Sue Perkins has two great loves: cake and Game Of Thrones.
For the last five years, she’s been indulging her love of cake as a presenter alongside her university friend Mel Giedroyc on The Great British Bake Off. And now, her Game Of Thrones (GOT) superfan status is being put to use on screen too, as she takes up presenting duties, with Jamie East, on Thronecast.
Broadcast live in front of a studio audience, it’s a dream show for fans of the the action-packed fantasy drama, which will see Perkins and East grill some of the series’ sprawling cast.
When we meet to discuss it, Perkins, 45, is supping a hot chocolate. “I’m addicted to sugar, that’s my problem. I fall upon cake as if it’s the last foodstuff on earth,” she says, admitting she has put on two stone since she started work on Bake Off. “I’ve never been fatter!”
She doesn’t have to convince me about the brilliance of cake, but I’m clueless when it comes to GOT. Can Perkins convince me to get involved, and join the superfan clan?
WHY SHOULD I BE TUNING IN?
“Those who dismiss Game Of Thrones do so at their peril, for this show contains the most important themes seen in any grand works of literature. The questing knight, for example, normally a dude in full armour who traverses the landscape is, in this iteration, a statuesque woman named Brienne of Tarth. For that reason alone, I would watch Game Of Thrones, but there are many others.
“Dragons, for example, permanently flying over the charred landscape, beheadings, some involving a horse, boobs aplenty if that’s your bag, whispering in dark corners, politics, bordellos, random emasculations, the massive quest for the iron throne and all of those matters undecided as yet.”
CAN YOU SUMMARISE THE STORY SO FAR?
“The king has died, leading to a power vacuum, and several great families are brought into a struggle [the game of thrones], to be the successor. The Lannister family, with their son Joffrey, immediately seize power. Joffrey is made king, he’s the product of an incestuous relationship between his mother and his mother’s brother and is psychotic, so that sets the tone for loads of other families around to want to seize power.
“One of the challengers is a guy called Stannis, who is the brother of the former king. You have Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons, who is an extraordinary force of nature who can walk through fire and is just starting to muster her power.
“Without getting into too many specific characters, because there are so many of them, it’s about the jostling and vying for power among great dynasties, where there’s no such thing as moral black and white, and everything is somewhat tainted.
“The moral heart of the story was a guy called Ned Stark, played by Sean Bean, and now it’s Tyrion Lannister, played by Peter Dinklage, who’s also known as the imp or the dwarf. He’s an incredible character. Basically, it’s a dynastic game of chess, which is bloodthirsty, bawdy and epic.”
SHOULD I WATCH FROM BEHIND A CUSHION?
“I’ve needed to a couple of times, it’s really quite violent. There’s the beheading of a horse, multiple throat slittings, the evisceration of a pregnant woman, it can get quite nasty and they don’t skimp on the blood. But it’s part of the world. It’s a brutal world where, if you weren’t to act like that, you were made mincemeat of, so it’s prescient to the universe it’s inhabiting. It’s not gratuitous, it’s not very nice, but it is what it is. It’s credible.”
HOW EROTIC ARE THE SEX SCENES?
“I don’t think watching other people having sex is erotic - it’s not really my thing - but there are a lot of boobs. I’m sure some people like that, it does nothing for me. I’m an over-empathetic person, so I always think, ‘Ooh, she’s probably cold, or she should put a top on’. There’s not that much sex in GOT. Early on, there was probably more.”
DO YOU NEED TO HAVE READ GEORGE R.R. MARTIN’S BOOKS?
“I’ve just started, but this is quite an interesting juncture in the series because this is the point where the show diverges from the books, so obviously the show has had a chance to see which characters really fire up people’s imaginations. One of the many great things about it, is it’s no respecter of persons, so it will just kill off a big character.
“I’ve seen the first episode, but I wouldn’t spoil it for anybody - there’s always a cull of some description.”
WHY HAS IT CAPTURED PEOPLE’S IMAGINATIONS SO MUCH?
“In straitened times, with restrictions and limits and hard edges to everything, this is unapologetically glamorous and large scale and sweeping. And it isn’t apologising for itself, it’s just out there and it is what it is. It’s not bashful, it’s just there, and you either love it or you don’t watch it.
“I don’t know anyone who’s watched it who hasn’t got into it - you either absent yourself or you’re knee-deep in it, there’s nothing in between.”
IS IT TOO LATE TO START WATCHING NOW?
“Treat yourself to a box set - there are a couple of great weekends you could have watching it, and then you’ll understand what the fans are going through. You become invested in a character, who then meets a terrible end, you have a mourning period, there’s a power vacuum, and then someone unlikely fills it, and it’s just a Rolodex of great actors and extraordinary sequences.
“It’s constantly moving and your emotions are constantly moving with it. You do feel sick-scared; season four was quite dark and it’s quite hard viewing. But it’s amazing and everyone’s having fun doing it.”
IS MARY BERRY A FAN?
“No. I might get her into it though. We got her into Mad Men last year, and one year we got her a box set of The Prisoner. I always try and protect Mary, but she’s so robust, she never finds anything too violent or too bawdy. There are many things Mary does that you can’t picture her doing...”
lGame Of Thrones and Thronecast begin on Sky Atlantic on Monday, April 13