Game of Thrones kills kings and lords every season. But in Sunday night’s “The Queen’s Justice,” the HBO drama said goodbye to a star with an actual honorary royal title: Dame Diana Rigg, who played the Lady Olenna Tyrell, the so-called Queen of Thorns whose famed barbed wit was sharper than any sword.
Olenna met her fate when Lannister forces seized the Tyrell home of Highgarden. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) mercifully gave Olenna a painless poison, which she drank without hesitation. Yet Olenna still got the last word, revealing that she was responsible for Joffrey’s death, confessing to Jaime because she wanted her arch-rival Cersei to know she was the one who killed her son.
“When we initially cast Diana Rigg, we met with Nina Gold, our legendary casting director, and we had tea with her,” recalls showrunner David Benioff. “Dames don’t audition for you, you audition for them. And we loved her. She was funny, she was bawdy, she was everything we wanted for that character. We’ve been very lucky to write for these legendary actors — like Diana Rigg. Max Von Sydow, Jim Broadbent, and Charles Dance — people who have been doing it for so long and are so frickin’ good at what they do. She’s one of the best in the world and [Olenna’s final scene] is one of my favorites in the whole season. She really brought it.”
Adds Weiss: “What I love about the way she plays the scene is that even though you leave the scene knowing she’s soon going to be dead shortly after you cut to black you still feel like she won. She’s probably the only character to win her own death scene.”
Coster-Waldau, likewise, praised Rigg’s performance in the episode. “Olenna is like Cersei in so many ways, but just from our point of view she’s been on the ‘good’ side,” the actor says. “And I just love how she goes out. She goes out with bite. She’s never going to beg. She did an amazing job. It was fun to be there and when we wrapped the showrunners came around and said a few words. She’s had a huge impact on the series.”
And what did Coster-Waldau think about his character murdering Rigg’s grandmotherly fan favorite?
“He’s trying to be nice about it,” he says. “But he’s still killing her, man. She’s an old lady, but she has to go!””
Rigg has been nominated for eight Emmy nominations over her career, including three times for Game of Thrones and winning once in 1997 for the PBS miniseries Mrs. Danvers. She’ll be eligible for GoT one more time for next year’s ceremony. Notes Benioff: “I hope she gets the just recognition for how good she is in her final season.”
More “The Queen’s Justice” coverage:
— Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington discuss their first on-screen meeting
— Game of Thrones actress on that brutal ‘worst nightmare’ Cersei scene
— Our deep-dive recap
— Game of Thrones actor on surprise reunion
Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.