You know her as the fierce and fearless Wildling Ygritte from “Game of Thrones,” but on Friday Scottish actress Rose Leslie brings her radiant charm, fighting skills and fantasy cred to Vin Diesel’s action-adventure “The Last Witch Hunter.”
Leslie plays Chloe, a good witch who becomes an unlikely ally to Diesel’s witch hunter in his battle against a deadly coven, aided by her curious ability to walk through other people’s dreams.
SPINOFF sat down with Leslie during New York Comic Con to discuss her role in “The Last Witch Hunter,” its could-be sequel, her hopes for a “Splash” reboot, and where she comes down on the fate of Jon Snow.
Spinoff: Was their any hesitancy to come into a fantasy movie so close to your departure from “Game of Thrones?”
Rose Leslie: There was maybe a little bit of trepidation, yes. But the first time I read the script, I was struck by the fact that this was — of course, fantasy — but it was a new kind of mythology, with humans and witches living amongst each other. And I liked the fact that humans were completely oblivious to that. The idea that you could be walking down the street and the man who’s always sold you coffee is a witch. Or a trusted friend that you think you know really well and is always sending you flowers is also witch. The fact that we’re hidden within that world and constantly interacting struck me as a very fun premise.
There’s a deep mythology presented in the film. How much of that did they go into with you versus how much of that was something you were allowed to create for Chloe?
[Director] Breck Eisner was fabulous from the beginning at collaborating with all the actors, but also talking to me and making me see his vision. And so I had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to create. Of course, you’ve got to bring your own to it. We spoke a lot about Chloe and the fact that she embraces that she’s a witch. But she’s too scared to tap into her power. He gave us kind of free rein to go wild with it. But he wanted it to be kept within his own stunning vision.
Chloe reminded me of Elsa from “Frozen,” where she has this power that people tell her is a negative thing.
Yes, yes. Very true. I think in my head, she’s always been told that being a dream walker is black magic, it’s something that the Queen Witch’s minions used to their advantage. As a result, she never wanted to touch it.
But she reappropriates it.
Yeah, very true. She flips it.
Vin has been very vocal about the inspiration for “The Last Witch Hunter” being playing “Dungeons & Dragons.” Have you played “D&D” with Vin?
Never. No! I’ve never played it. I haven’t played it with Vin. I was amazed — not amazed — I was so naïve. I had no idea he has such extensive knowledge on the subject. I tried to speak to him about it, and then I realized very quickly that I was out of my depth.
Chloe and Kaulder have a relationship in the film that is intimate but not explicitly romantic. Can you talk about their bond?
Vin and I spoke about that there needed to be that arc with the characters and their dynamic towards one another. The way that I approached it: Kaulder is notorious. He is a bogeyman to Chloe, this nasty witch hunter who has spent the last 800 years killing off her race. So there’s absolutely no way she’s going to be full-on flirting with him. She is absolutely intimidated by him when she first meets him. But also, she’s more than a match for Kaulder. As a result, she’s not going to give him an easy ride. He has to prove his worth, and they have to respect one another. I think through that arc as shown in the movie there is an understanding as to why they then have to team up. Because he essentially saves her life, and then that ice is broken.
Vin has also said he’s already been contacted about a sequel. Are you signed for a sequel?
That’s a question for Lionsgate. I have no power there. But I am very proud of this film. It’s a wonderful world that Breck has created. Never say never.
“The Last Witch Hunter” feels like a true passion project for Vin, especially to fans who know how enthusiastic he is about fantasy. It feels like this finally his fantasy movie.
Yes, yes, it’s a perfect movie for him, isn’t it?
And you’ve got elements from “Game of Thrones” and Elijah Wood from “The Lord of the Rings.” Has Vin approached you and been like, ‘How do I get on “Game of Thrones”‘?
[Laughs] No, he hasn’t. And you know, once again — it’s a little insight into my rather boring existence, but — once again, I have no idea how I’d help him to get onto “Game of Thrones” at all. But yeah, I think that he and the rest of the acting community would like to be a part of that show. So he’d have to wait in line.
