Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Unforgivable's Aisling Franciosi Talks Game Of Thrones And Working With Sandra Bullock - Exclusive Interview

While Aisling Franciosi isn't a household name yet, she is already a piece of pop culture history, having played Lyanna Stark in the wildly popular HBO series "Games of Thrones." Although she only physically appeared in two episodes, the character she played was a looming presence on the show. In fact, if it wasn't for Lyanna, who is the catalyst of strife and mother of main protagonist Jon Snow, "Game of Thrones" as we know it wouldn't exist.

"Game of Thrones" may have launched the Irish actor's American career, but Franciosi's latest film, "The Unforgivable," proves she's here to stay. Starring Sandra Bullock as an ex-con who spent 20 years in prison for murder, the movie centers around Bullock's character finding her long lost sister, played by Franciosi. Also starring Vincent D'Onofrio, Viola Davis, and Jon Bernthal, "The Unforgivable" is out now in select theaters and will premiere on Netflix on December 10.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Franciosi revealed what it was like working with Bullock on such an intense film, what her small but pivotal role on "Game of Thrones" taught her, and what she hopes the future of her career holds.

Sandra Bullock was 'upbeat and lighthearted' on the set of The Unforgivable

So, "The Unforgivable" ... what a great cast. With, of course, Sandra Bullock at the center. What was it like working with her? And did you learn anything from her?

She's obviously really talented and just really lovely and smart. And she was there every day that I was working, and just generally speaking. Even on the days she wasn't acting, she was there watching the monitors, coming up with ideas if we needed them. She was obviously always very respectful of Nora Fingscheidt, our director, but she was very collaborative and hands on and really cared about the project. I thought it was really amazing that she was there every day because it was quite an intense role for her, so to come in on her days off too was pretty cool. So, it was really lovely to get to work with her.

As you mentioned, her "Unforgivable" character is very intense, and I just read that this film may be her last drama because she wants to focus solely on comedy in the future. Was she funny on set?

She's really fun. Like, very upbeat and lighthearted. Obviously serious when she needs to be when she's doing her work, but very warm and supportive and caring. I love her in her comedies, but I also think she's an amazing dramatic actor too, so I hope that maybe that's just for a while. But who knows? She has done her fair share of things, so whatever she wants to do next, I would go and see it. But, yeah, it was a very intense role. So maybe she's still metabolizing that.

Did you get to meet everybody that you didn't have scenes with, like Vincent D'Onofrio, Viola Davis, Jon Bernthal, etc.?

No. But I got to meet Rob Morgan, which was great. I tried to be calm, cool, and collected, but I think he's a really amazing actor. I was like, "Oh my God, there's Rob Morgan!" So, yeah, I got to meet Rob, and obviously [the actors who play] my family. But I didn't get to meet Vincent. And I didn't get to meet Viola. When I heard she was part of the project, I was praying I got a scene with her. But sadly that wasn't part of the story. But I feel very lucky to be part of a film with such a cool cast.

Now, did anyone on the set, including Sandra, give you any advice about maneuvering through Hollywood, whether directly or indirectly?

No, not really. I think what I'm finding out is that people can give you advice, but everyone's trajectory and everyone's career path is so vastly different. Like, even the way people get into acting. When people ask me, "How can I get into acting?" I'm like, well, there are many ways. So, it's strange.

Not that I'm on the level of some of the other cast members in this film, obviously. But even when people ask me for advice, I say I really feel like I'm still figuring it out myself. I'm still coming up with things that seem really new and trying to navigate things. I always think, "Oh, when I get to this level ... or when I've done a film like this it'll be different and there won't be as many surprises." But that's not true. Every step that you make, there is a whole new list of challenges and things to navigate.

So, I think you can just kind of be supportive of each other and maybe share similar stories that have happened. And, of course, you can give some advice. But there's not really a manual for how to navigate this crazy career that we've all chosen.

Aisling Franciosi had never seen Games of Thrones before landing her role

So far in your career, you've taken mostly dramatic, borderline disturbing roles. What is it about those roles, including "The Unforgivable," that appeals to you?

It's possibly a very cheesy answer, but I do think that there's something in it. When I was growing up, I didn't like showing my "negative emotions." I didn't like people seeing me upset or angry. I would always keep those emotions to myself and express them when I was by myself. So, I do think that there is an element of catharsis in it for me. I was always a real goody two shoes and stuff, so I love that with my slightly, sometimes twisted, or very traumatized character, I can kind of get at some of the stuff that I would never let myself say or do or show day to day. I love that I have the opportunity to express that through these heavy roles. But if anyone wants to cast me in a comedy, I am perfectly happy with that.

