Charles Dance is best-known to many as Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones, so it is a natural fit for him to narrate the lives of lions on National Geographic's Savage Kingdom. In an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com, Dance confirmed that the popularity of Game of Thrones bled nicely into Savage Kingdom, to the benefit of everyone involved. The rest of his illustrious career did not hurt either.
"When we did the first series, it was at the height of the success of Game of Thrones," Dance said of Savage Kingdom, which launched in 2016. So they — for my benefit and I hope for the audience's benefit — they drew this very useful parallel between what was happening in Game of Thrones, with lots of people jostling for position and doing whatever they needed to do to survive. And that is what was happening in these documentaries. These animals are doing what they have to do to survive and to retain their position in that kingdom."
The link is immediately clear to viewers who are familiar with Game of Thrones. Savage Kingdom sets itself apart from other nature documentaries by heightening its dramatic tension, naming its animal characters and personifying them, as it traces their feuds, alliances and movements in the African savanna.
That is not to say that Savage Kingdom's impact is dulled now that Game of Thrones is over. Starting last week, Dance is narrating Season 4 of the series, still following the same cast of lions, hyenas and other predators it has been focusing on since the beginning. This narrative aspect serves to bring fans of fictional TV into the nonfiction world — including Dance himself.
"I think that to maintain an interest in pulling maybe a slightly different audience, what [producer Harry Marshall], and Icon, and [producer Brad Bestelink] and the rest of his cameramen have done is to create this kind of pseudo-dramatic storyline. Well, they haven't created it. It's just there, it's there to see," he said.
Nature's version of this feudal drama turns out to be just as compelling, as Dance and many fans can attest. Dance admitted that, after four seasons of following the same predators throughout their journeys, he has become attached to all of them, and seen his own allegiances change.
"You know, you develop an attachment for particular animals, I mean, the leopard for a start," he said. "Motshidi, who I've kind of got to know. And then, after a while, even really ugly critters, like the hyena — and my God, they're the ugliest creatures on God's earth — essentially I developed a bit of a soft spot. Because all of these guys have to survive. They need water, they need food, and there's nobody coming along and opening a can of dog food and putting it down on the ground for them at five o'clock every afternoon. They've got to go out and get it."
Savage Kingdom Season 4 airs on Friday nights at 9 p.m. ET on The National Geographic Channel. For the full story, previous episodes are available to stream on Hulu, or on NationalGeographic.com. Keep it locked to PopCulture.com for more with Charles Dance, Game of Thrones and all things National Geographic!