Q&A with Natalie Dormer

The 'Hunger Games' and 'Game of Thrones' star on staying fit and changing her looks for roles.

Natalie Dormer is no stranger to a hit franchise. In fact, she's part of two: The 33-year-old British actress reprises her role as Cressida, a bad-ass documentary filmmaker, in the just-released The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2, and also stars on the crazy-popular HBO series Game of Thrones. "I’m aware of how privileged I am to be a part of two zeitgeist phenomenons," Dormer says. "It’s a very particular chapter in my life that I am very much enjoying," she says. That includes filming challenging action scenes, traveling the world to exotic set locations, and getting red carpet-ready for premieres. "You don’t really think about it when you set out in the beginning of your career, but I actually find it all so curious and interesting," Dormer says. Below, the actress also tells us how running is big part of her life, and how she really felt about shaving her head to play Cressida.

What do people want to talk more about with you, Game of Thrones or Hunger Games?
It’s probably still more Game of Thrones. You know, Margaery Tyrell has been around for five years and I’m always amazed at how wide-scaping that show is internationally. But it’s becoming more fifty-fifty.

If you could pick another big franchise to be in, what would your dream one be?
Oh come on! I don’t need to! You can’t get much bigger than Game of Thrones and Hunger Games.

You had to shave your head for Hunger Games. Had you ever done something that extreme for a role before?
I’ve never done anything as extreme to my appearance but the director and I had a chat about it and we decided to go with the half shaved look, which I think is a really strong choice for Cressida. It’s pretty kick-ass and it kind of informs about her personality. Every day I had the head shaved and the tattoo put on so the alarm went off quite early in the morning. I found it quite liberating, you know? The way I thought about it, philosophically, was that shaving my head was a small price to pay for being a part of this family and this phenomenon.

And I bet it makes you feel and act different.
Totally! You look in the mirror with a half-shaved head and you’ve never looked at yourself in that way before. Especially once you put the tat on, it was like “OK, this is Cressida!” It immediately informs who she is. And then to go back to Margaery Tyrell a little later, where I get this long, brunette flowing medieval wig and it’s like “Oh, there she is.”

You guys get into some scary situations in this latest Hunger Games movie.What stunt or challenge do you think would be the most difficult to deal with in real life?
You know the last third of the movie is like a war film. It’s like this idea of returning back to your home and it being booby-trapped and blitzed and bombed. The sets they designed were just incredible for the empty Capital, with all those [explosive] pods everywhere. It’s a pretty terrifying idea. But…not so far removed from our ideas of real life these days.

How do you prepare for those big action scenes?
We had a little bit of gun training. But we didn’t have full-on personal training the way the guys did in the previous movies when they were in the arenas. It kind of happened naturally because we spent so many months and weeks running. Wearing heavy army gear and carrying heavy guns. Just going to work everyday kept us all fit.

How do you stay fit when you’re not filming?
I do run, actually, and I do yoga. I’m a yoga bunny and a running girl. Wherever I go in the world, I go with my sneakers and my yoga mat.

It seems like you’ve been traveling a lot, attending premieres all over the world.
It’s the life of an actor. We shot the Mockingjay parts back-to-back, so that was nine months away from home. It was seven months in Atlanta, then a month in Paris, a month in Berlin, and then at the top of the year I was two-and-a-half months away from home again for Game of Thrones. And I was in Serbia for two months doing the horror movie The Forest, which is coming out in January. So I know how to pack!

What’s a traveling tip you’ve picked up?
Always have a smelly candle. And speakers for your music. As long as you have those, you’ll feel more at home.

This interview has been condensed and edited.