One of those darker roles was on "Game of Thrones" as Lyanna Stark, who was a big presence in the series in the sense that if it wasn't for her, the show wouldn't exist. Yet, you only appeared as her in two episodes. What was that experience like?

It was crazy, and I obviously knew how popular the show was, but I hadn't seen a single episode when I read the audition. And I actually accidentally ruined the plot for my agent, who was a big fan of the show. I was like, "I'm pretty sure there's something missing from the scene, but like, this is what I can gather." He was like, "Firstly, oh my God, that would be so cool." And then he was like, "And also, oh my God, you just ruined this biggest spoiler for me."

Then I obviously started watching the show, and I actually hadn't realized how much they talked about this character [Lyanna]. And, as you said, she obviously was the catalyst for pretty much the whole storyline. But I'm really happy to have been a part of it because it was such a cultural phenomenon, and it's just really cool to have been a part of something so huge. I hope we have something else like it. I don't mean necessarily in genre, but I mean watercooler-type show. You never know when that's going to happen again.

It was strange because I'm in two scenes, and I think each one took a day to shoot, so it was very short and very quick for me. It was probably, on paper, the smallest role I've ever played. But it's also one of the ones that people ask me about the most. So, yeah, it's interesting.

Did you learn anything from appearing on that series that you take with you onto other sets, including "The Unforgivable"?

I thought about this in the day. It's kind of similar in "The Unforgivable," in that I have a lovely supporting role, but my character's spoken about the whole way through. I was like, there's something to this.

Even when I watch some of my favorite actors, you don't have to necessarily [be the lead]. I think when you start out in acting, you want to be the lead. And obviously that's great because there's a lot of satisfaction and challenge that comes with it that makes it exciting to do. But a film doesn't work if the world doesn't feel fleshed out, so you have to have good supporting characters and even small scenes can make a huge difference. So that's something that definitely I think counted for "Game of Thrones."

She would love to star in a musical someday

Now, just a few kind of "get to know you as an actor" questions. What is your favorite movie of all time?

It's so hard to choose just one, but one of my favorites is "Barton Fink." I love that movie so much. I became really enamored with the Coen Brothers.

I didn't really watch all that much film when I was growing up — I started my film education pretty late. But I really got into acting because of how it made me feel, and it started with the Coen Brothers. I like to choose a director and then watch all their movies.

But, yeah, "Barton Fink" is just so funny because John Turturro is amazing in it. It's also just, for me, that perfect combination of very dark humor, where you're not sure if you're supposed to laugh or cry. And I really love that kind of movie. I just feel like it had a very unique feel to it. I love directors who have a style and a voice that you can tell is theirs ... you don't have to read their name on it. You can tell that it's their movie just by watching it. And I feel like "Barton Fink" really epitomizes that for me.

Piggybacking on that, can you name an actor or director you've never worked with that you'd love to work with most, whether it's in the past or present?

There are a few. I'd love to work with Tilda Swinton. And I know he says he's retired, but I would kill to work with Daniel Day-Lewis, though I think I'd probably be a little bit afraid. Also, I would've loved to have had a scene with Viola. It's strange being in a film with someone who's work you admire, but you don't actually get to work with them.

And in terms of director, I would love to work with [Paul Thomas] Anderson. Or the Coen Brothers. But, like, PT Anderson's another one of those directors that when I saw one movie, I then watched all the others. Wes Anderson is another one. Susanne Bier, Kathryn Bigelow. Yeah, there are so many.

And is there a role you wish you could play, whether it's in the past, present, or future?

I have thought about this, and it would be the biggest risk ever, but just to be able to do it would be so cool — a remake of "Cabaret." But then I love the original, so I don't know that I would want to touch it. But I would love to do a musical film, and I like the darkness that there is to that one too. Also, I would love to do animation. I'd love to voice a character. So yeah. There are a few things I need to take off my list other than traumatized, broken, depressed, unhinged [characters]. Because I've taken those a few times now.

You have several things lined up that are coming out in the near future, but where can we see you next?

Well, I don't know when it's coming out. But I think the next thing is a film I shot early in the year called "God's Creatures" with Emily Watson and Paul Mescal. I'm really excited about that one. We filmed it in the middle of a level five lockdown in Donegal, Ireland. Very remote places. And it's just one of those movies that everything from the script to the location to the actors, everyone was there because they really loved the story.

They come along every now and again. Those ones where you think, oh my, I'm going to remember this whole experience. Because sometimes a shoot can be really difficult, but then the movie comes out amazingly. Or maybe there are some challenges that make making the movie so tiring. But, obviously, it's worth it. But this one was just beautiful. The whole experience. I hope that it turns out the way we all hoped that it would. Because you never know. But hopefully we'll know soon.

"The Unforgivable" is out now in select theaters and will premiere on Netflix on December 10.