLINE | Plus, pure intentions and true love rarely get rewarded on Game of Thrones!
[Laughs] Don’t love! Don’t love anyone on this show! It should be a rule, “No pure love!” [Laughs]

TVLINE | Will you keep watching Game of Thrones even though your character is dead?
Of course! It will be a bit harder because, “Oh no, I want to be there, too!” But I’m addicted to the show — I’ve never been a fan of fantasy, but this show just grabbed me and took me on this journey. I have to see where it goes — who’s having the throne.

TVLINE | And what’s next for you as an actress? Where would you like to go from here?
I’m not a native speaker, so of course I’m grateful to Dan and David and HBO. But if you forget the language, to be a part of a show like this, for the next few years it will be hard to have a better experience — to find a part at this same level. Of course, there are now more English castings and auditions, but you almost get the same scripts and parts sometimes. The difficult thing as an actress is to not get panicked. Just wait and be patient — even if it takes a couple of years — don’t let yourself be put in a box of the same parts, or something that’s just a copy of [Game of Thrones].

TVLINE | Any parting thoughts?
Yes, don’t hate Shae! She’s a poor girl, low-born, and she’s not a victim — but in this kind of world, the life is tough. [Laughs] And she loved, truly, Tyrion. I really mean it!

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24 Comments
  1. CountryQueen says:

    She was so stupid. She forced Tyrion to say those things with her stupidity. It was the eqivalent of Aria yelling at her Dire- wolf to leave. He was trying to save her life by gerting her to leave. I feel sorry for Tyrion having to kill her. I do not feel sorry that she is dead.

  2. cjeffery7 says:

    i realize shae’s gonna get a lot of hate, and i am certainly conflicted about the choices that she made in the end, but i still find her a generally sympathetic character (on the show at least) and think that she, Sibel Kekilli, did an excellent job with the portrayal. definitely gave her a humanity that doesn’t seem to be as prominent in the books, at least as far i’ve read which is nearly the end of book 3.

    • Gabriel says:

      Here, here. Lovely actress. She carried the role extremely well. I will miss her.

      I’ll miss Shae too, even if she made some very, very bad choices in the end.

  3. M3rc Nate says:

    Wow, Tyrion said it best…shes a whore. You can put a ring on a whores finger, bring her into your house, have her birth and raise your children but at the end of the day she is and always will be a whore. That scene was shocking and im glad he killed her, and what a hypocrite and filthly scum bag Tywin is. Who sleeps with their sons whore?

    • tadtorque says:

      Say that! Never liked Shae. You can’t turn a whore into a housewife. Push comes to shove, they’ll always retreat to who and what they really are.

      She put him in that situation knowing his circumstances and allowing them to be discovered with her reckless outbursts. If she’d observed her place she could’ve worked it to her advantage, if not with Tyrion then someone else and would still be alive. I can’t imagine that many whores get those opportunities, and living in the Red Keep at that. Good riddance!

  4. wildling-beyond-the-wall says:

    Its not her fault, Tyrion pushed her hand when he sent her away. He can’t blame anyone but himself for it. It was a crime of passion, and there can not be passion unless there’s a reason for it. Shae was a victim of passion, same as Tyrion was.

  5. Cassandra says:

    I disagree with her assessment on her motives for sleeping with Tywin as well as the usage of “my lion”. If the people disliked her for sleeping with Tyrion, I don’t think they would come rushing to her side because she started sleeping with his father. Also, would Tywin really let that information come to light considering his stance on whores to begin with. She was an opportunistic ho who called the Lannister men lions to stroke their ego an try to endear them to her. Considering her station in life, and her need for survival this is not a bad strategy, but to say it was her character’s way of diminishing the relevance of the term of endearment to distance herself emotionally from her betrayal is reaching to me. If her feelings for Tyrion were true, and she carried guilt for what she had done, the pain of that should sting every time she said it.

    • M3rc Nate says:

      I agree, sometimes a ho is a ho is a ho, and the actors/actresses sit around when reading scripts trying to add depth to their character, add back story and think about what their character is thinking, why their doing what they are doing, but fact of the matter is, actors/actresses are puppets, they are puppets for the creator/writers to tell us a story, and Sibel could very well be wrong…TVLine will need to interview the showrunners/writers. And i suspect you will be right….shes a whore who feel in love but when he told her to leave and lied saying shes just a whore, thats what she went back to doing…and found the most powerful man (Tywin) and got back to using her tricks that she knew worked from her time with Tyrion. The “My Lion” is the ultimate ego stroke to a Lannister given their banner…

      What REAL love looks like is Ygritte and Jon Snow’s reaction when they saw each other in Castle Black. She shot him 3 times, talked non stop about killing him, probably would have if he tried to kill her, but he smiled, and she smiled, and they were in true love….Shae even in Tywins bed could have begged for Tyrions forgiveness and all that…but no she is a whore and she went straight for a knife to kill him, thats no true love (on her end).

  6. My problem is they jumped the shark by having her to defend herself.It’s white-washing on Tyrion’s part.They couldn’t let there golden boy kill a woman for being mean and betraying him(like Bronn).

  7. David P. Graf says:

    I regret having read the books because the “shocking” reveals just don’t have the same effect once you know what’s going to happen.

  8. HAP says:

    Sibel Kekilli is an absolute rarity. Do you realize that she was a very popular hardcore porn actress before going legit?

