August 15, 2017 11:49 AM EDT

Warning: This post contains spoilers for season seven of Game of Thrones.

Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish has long been one of Game of Thrones‘ most conniving players, but when it comes to Sansa Stark, his motives have become more complicated than ever.

Although Littlefinger seems to have genuine affection for Sansa, the most recent episode saw him put a plan in motion to create a rift between her and her sister Arya. But in an interview with the New York Times, Aidan Gillen — who plays the master manipulator — explained that his character’s actions stem from a desire to keep Sansa under his wing.

“I’m not really playing a romantic interest there. I know that’s how it appears, but it’s something slightly different,” he said of Littlefinger’s feelings for Sansa. “Kind of mentoring, in terms of schooling Sansa in the ways of manipulation, the ways to play the game, or the ways to survive. Of course there’s a certain lack of clarity in what he’s after, and I think that’s the way it should be.”

MORE: To stay up to date on everything Game of Thrones, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and sign up for our exclusive newsletter.

Gillen also spoke about how the catalyst behind his attempts to sow discord among the Starks is his history with Catelyn, who spurned him in favor of Brandon — and later Ned — Stark.

“There’s always something more to it when it involves the Starks, given his history with Catelyn Stark and that rejection, and that’s what’s driving him,” he said. “But I wouldn’t say the undermining of the Stark family has been a goal. It’s opportunistic. He couldn’t have foretold that Arya was going to show up again, and that Bran was going to show up again. He has played his part in the rise of the Starks, showing up last season with the Knights of the Vale, but he will also undermine it and exploit it. That’s what he’s doing — he’s trying to drive wedges between all of them.”

The sixth episode of Game of Thrones‘ seventh season airs Aug. 20 at 9 p.m. on HBO.

More Must-Reads From TIME

Write to Megan McCluskey at

You May Also Like