Dame Diana Rigg Brings Snarky Fire to 'Game of Thrones'

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Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell in "Game of Thrones"
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"Downton Abbey's" dowager countess had better watch her back; there's a new sharp-tongued grandmother on the TV scene ready to take her snark crown.

Dame Diana Rigg made her debut on last week's "Game of Thrones" as Lady Olenna, the no-nonsense, witty matriarch of House Tyrell. Grandmother to Margaery, King Joffrey's fiancée, Olenna is called "The Queen of Thorns" for a reason -- already, she's spouted off some of the best lines in the series:

"Once the cow has been milked, there's no squirting the cream back up her udder." — Lady Olenna Tyrell on her family supporting Renly BaratheonTweet this

"All Lannisters are lions, and when a Tyrell farts, it smells like a rose." — Lady Olenna Tyrell on family mottoesTweet this

"Loras is young and very good at knocking men off horses with a stick. That does not make him wise." — Lady Olenna Tyrell on Margaery's knight brother, LorasTweet this

"The cheese will be served when I want it to be served, and I want it to be served now." — Lady Olenna Tyrell on the order of food coursesTweet this

The 74-year-old actress was already a television icon before joining HBO's hit drama. She starred in the 1965 action series "The Avengers" as sexy secret agent Emma Peel. On the big screen, she played James Bond's only wife, Tracy, in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."

Since then, Rigg has balanced movies with television work, particularly adaptations of classics like "Bleak House" and "Moll Flanders." She won an Emmy for 1997's "Rebecca" (coincidentally co-starring with Charles Dance, who plays Lannister patriarch Tywin). More recently, she's done stints on "Extras" and "Doctor Who."

When producers first approached Rigg about taking on the role of Lady Olenna, she took some time to catch up on the series. Afterward, D.B. Weiss told Entertainment Weekly, she gave them a mischievous smile and noted, "There's an awful lot of bonking, isn't there?"

"We knew she was the perfect Lady Olenna," Weiss said.

"A Song of Fire and Ice" series author George R.R. Martin couldn't agree more. "I've been in love with Diana Rigg since 'The Avengers,'" he told EW. "She's done amazing work since, and she's going to be an amazing addition to the show."

Rigg's wealth of experience has certainly made a mark on her younger co-stars. "It was kind of 'N.A.R.' -- 'no acting required,'" explained Natalie Dormer, who plays Margaery Tyrell, to Zap2It. "Sophie [Turner, who plays Sansa] and I watching Diana at work; there's a nice parallel there between Margaery and Sansa watching Olenna at work because she's been there, done it, got the T-shirt, and she just comes straight in with so much wisdom and authority."

[Related: Sophie Turner and Natalie Dormer on First Meeting Diana Rigg

And her zingers have been so good -- quite as deliciously sharp as those of Maggie Smith on "Downton Abbey" -- that the show's writers have expanded her role. They've added scenes between Lady Olenna and Tywin Lannister (pairing her again with Dance) and the equally sharp-tongued Tyrion (Peter Dinklage).

That's one battle (of wits) scene we can't wait to see!

See more new characters joining "Game of Thrones" this season:

"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays at 9 PM on HBO.