Houten, who played Melisandre in the HBO fantasy drama, says during an interview at EW and People’s video suite at the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend that she felt “cravings” for “a close-to-the-skin drama and to act roles that are very vulnerable.”
The 43-year-old played the same Westerosi character on Game of Thrones for years, but, as she continues, “I think I really miss focusing on that because Game of Thrones was such a huge show.”
Her new role, one in the movie Instinct, “is focused on just the human behavior.” It’s a character, Houten adds, that she can “really put [her] teeth into.”
The film, directed by Dutch actor Halina Reijn, stars Houten as a female psychologist who takes a job at a secure men’s rehab facility where she meets a manipulative patient (Marwan Kenzari) with history of sexual assault.
“I really loved the idea of [Game of Thrones] being a family and something that returned and it was a constant factor in my life and it was a great role,” Houten says. “I met beautiful people, but, yes, it’s seven years of this character and at some point you have to let it go—and, luckily, she actually died so there’s no return. In a really nice way, I say that.”
In the final season of Game of Thrones, in the aftermath of the Battle of Winterfell, Melisandre takes off the magical necklace that has kept her alive indefinitely and takes her final death walk onto the snow before falling into dust.
“I was a bit emotional,” the actress previously told EW of her character’s final moments. “I really like that we finally know what she came for, and it’s the end of her journey. ‘I can go now, my work is done’ — without it being really dramatic. It’s a life that’s been hundreds of years that’s come to an end now.”