Game of Thrones returns to spellbinding new season

Michelle Fairley stars in the TV series Game of Thrones.
Michelle Fairley stars in the TV series Game of Thrones. Contributed - Showtime Channel

IT'S the most pirated TV show in history and arguable the biggest currently in production.

If you haven't seen Game of Thrones or at least heard of it, then it's high time you get with the program, pardon the pun.

The hit HBO fantasy drama, based on George RR Martin's fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, follows various characters and families as they battle for the power of the Iron Throne in the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos.

Set in pseudo-medieval times, Games of Thrones is a brutal world ruled, mostly, by men and featuring mythical creatures like white walkers and dragons.

It's a big-budget production, filmed largely on location in Northern Ireland, Malta, Croatia, Iceland and Morocco.

Game of Thrones - Showcase - Monday at 3.20pm Qld, 4.20pm NSW.

While the conditions are often challenging, star Michelle Fairley says filming outdoors is essential to recreating the epic and sweeping scale of Martin's world.

"When you're outside or on horseback or in a camp where it's muddy, all the natural elements are involved in creating the look," she told the Guide during a recent visit to Australia.

"It also helps you as an actor. If you're meant to be struggling through the mud to get there, then you want to be struggling and that affects how you're going to speak, your breath, the effort involved. It makes it a much truer experience. It's hugely enriching.

"This is a tough world that these characters are meant to be surviving in."

In the highly anticipated third series, a decade-long summer is coming to an end and winter begins to descend on Westeros.

For Fairley's character, the widowed Lady Stark, the struggle for revenge against her husband's killers and the effort to win back the trust of her eldest son Robb continues.

"She becomes a more isolated, dark human being," she said.

"She retreats into her own mind; she's grieving as well. It's a constant struggle with her conscience.

"She becomes incredibly reflective, thinking back long and hard about her actions and possibly her involvement in the destruction of her own family."

Lady Stark will also be seeking revenge against childhood friend Little Finger, who has betrayed her for the favour of the Lannisters, the family occupying the Iron Throne.

"She placed her trust and loyalty in a man who she grew up with and expected him to reciprocate that to her, and unfortunately he lied," she said.

"From that she's had to learn. She learned through humiliation not only that she did not get her daughters back and potentially end the war by returning Jamie Lannister, but that she has humiliated her son and undermined his position of strength, his leadership."

While Fairley, Iain Glen and Peter Dinklage are some of Game of Throne's most familiar faces, the rest of the show's cast is getting its first real tastes of fame.

In casting little-know, and in some cases completely unknown, actors, the show's producers have created instant stars in Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Maisie Williams (Ayra Stark), Richard Madden (Robb Stark) and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen).

"It allows viewer to grow with the characters," Fairley said.

"They're not misled by the persona of a well-known person. It gives them the ability to create a new character the audience is able to go along with from the word go."

The only question for viewers is, where do your loyalties lie? With the Starks of the North, the Wildlings beyond the wall, the treacherous Lannisters or the dragon queen Daenerys?

New characters making their Game of Thrones debuts include The Queen of Thorns (Diana Rigg) and Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds).

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