THE fifth season of Game of Thrones features an influx of new female characters.
Following the dramatic events of season four, including the horrific death-by-combat of Prince Oberyn, viewers will get their first look into the dry southern province of Dorne in the fantasy drama's medieval world of Westeros.
Dorne is home to Prince Oberyn's eight bastard daughters known as the Sand Snakes, and a grown-up Myrcella Baratheon, who was sent from the capital King's Landing for her betrothal to Prince Trystane.
The young actresses playing these characters join an established cast of strong and much-loved women, including Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Natalie Dormer and Carice Van Houten.
Dutch actress Carise plays the Red Priestess Melisandre in the popular show, which will be simulcast around the world for the first time this year.
While many details about Melisandre remain a mystery to viewers, the influential religious figure's fate is about to intersect with viewer-favourite Jon Snow.
Q: Can you set the scene for Melisandre as season five begins?
A: We are in Castle Black. We know that I've clocked Jon Snow. We want to go back to Winterfell to take it, and we want Jon Snow to come with us. But he's basically married to The Wall; he's sworn an oath, (so) he's not going to just follow us. And so I will have to seduce him to get him to do so.
Q: What is Melisandre's motivation? What is her goal?
A: What I'm trying to do is to show that whatever she's doing, she's doing it for a greater good; that she's doing it for a purpose that nobody knows about yet. She knows that what we're dealing with is way more epic than the little wars we're fighting now, and therefore she feels that people have to make huge sacrifices. But yeah, I still feel that she's not doing it for her own good - there's a higher power she feels beholden to. And she's a true believer; she's not a phoney.
Q: What's her relationship like with Stannis right now, because he suddenly finds himself in a position of power, but in part it's thanks to her.
A: Stannis is still her focus, but she's been slightly distracted by Jon Snow. In part, it's by Jon's presence as a man, but there's something else, too.
I think she feels, or she can see, that there's something else about him that she might have to deal with, or just that she might need him. Yeah, there's something about this guy; he has a certain power that she cannot really pinpoint yet.
Q: How do you relate to Melisandre?
A: I mean the fact that she uses her womanhood to her own advancement. In a way it's sort of intelligent; she knows how it works; she knows how to get what she wants.
The crucial thing is it's not for her own sake that she does that. You know, if it was about her becoming the king or queen, then it would be different, but she's doing it for something bigger.
Q: What sort of reaction do you get from fans?
A: It's funny, there's a group of people who really root for Melisandre, which I find interesting. I don't think it's her methods, per se, that they like, it's the way she keeps her cool, I guess. She's not a whinger, a whining woman. So I think that might be something that people are attracted to. And then there are people, obviously, that really hate her - which is also great, I think. I can see it on Twitter, sometimes. But they don't hate me personally, I don't think, and at least it's getting a response.
Dorne's Sand Snakes
Obara: Oberyn's eldest daughter is a formidable warrior who wields a two-metre spear with deadly accuracy.
Nymeria: The daughter of an Eastern noblewoman, "Nym" is the second eldest and her weapon of choice is a whip.
Tyene: Shares her father's knowledge of poisons and is also highly skilled with a dagger.
The fifth season of Game of Thrones airs tomorrow at 11am AET (7.30pm encore) on Foxtel's Showcase channel.
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