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Rose Leslie on what 'Game of Thrones' and 'Downton Abbey' fans have in common

"Game of Thrones" and "Downton Abbey" actress Rose Leslie talks moving from TV to the big budget movie "The Last Witch Hunter" and recalls trying to talk D&D with Vin Diesel.
Rose LeslieLast Witch Hunter

If you see “The Last Witch Hunter” and have no idea who’s playing the female lead then you probably don’t watch “Game of Thrones” — or “Downton Abbey.” Scottish actress Rose Leslie has been on both, playing stubborn wildling redhead Ygritte on the former and ambitious Gwen Dawson on the latter. She’s fiery again in “The Last Witch Hunter,” playing a good witch with “dreamwalking” powers who helps Vin Diesel’s immortal slayer stop a plot revolving around an a villainous Queen Witch. But Leslie, in person excitable and friendly, offers the notion that perhaps she has a point.

Was it jarring going from a pricey TV show like “Game of Thrones” to a monumentally expensive movie like this?

Do you know what? No. HBO, they pack in so much time and, obviously, quality into their budgets; their standards are really incredibly high. I was mesmerized the first time I stepped onto “Thrones,” just by the location. They have such a brilliant high standard. But of course, if we’re talking other television programs, that would be a rather jarring gap. But with “Thrones” it is of such high caliber that it didn’t differ that much.

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It seems the effects might be more extensive on something like this.

Certainly I’ve never worked on a project before where there’s lots of green screen. And with “Witch Hunter” there was a lot of green screen and me reacting to a tennis ball and trying to sell that.

How do you sell that?

I don’t know. [Laughs] I did it somehow.

Historically witches have been borne out of fear of women and their strength. “Witch Hunter” goes out of its way to show a diversity of witches, some of whom are good. You could even argue that having the Queen Witch as the main villain is a good thing.

Obviously, visually she’s quite demonic. But watching the film, for the first time a couple of days ago, I was kind of leaning more towards the Queen. I realized, “S—, you’re right, girl. You were here first. You dominated the planet for so long, and then bloody mankind came in and messed it up. You’re taking what you believe is rightfully yours.” I shouldn’t be leaning more towards her, but watching it I thought, “Holy s—, I never thought that when we were shooting it. But she has a point.”

Vin Diesel was instrumental in getting this made, based on his love of Dungeons & Dragons. That Vin Diesel is a D&D nerd is quite endearing.

He has an extensive knowledge of D&D. I thought that would be a wonderful ice-breaker when we met one another on set. But I was just out of my depth. There’s a whole language going on with D&D. Quite quickly I was shut down and put back into my place, and rightly so.

One last thing: I bet there’s a big difference between “Game of Thrones” fans and “Downton Abbey” fans.

Yes, but they’re the same in the sense that they’re both as loyal and passionate about their show. These shows have been around for the same time, about five years. So far — knock on wood — I’ve never come across someone on either side where the fans haven’t been enamored of the piece.

“Dowton Abbey” heads, though, compared to “Thrones” people, are probably more reserved.

And dainty! [Laughs]

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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