Miltos Yerolemou: the dancing master in Game of Thrones

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One of the best Arya’s moments in Game of Thrones is when she interacts with the dancing master, Syrio Forel in King’s Landing.

Syrio taught Arya how to use a sword, with the Braavos’ technique, known as the Water Dance. But they had to keep it as a secret because it was very dangerous, so people over there thought that she was having “dancing lessons”.

The last time we saw Syrio, he was holding off the Lannister men to let Arya escape. Is he alive, is he dead? We don’t know yet, but what do we say to the God of Death? Not today.

Syrio is portrayed by Miltos Yerolemou, a complete artist, who knows not only how to act, but also how to dance and do acrobatics. He started his career in musicals such as West Side Story and Cabaret and became a part of the royal Shakespeare Theatre Company.

In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Miltos spoke about the training he had to do to portray Syrio, the rewarding part of the show and about his next play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, which is going to start in February in London before heading off on a World Tour.

How did you start acting?

I always acted when I was at school, even from the age of 9 years old. I performed mainly in musicals like West Side Story and Cabaret but then I went and did a Performing Arts BA degree at University and was exposed to more experimental theatre and performance from Eastern Europe and I did a lot of devising and directing at college. We enter our shows at festivals and won a prestigious award and then I worked for a Theatre Company where we created our own plays and toured them. After that I found myself an agent and started doing more main stream theatre and finally achieved my ambition of being part of the royal Shakespeare Theatre Company and I continue to work with them to this day as well as doing a variety of acting work. In my career I have performed in circus and opera and have been a dancer and acrobat too! I guess I’m not your normal kind of actor.

How did you get the opportunity of being on Game of Thrones?

I knew the casting director, Nina Gold and she sent me a script to read. It was for the part of Varys; they liked my screen test but thought I was wrong for the role and then offered me Syrio Forel to read. I did 5 screen tests before I met the American producers and writers and I was lucky enough to be offered the role.

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How is it like portraying Syrio Forel?

It’s always exciting and also terrifying trying to play something so specific. To come across like you were born with a sword in your hand and to be a master of anything is a challenge. But I love challenges and my experience doing Shakespeare meant I had lots of experience sword fighting in many different techniques and I knew I could put my dance experience into the mix. So after some intensive training and mentoring with the fight choreographer and legend Bill Hobbs, I knew I could do it. Of course there was also the fact that he was a character much loved by the fans of the book but I didn’t think of that, I just focused on portraying this character as honestly as I could and I was so touched and humbled that many people liked my performance and thought I did the character justice.

Bill Hobbs was very insistent that we should approach the art from a character point of view and not get too flashy with sword play. After all great teachers or masters don’t have to show off. So this is where we started and his approach really helped me understand the mind of a man like Syrio Forel and made the choreography I worked on very natural.

The last time we saw Syrio was when he was holding off the Lannister men to let Arya escape, what is coming up from him? Do you know anything about your character? Or what would you like him to happen?

Now you know I can’t answer this question as the beauty is that it’s left open. And if I knew anything, I wouldn’t tell you. Because I love intrigue and surprises.

How is it like working with Maisie Williams?

Maisie was 13 when we started filming series one of Game of Thrones and it was the first acting she had done. And she was so natural and so instinctive. I learnt a lot from her because she doesn’t have all the self-consciousness that most actors carry with them, she was completely in the moment. She is also a dancer so we worked the choreography easily together and we are both proud to say we never used either of our stunt doubles, that’s us on screen 100 %.

Which is the most rewarding part of being on Game of Thrones?

The most rewarding thing is working with such talented and generous and inspiring actors. And the fact that we see each other from time to time and always enjoy each other’s company.  We feel very proud to be part of such a brilliant family and to be part of a show that people enjoy so much. It’s a very humbling and proud feeling.

Which other projects do you have for this year?

I am about to start rehearsals for A Midsummer Night’s Dream in London. We open in February at the Barbican in London before heading off on a World Tour. We will be going to some exciting places and it’s a very exciting version of a well-loved Shakespeare play. Very original and created by the team that made the stage version of War Horse.

http://www.hk.artsfestival.org/en/programme/804-midsummer-nights-dream

Samantha Schuster

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