Converting a book to the screen with authenticity is a challenge for everyone involved in the production – no more so than when the actors were asked to recreate a role.
Depending on the novel’s popularity and readership, it may often be the case that viewers already have a vision of a given character in their minds in terms of appearance, persona, or both.
And the same can be said about an actor.
There is no doubt that any actor taking on the role of Scrooge, for example, could not be influenced in some way by the original character created by Charles Dickens – even if they consciously try to avoid such inspiration.
In Game of Thrones, Ser Davos, Stannis’ right-hand man until his defection, was played superbly by Liam Cunningham, who says that despite being given a hard time by George RR Martin, he deliberately didn’t read the books before playing the character in the show.
Ser Davos is a complex character. A former smuggler, he is also an incredibly loyal man with a firm sense of right and wrong.
To this day, the actor says he still hasn’t read the books. Although these days it’s more because he hasn’t found the time for it. But he has promised Martin that he will do it when he has the “luxury” of being out of work for a period.
However, in the past he did not want to read the books as he was keen to avoid the literary version of the story as he did not want to “play a character from a book”.
The revelation came about during an interview in 2017 with Vulture with Cunningham being congratulated on his portrayal and making it clear that while the plan for the showrunners when it came to creating the series was the works of George RR Martin, for him as an actor, “the plan was the script”.
And when you consider that David Benioff and Dan Weiss made some changes to the story even before the later seasons when they took it in their own direction, Cunningham’s decision seems sensible.
This may well have resulted in him adding authenticity to the role as he was unaware of how Ser Davos would develop as a character and was only able to play him according to the script in front of him and his own knowledge of the character’s history.
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who watched the series and thinks he could have played Ser Davos better by reading the books before setting foot.