#TheUnknownHustle: Peter Dinklage

Before there was Tyrion Lannister, there was “Sid” Dinklage

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

*Warning! Game of Thrones Spoilers Ahead* 

Lords, ladies, fellow countrymen and damsels: This is a day for jovial celebration. 

We. Have. Made. It!

Game of Thrones is finally nearing its epic climax. 

As blood, dirt and fury sailed up into the air, so did our popcorn bowls and hearts—the countless betrayals and merciless slaughtering of our favorite characters have roused enough tears to fill up a few Narrow Seas. But somehow, through all of this brutal drama, Tyrion Lannister, portrayed by Peter Dinklage, is still alive, still hilarious and still a bit sloshed.

No one watches Thrones for happy endings, but the wintry realm of Westeros wouldn’t feel so compelling without Tyrion’s charisma. Since the series’ premiere in 2011, Dinklage’s lauded performance as Tyrion has earned him three Emmys, a slew of critically acclaimed roles and loyal fleets of passionate fans. But long before he was animating Tyrion’s blazing wit—shaper than Valyrian steel—to cut through his enemies’ egos and threats, Peter Dinklage was earning his literal battle scars as the co–front man of a “punk-funk-rap” band called Whizzy.

Peter Dinklage singing with Whizzy at Columbia University, 1994. / Steve Eichner / Getty Images

In an interview with Playboy in 2013, Dinklage recalled how reckless he and his bandmates would get onstage:

“I have a pretty big scar that runs from my neck to my eyebrow. I was in a band called Whizzy for many years in New York. We were this punk-funk-rap band. We played a show at CBGB, and I was jumping around onstage and got accidentally kneed in the temple. I was like Sid Vicious, just bleeding all over the stage. Blood was going everywhere. I just grabbed a dirty bar napkin and dabbed my head and went on with the show. We didn’t care much about personal safety. We were smoking and drinking during our shows, and one time my bass player fell off the back of his amp because he passed out. It was one of those bands.”

Jamming around New York City wasn’t just a fun outlet for Dinklage. As a struggling actor, he admits he “was pretty angry back then,” and that performing as Whizzy’s MC-slash-trumpeter was more of a cathartic release than some frivolous hobby. Much of that frustration stemmed from never being considered for serious roles in casting rooms. In the Hollywood ecosystem, being a dwarf doesn’t necessarily lend itself naturally to leading-man stardom, but Dinklage was resolute in his ambitions. In a Reddit AMA five years, fans were shocked to read that he almost turned down D.B. Weiss and Benioff’s offer:

“I had one hesitation, because of the fantasy genre, I told [showrunner David Benioff] I didn’t want a really long beard and pointy shoes,” Dinklage wrote. “[Benioff and D. B. Weiss] assured me this character and this world wasn’t that. They told me about his complexity, the fact that he wasn’t a hero or a villain, that he was a womanizer and a drinker, and they painted a flawed and beautiful portrait of him, so I signed on.”

Many actors with dwarfism are typecast in perpetuity, relegated to playing a very finite number of roles—mostly elves and leprechauns. Dinklage, when he was in his twenties and living in a rat-infested apartment, proudly refused to accept these gigs despite their good pay. An interview with Rolling Stone clarified his intentions further: “I feel it’s the responsibility of people my size to persevere a bit more about what they do,’’ he told Rolling Stone. “Because it will just perpetuate itself if you agree to do these things.”

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