You’ve spoken very frankly about how your unusual height has affected your life, and some of your modeling work seems to touch on this as well – taking ownership of your physical body. Brienne has struggled with her physicality as well. She’s gone a different road, obviously – she’s a warrior, not an actor – but I wonder if you see overlap between her and yourself.
Absolutely. That’s why I wanted to play the part so much. I never thought I’d ever come across a part like this. I was always told about this in drama school, that occasionally you might come across a part where you say, “Yeah, I know that. I know it. I don’t have to pretend to try and get there. I know this.” As soon as I read about the character, I had to play it.
And it’s a character that we don’t see that often. I’m certainly really rather tall at 6 foot 3, and I’ve been this way since I was 14, but for years women who are even 5 foot 10 have come up to me in the street and said, “Oh, it’s so nice to see a woman who is taller than me. I’ve always felt like a giant.” They describe it to me like outsiders. It sounds a bit worthy, but I genuinely feel that as an actor part of my job is to highlight those recesses of human life and human psychology that we don’t see that often. And if I have the opportunity, which I very luckily have, to play the part of an outsider, then I felt like I might be doing some good. Occasionally I get messages from women saying that I’ve brought them some joy, and that’s unbelievably thrilling.
An additional wrinkle for Brienne is that she’s pretty much universally seen as ugly. When you’re made up to look that way, when you change your hair and your demeanor and your physicality to look that way, does it change how you feel?
Yeah, totally. As a woman, we all want to feel attractive. We all want to feel that we’re making the very best of ourselves so we can accept ourselves. It’s like all of these gorgeous, devastatingly beautiful actresses in the show, and then there’s me harrumphing around. [Laughs] So it can be tough to look like that.
But you have to step outside of that and think about what these things really mean. I am still a person with a sense of superficiality that I’m trying to challenge. I hope that it makes us examine exactly what “unattractive” is. Perhaps it’s not the conventions that we have or the blueprint in our minds. And if it makes people question for a minute what unattractive is, and the way in which we may respond as people to what we think unattractive is, then it’s worthwhile.