Owen Teale and Ian McElhinney are both accomplished, veteran actors with lengthy resumes spanning theatre, film and television, but the U.K.-based thespians still grapple with their newfound, late-career fame since joining TV hit Game of Thrones.
"It's weird...I've been an actor for a long time and you can walk around more or less anonymously," McElhinney, seen as the valiant Ser Barristan Selmy on the HBO hit, told CBC News.
"And then you do something like this and you realize 'Oh, I'm not as anonymous as I thought I was.'"
McElhinney, 67, and Teale, 54, never shared a scene in the expansive Game of Thrones (the former mostly filmed in Croatia, while the latter was on set in Belfast), but the pair are poised to take the stage together in the new Mirvish Productions staging of the classic play Gaslight in Toronto.
'I stop and talk to people wherever I am, [even] if they jump out of restaurants with a knife saying "For the Watch!"' - Owen Teale
"I have decided to embrace [the new lack of anonymity]," said British actor Teale, a Tony-winner for a 1997 revival of A Doll's House.
"I stop and talk to people wherever I am, [even] if they jump out of restaurants with a knife saying 'For the Watch!'" he added, quoting the line uttered by his GoT character, Ser Alliser Thorne, and others at an infamous moment of the show's fifth season finale.
"It's sort of bonded the two of us together. Yeah, we're both Game of Thrones boys, but apart from knowing of each other, we've never worked together before," said McElhinney.
Playing to type
Both actors jumped at the chance to appear in Gaslight, the 1939 Patrick Hamilton play that is a staple of London theatres, but more rarely staged in North America.
The play, also adapted into a film by the same name that starred Ingrid Bergman, centres on a woman who hears noises in her house and is convinced she is losing her mind, only to discover that her husband is plotting against her.
British actress Flora Montgomery plays the lead, Bella Manningham, in the Toronto production. McElhinney appears as Inspector Rough, who comes to her aid and brings to light some of her husband's nefarious plans.
That leaves Teale, the Game of Thrones antagonist, to once again play the bad guy.
"You could read it one way that he's a black-hearted villain," Teale said of his character, Mr. Manningham.
"Or you could look at it in a more modern psychological sense and try to understand the behaviour of a psychopath, [or] sociopath, at the very least."
Regardless of whether they play heroes or villains, the two are aware their TV fame (or infamy) may lure in audiences who wouldn't normally see a play.
"Look at what happened with Benedict Cumberbatch and Hamlet at the Barbican," noted McElhinney, referencing the mad rush for seats at the London arts venue when the superstar actor played the tragic Shakespearean hero.
"There were loads of people going to that that were going because they were fans of [Sherlock] or fans of him specifically."
Asked whether he and Teale expect to be similarly mobbed by Game of Thrones aficionados, the Irish actor laughed.
"No, we're too old for that!"
Gaslight opens Sunday at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto and continues through Feb 28.