Well, in contrast, at the end of this film — without giving away major spoilers — Chloe gets to Tokyo drift a car!
Don’t worry about that. [Joking] I did that in one take.
It felt like a nod to the “Fast and Furious” franchise, and made me wonder if you had your eye on joining it. Is that something you’ve thought about?
No! I never really saw that connection. I only saw it for the first time a couple of days ago, and when I saw that scene, I actually begged up the person who drove that car because in my head, I was like, ‘Yes! Chloe can drive!‘ I never knew she could drive like that, she’s amazing! What struck me was that I’m pretty good behind the wheel. So I was pretty happy about that.
So seeing the movie you learned more about your character.
[Laughs] Yeah! I was the one being educated.
Regarding “Game of Thrones,” is there any chance you might come back in a flashback or dream sequence?
Gosh. Certainly not in a flashback or a dream, because Jon Snow is dead. I don’t know why there would be any reason to go back. But I did actually — whilst shooting all those years ago and whilst Ygritte or her dummy was being burnt on a pyre — I was like “OK, well there’s no way I’m coming back now! I’m pretty dead.”
It’s definitely one of those shows where such things are possible. But I’ve not seen a single fan theory predicting Ygritte’s resurrection from the grave, sadly.
She’s pretty gone. She’s burnt to a timber.
But remembered forever in GIF form.
Very nice! I’ll take that.
Is it weird seeing yourself pop up as GIFs on the internet?
No. I think it’s a lovely thing to experience. Also it’s great to know the character is still being loved and still living on through the Internet. It’s a nice accolade.
Did you take any mementos from “Game of Thrones”?
On my final ever day/evening, I was given Ygritte’s bow and arrow, and that was a really lovely thing to take away. They changed the grip with a silver placard and some quotes on there, and a little rose emblem.
That makes me really happy. I feel like people who love the show want to think of it as this big family making it, and that affirms that.
It absolutely was. It was a unit. It very much is, and the teams involved have been from there from the beginning.
So I have some weird Internet rumors about you. None of these are racy.
Yeah? Next time. So I’ve heard that you love to eat duck, but hate cucumbers?
Ah! Very true. I hate cucumber. Hate cucumber. It ruins water. It ruins sandwiches. It’s just blech. And I do love a bit of duck.
You grew up in a castle?
That is my home, yes. Yes, exactly. I had an incredibly privileged childhood in the countryside in Aberdeen, Scotland.
And it’s been in your family for 500 years?
800 years within my family. It is cold. It is a cold house. Very drafty.
I’ve only been to castles people don’t live in anymore, so I can’t imagine. But lots of blankets growing up?
Lots of blankets, exactly. Lots of fires and rolling around in muddy puddles.
Snuggies were huge for your family, I take it?
Huge! You couldn’t leave a room without one.
As a child you aspired to be a mermaid?
[Laughs] That has come back to haunt me. Yes! I did. Well, I loved “The Little Mermaid,” and I loved Ariel. I loved Sebastian; my father is called Sebastian. So, I kind of felt I had this affiliation with the —
And you’re a redhead.
And I’m a redhead, exactly. I certainly can’t sing. But yeah, I definitely wanted to be a mermaid.
So you’ve given up on being a mermaid?
Sadly. Reality has hit home.
There’s always the possibility there’ll be a fantasy movie. Fingers crossed for a “Splash” reboot.
Yes! Come on!
So I know you’re going to Comic Con this afternoon. Are you going the disguise route?
I was just thinking about this before. I remember admiring so much that Bryan Cranston whilst he was in San Diego went around with his own mask. I thought that was fabulous. But no, I think I’m going to be quite boring. No.
I genuinely feel like if you cosplayed as Ygritte there would be people clocking you for not looking enough like her.
Exactly. “That’s not her real bow!”
“The Last Witch Hunter” opens Friday nationwide.