  9. King Dre24 says:

    Here’s the problem I have with GOT (I’m a book reader). The show tries to make Tyrion look like a hero too much. In the book, Tyrion is just as evil as everyone else, in fact he killed a man because he found out about his relationship with Shae. Also, people tends to forget that Shae is a whore, and Tyrion knew that. However, he deluded himself in thinking she loved him on the show, and especially in the book. Look at it from Shae pov, Tyrion promise her gold but never paid her, and he became the Hand of the King, so he was like the second most powerful man in Westero. Do you think she felt safe enough to say, “where my money?” The answer is NO! Tyrion then kill his father (albeit justify), but his father did give him a choice of Death or The Wall… Tyrion is evil. Please read the book, or watch some of the episode over.

    • Cody says:

      Uh, no.

      Tyrion in the books is made out to me much less evil than the rest of his family. He’s often mistaken as evil because of his family and because of his looks, but he’s a genuinely good person.

      He hates his family for being evil, and he hates the world for assuming that he’s evil just because of his family. The world often views him as the worst of the crop because he’s ugly, while the rest of his family is beautiful.

      I guess you kind of fell into that crowd too?

      Yes, he murdered a man who found out about his relationship with Shae. But not just because he found out. He murdered a man who found out about his relationship and then blackmailed him and threatened Shae’s life. This man had threatened to bring his relationship with Shae to Cercei and Tywin, knowing they would kill Shae if that happened. Even after Tyrion had him killed he expressed remorse at having to stoop to having a man killed, but he knew that this was an unsavory fellow who would have complete control over him due to his knowledge, and Shae would never be safe until this man was dead because he was a scum bag.

      He was being blackmailed, and it would not have ended well if he didn’t do something about it.

      Also, nowhere in the books or the TV show does it ever say that Tyrion didn’t pay Shae what he promised her.

  10. I have quite a few of Sibel Kikelli’s early films – I have watched them multuiple times , she gives a great performance in each of them. I usually just watch the scenes she’s in and fast forward the rest.

  11. teacherlynn says:

    Reblogged this on Cooking from the Soul and commented:
    Step aside all of you haters…sit down at the table with a nice bowl of favorite ice cream. Than pick up the remote and turn on the TV.

  12. Marty Silvert says:

    She was a whore thru and thru and nothing else. If you had the price, she was yours.

  13. Fluids says:

    I didn’t like the way Shae was written or what she was given to work with. If Shae and Tyrion were truly in love with each other, then I feel Shae would have not have caved in to Tywin (if he threatened her.) She would have continued to be heartbroken and had herself hung. That would have made a better source of anger for Tyrion toward’s his father. What’s missing from the scene as it plays out is we don’t know at the time of trial how she was confronted and by whom (Tywin or Cersei) and she felt about the hard decisions she had to make. If those scenes were added then that would have given more context to the death scene with Shae and Tyrion and also the one between Tywin and Tyrion.

    I personally thought Tyrion killed Shae because she pulled a knife on him and because she lied and implicated Tyrion and Sansa for planning and executing a plan to kill Joffrey. I don’t understand Sibel’s comment about calling Tywin “My Lion” and how “she’s trying to get rid of everything that reminds her of Tyrion — to make nothing special of what they had.” Wouldn’t calling Tywin “my lion” do the opposite? Wouldn’t it remind her of what she had with Tyrion? I know emotions can be unpredictable, however follow my logic here. It certainly made Tyrion feel like she was always nothing but a whore (then again I am guessing because that wasn’t made clear either.)

  14. Fluids says:

    Just some thoughts I have on Game of Thrones:

    • What seems to come across over and over is the need for more screen time to develop more emotionally impactful characters and moments with those characters.

    • There also needs to be some better way to convey back story; inner conflict and perspective for Tyrion, Tywin, Jaime, Cersei and Shae then what we have been provided. As Tim and others mention this could be done with flashbacks; just saying what they feel; adding an inner monologue sound track or bouncing people’s inner thoughts off of other characters.

    • The dropping of details relating to impactful moments (in latter episodes) has to change. Otherwise those key moments won’t resonate as emotionally as they could and never reach their true potential as we are watching them unfold. Example, I would have felt a lot more about the death of Mag the Mighty in S4E9 if I had known he was Mag the Mighty in S4E9 not S4E10 after he has been killed. In other words they really need to flesh out dialog and characterization better in the moment then they have and I think they can do this without fear of spoilers.

    • I feel there needs to be less focus on adapting a story to TV and more focus whether the TV show makes sense on its own merits; following its own direction based on what has already been layed out in the show. The Walking Dead was able to do this; why not GOT? To be fair to the GOT TV Show, I think the show does float on its own, however there are moments throughout different episodes that left me feeling indifferent emotionally or confused trying to ascertain how I should feel about something I was shown.

  15. william says:

    well if she cant get any acting jobs,she can always go back to making porn.I was always surprised she got the part with her xxx background.

  16. I needed to thank you for this very good read!! I certainly loved every bit of it.

    I’ve got you book marked to look at new stuff you post…

  17. Kaiser says:

    The Shae hate train is unfortunate. She made lots of bad decisions, but Tywin was the real villain. He was the most powerful man in the realm and destroyed Tyrion’s life, without him Shae and Tyrion could have been happy. His death was a lot more cathartic than Shae’s.