Warning: Possible 24: Live Another Day and Game of Thrones spoilers ahead.
You miss her as Mama Stark, and you fear her as Mama Al-Harazi, aka Margot Al-Harazi, the antidrone mad woman who's plotting drone attacks of her own to make for yet another supercrazy day in the life of world-saving hero Jack Bauer. With Mama Margot's plans falling further into place in Monday's new episode of 24: Live Another Day, Yahoo TV talked to actress Michelle Fairley about playing a villain who doesn't see herself as a villain (the most dangerous kind), about playing a mama who doesn't believe in "mollycoddling" her children, and about that Interwebs scuttlebutt that suggests she could be making a return to the Game of Thrones set in the near future.
It's clear Margot doesn't see herself as a villain. And it's clear her goal is bigger than revenge...
No, she totally has a belief in, as you rightly say. ... There is an element of revenge involved, because her husband was killed, but this is more than that. This is a life passion. She married a man and has become passionate about that, has taken on his belief. She totally believes in it. She believes that the [leaders of the] West are in the wrong and governments are to blame. There is no moral ambiguity within her argument. These people have to be punished, and these weapons of mass destruction should not be used on innocent people.
So in her mind, the people who will be killed in the drone attacks she's planning are necessary casualties in the bigger picture?
Absolutely. There is one scene in particular [coming up] where they're discussing that. … Do you allow the deaths of a couple of hundred people in order to save the lives of millions? What is the argument? Is that right? Is that morally right? But at this point, Margot, she has a vision. If you want to put it in sort of warrior terms, army terms, you must be prepared to sacrifice yourself for your greater gain.
Her choices are shocking, but the fact that she involves her children, and the degree to which she involves them, is more shocking. She takes that to a new level in Monday's episode, but she doesn't see that as villainous either, does she?
No, it's [about] unquestionable loyalty. The other side to Margot, as well, is that she herself has been in her children's position, with her husband. She was sent out, she [described] in one of the episodes how her husband would send her out on these missions, like her daughter Simone is doing. He would have an issue with it when she came back, but not Margot, because, basically, you do what you have to do in order to attain your goal.
And because she's been there and done it herself, and has struggled with the moral consequences and seeing the effects that those actions have on ones she's close to, she's preempting [the reactions] her children, and the people who are working for her, might have. She knows they might have these dilemmas, these moral tussles… and what do to if they arise. There's no ambiguity with Margot. She doesn't mollycoddle. This is real. If you're going to do this, you have to be 100 percent committed, and you have to be smart and know how to do this. If they want to keep their lives, they've got to be strong and they've got to know how to look after themselves in these situations. That's what she's teaching them.
Right now she's at her compound, overseeing things, but as you said, she's hinted she's been out in the field. Will we see Margot in action, out in the field?
She's ideally suited to the plotting and the planning, and that's why she's enlisted younger members to go out into the field. Her days of being a foot soldier are long gone. But if push came to shove and she was able to do something, of course, she would. She does get out and about. Absolutely.
Did you know the whole arc for Margot when you signed on for the show?
Not the whole arc. I mean, I knew what would happen to her eventually. But in terms of the twists and the turns? No, because the [writers] are so brilliant, and they change things constantly. That's what makes it so exciting, because you're not just playing one facet of Margot's nature. It's important that you create a full picture. She can't just be a cartoon… it's shades of gray that make up a character. She's passionate about what she does. She totally cares. There's right and wrong within her. She's not an evil villain. She is a woman who's lost her husband. Her life hasn't been easy, and she's worked so hard to get here. Irrespective of whether you agree with her, there's a soft side to her as well. She is trusting, and she will take people at their word, also. You will find that out eventually.
Were you a fan of 24 before you signed on?
Oh, definitely. One of the delights of actually doing the job was being given loads of the DVD box sets to revisit them again. It was such fun. You suddenly find yourself… you start during the day and then suddenly it's nighttime. It's so addictive. It's totally stood the test of time.
Did you do any research about terrorists, accused terrorists, the way they work? Especially female terrorists, who we don't read as much about?
Yes, I did as much research as available. You get onto the Internet, basically, and you search, and you read what is available. I mean, ultimately, you're talking about people. You're talking about personalities, passion, commitment… a lot of these women today who are involved in terrorism over the world, they haven't really given that many interviews. It's usually a psychiatrist's analysis of what drives a personality to be like this. What are the influences in their lives to steer them in that direction? You can make assumptions, but ultimately you yourself have to come up with a backstory that works, so you can place it, and you can feel solid.
I have to ask a couple of Game of Thrones questions, of course. Last year, after the "Red Wedding" aired, you said the episode was too painful for you to watch. Have you watched it yet?
[Laughs.] Yes, I did, finally. I was working in Toronto last year, and I did [a conference] with David [Nutter], the wonderful director of that episode. He was in Los Angeles, and Richard Madden, who is the wonderful Robb, was in London, so the three of us were on a call together watching it in different studios across the world. We could hear each other, and that was the first time I saw it. I didn't watch much of it, I must admit.
I'm sure you're aware of all the speculation about Catelyn returning, in the Lady Stoneheart storyline from George R.R. Martin's books. Can you say anything about that?
In one word, no, I can't.
It's a group of rocks, arranged in a heart shape, and the caption reads "My stone heart." Some fans are viewing it as a spoiler.
Oh, bless Lena, so lovely. Well, she's a goat [laughs]. She probably put that in her garden. [Laughs.] She's very artistic.
So maybe we're all reading too much into it?
Yeah. Well, I have no idea. I have no idea.
It's all a tribute to your performances as these powerful women. Everyone wants to see you playing both of them, Margot and going back to Game of Thrones.
It's so flattering and humbling that you can be involved in such wonderful television shows and people love them. You have no idea what you get involved in when you start a role. You just hope that it's going to be successful. Thankfully, with the amazing people that have been involved in these shows, people love them. It's very humbling and very rewarding.
24: Live Another Day airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox; Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.