In Game of Thrones, you spend a lot of time in full armour. Would you recommend it?
Hmm, not really. But it does help the character. The whole thing about armour is that you can’t move with any degree of grace or ease in it. It’s very difficult to fight in it – even walking is hard. But if Brienne was a real person, that’s what she’d be having to overcome. It says in the books that at night she sleeps pretty much in armour as well because she’s so fearful of being raped. It’s round the clock.
Last season, you had a fight scene with a real bear. What advice would you give to other actors on working with bears?
Make sure there’s country and western music playing. And don’t cuddle it. Our bear was called Bart and he was a real diva. When he stepped out of his trailer, you had to give him a round of applause. None of the rest of the cast is so demanding.
How are you with a sword?
I’m all right, actually. I was taught fencing at school, but I hadn’t done it extensively. The swords are as real as possible. We have a brilliant fight director called CC Smiff who is not only really diligent about every single aspect, but lots and lots of fun. When he first got me I was a bit of a wuss. He had to get me to butch up a lot. He got me to walk about with a kettlebell to get a sense of weight of the sword.
What’s your desert island box set?
I’m very interested in the new HBO series called Looking. I’m told it’s like a gay Girls, set in San Francisco, and I think it shows HBO tackling things that are very current and necessary. And I wholeheartedly support that. It’s the sort of brave new material that shouldn’t necessarily have to be labelled “brave”.
Do you keep an eye on the TV competition?
I tend to watch films, but I’ve been enjoying House of Cards, and I really want to watch True Detective. I love a bit of the dark stuff – I enjoy American Horror Story.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Strictly, The X Factor, I watch all of those. I even loved Splash! No shame with me.
If you got the opportunity to take part in one reality contest, which would it be?
The X Factor. I haven’t got a particularly good voice but I like to think I could style it out.
If the cast of Game of Thrones had to take on the cast of Downton Abbey, who would win?
I think that’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? For a start, we’ve been training on Game of Thrones for this kind of big showdown for nearly four years. And secondly, there’s only so much damage you can do with a tea tray.
Game of Thrones continues on Mondays at 9:00pm on Sky Atlantic