7 things you didn't know about the actress who plays 'Game of Thrones' Red Priestess Kinvara
Multi-talented actress Ania Bukstein is also a pop singer, starred in 'The Sound of Music' and has an Albert Einstein connection.
The final season of "Game of Thrones" is sure to come with more than few surprises: Will Cersei Lannister's reign will be but a footnote in the history scrolls of Westeros? Will the White Walkers and the Night King be defeated? Will Jon Snow survive death yet again?
Those are all good questions, but top on our minds is the fate of Red Priestess, Kinvara. Played with beguiling charm by Israeli actress Ania Bukstein, the character has all the allure we've come to expect from HBO's hit series.
Below are some fun tidbits about the 36-year-old Bukstein, the talents she brings to "Thrones" and the possible secrets her character may be hiding.
She's a successful singer and pianist
If the "Game of Thrones" finale morphs into a musical, we know one actress who will absolutely score a solo number.
In addition to her talents as an actress, Bukstein is also an accomplished pianist and singer. For her debut self-titled 2014 pop album, she composed all of the music, with critics favorably comparing her vocal style to that of American singer/songwriter Norah Jones.
In a radio interview with TLV1, Bukstein's credited such legends as Barbra Streisand and Nina Simone for being the biggest inspirations behind her music. "Nina Simone as a character is my life," she said. "She's a great inspiration for me. She started as a classical pianist and then she grew bigger and bigger and she became this pop-jazz icon. I used to listen to her a lot, listen to the way she expresses herself, and sings the words and brings the text. She's the queen of cover. She does the best covers ever."
You can see Bukstein weave her own cover magic above with her rendition of "Can't Feel My Face" by Canadian singer The Weeknd. In addition, she performs with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
She originally auditioned for the first season of 'Game of Thrones'
In a recent interview, Bukstein revealed that she originally sent in an audition tape for the first season of "Game of Thrones." Despite making it through to the "advanced stages" of the audition, she didn't get the gig. In 2016, her dream of starring in the hit series finally came true.
"Suddenly, one day, it happened," she recalled. "My agent called me. A few days before, we had had a discussion about some film that I passed on, and I thought that he was calling to talk to me about that, and then he told me, 'Ania, you got Game of Thrones.' I think that I said, 'What? What? What?' I wanted to make sure that I heard him right."
She has a connection to Albert Einstein
In 2017, National Geographic aired the series “Genius” about the life of Albert Einstein and Buckstein played a pivotal role. She portrayed Margarita Konenkova, Albert Einstein’s lover who's keeping a secret from him: she’s a Russian spy.
Married to sculptor Sergei Konenkov, Margarita met Einstein when he posed for her husband in New York. “They got together after his wife [Elsa] died, and were together for about 15 years,” said Bukstein, who read “everything she could find” about her. “She was an interesting woman, with a dark side. She loved Einstein very much, but she loved and was loyal to her country. It’s a conflict and that creates a great drama. She broke his heart.”
Working with the Oscar-winning Rush “was an amazing opportunity for me as a young actress,” Buckstein told From The Grapevine. “It was the best part of a great experience. Every [international] project I do is a stepping stone for me. It’s an important step for me and I hope it will open more doors.”
Her breakout role can be watched on Hulu
Before "Game of Thrones" and before "Genius," Buckstein's breakout role came in the action-packed Israeli hit series "False Flag." The adrenaline-pumping show is kind of like "24" mixed with a hint of "Lost." In the series, which is now available to watch on Hulu with English subtitles, five ordinary people are accused of a crime they may (or may not) have actually committed. Buckstein's character, like the actress herself, was born in Russia and moved to Israel as a child. It's that dual citizenship that has her caught up in a worldwide hunt for a team of kidnappers.
Critics aren't calling it the new Homeland for nothing. The New York Times called the show "a rare ensemble thriller." The Washington Post raved, "That on a scale of one to 10, "False Flag" rates a 99 for suspense." Season 2 just arrived on Hulu.
She played Maria in 'The Sound of Music'
In addition to concerts and tackling roles in film and television, Bukstein also has a love for the theater. In 2013, she starred as Maria in "The Sound of Music" at the Tel Aviv Performance Arts Center in her native Israel.
"It's joy. It's just pure joy for me," she said at the time. "Every night I get goosebumps and I'm so thrilled to sing these songs. I feel honored to even touch this material because it's such a classic."
You can see her performing a version of the classic song "My Favorite Things" from the musical above.
Her 'Game of Thrones' character is likely hiding a secret
Spolier alert! Kinvara, the High Priestess played by Bukstein on "Game of Thrones," is likely not as she appears.
In addition to wearing nearly the same outfit as Melisandre, played by Dutch actress Carice van Houten, Kinvara also has an identical, magical necklace. As we saw in Season 6, this necklace appears to imbue certain age-defying qualities on its owner. Once it's removed, however, the person's true physical form is revealed.
While we know little more about her, perhaps there's a hint to her name? Kinvara in real life is a city in Ireland that means "the head of the sea." There's may not be a connection, but with this unpredictable series, it's fun to try and connect the dots nonetheless.
She has a love for Instagram
If you really want to get to know more about Ania, check out her Instagram account. She clearly has a preference for the photo/video sharing social network. Fans can look forward to everything from behind-the-scenes shots on various film sets to new releases of songs, performances and other personal moments – including the birth of her baby daughter, Sasha.
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