Before They Were Stars: Peter Dinklage Was 'Wake-Up Guy' on 'Seinfeld'

There was a brilliant longread in the New York Times Magazine last week about Peter Dinklage that deserves to be read. Obviously, Dinklage has been around for years, but in the piece, he talks about how he refused to take on roles, particularly in commercials, that exploited his size for comic gain. He also talks about how Station Agent came together — that was his break-out role, and if you haven’t seen the movie, it is a remarkable film. Dinklage attributes much of his success, too, to the loyalty of close friends, including Steve Buscemi, who gave him his first film role.

The section on how he landed the role on “Game of Thrones” is particularly interesting, especially the part about how he was nicer to Amanda Peet than her husband, “Game of Thrones'” creator David Benioff.

For all the wild fandom it provokes, “Game of Thrones” started out like all those other gigs over the years: as a call from a friend of a friend. “I knew David Benioff a bit socially,” he said. “I knew his wife, Amanda Peet. He’s a smart guy, so I always sought him out at dinner parties.”

“He was always much friendlier to Amanda than he was to me,” Benioff says. “I knew he was incredibly funny, incredibly smart and had that caustic wit.” From the beginning, Dinklage was the first choice for the role of Tyrion, according to Benioff and the show’s co-creator, Dan Weiss, who observes that Dinklage’s “core of humanity, covered by a shell of sardonic dry wit, is pretty well in keeping with the character.”

Dinklage was cautious during his first “Game of Thrones” meeting. In the film “Prince Caspian,” part of the “Chronicles of Narnia” series, he had played the dwarf Trumpkin and spent the seven-month shoot in Eastern Europe and New Zealand sweating under a long red beard. “It was a lovely experience,” he said diplomatically, “but it was pretty uncomfortable.” So in that meeting with Benioff and Weiss, before anyone explained “Game of Thrones” or Tyrion Lannister to him, he made a simple request: no beard, no pointy shoes. “Dwarves in these genres always have this look. My guard was up. Not even my guard — my metal fence, my barbed wire was up. Even ‘Lord of the Rings’ had dwarf-tossing jokes in it. It’s like, Really?” But he learned from Benioff and Weiss that Tyrion was a different kind of fantasy little person. “He’s somebody who turns that on its head. No beard, no pointy shoes, a romantic, real human being.” And perhaps most important in getting Dinklage, who still hadn’t had that many lead roles in the years since “The Station Agent,” to sign on before the meeting was half over: “They told me how popular he was.”

What is not included in the piece is something I stumbled upon this weekend: One of Dinklage’s first roles was as the voice of Wake-Up Guy in an episode of “Seinfeld.” If you’ve seen the episode since Dinklage’s popularity began to soar, his voice will probably be unmistakably identifiable. If not, it’s very cool.