The actor felt unworthy of love when he was younger, but mistakes in his twenties led him to an enduring, healthy marriage in the present day.

There are no guarantees in love

Oftentimes, we’re delivered a picture-perfect fantasy of what love entails: flawless, attractive people coming together, swept up in uncontrollable passion, overcoming minor obstacles in their way with aplomb, and proving to the world that they were destined to find each other. In reality, love is something far more unpredictable, uncontrollable, and powerful. 

Just look at Peter Dinklage: the man has become a household name due to his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones, but his journey to find the right one hadn’t always been quite as successful or exhilarating. That is, until he met the woman of his dreams: theatre director Erica Schmidt. When their paths crossed, they didn’t think the initial connection would eventually morph into a long-term commitment, but Peter proved her wrong in every single way. What’s so precious about their relationship is that they don’t let societal expectations determine the state of their marriage, and a lot of that has to do with Peter’s unique but admirable approach to love. 

Here’s what he says about love and what’s led him to forge such a beautiful, supportive partnership with Erica:

Who is Erica Schmidt? The Award-Winning Playwright and Theater Director Stole Peter’s Heart

Erica Schmidt may be best known for writing Cyrano–her modern adaptation on Edmond Rostand’s classic play Cyrano de Bergerac–but according to her husband, Schmidt’s true love has always been the theatre.

“[Erica] is very inspiring. She’s definitely the artist of the family. … I am just the TV actor who pays the bills.”

– Peter Dinklage, The Guardian (2015)

Back in 2001, Erica Schmidt snagged the Robert and Gloria Hausman Theater Honor from the Princess Grace Foundation, which supports up-and-coming performers in theater, dance, and film.

Fast forward to 2019, when Schmidt proved she wasn’t just Peter Dinklage’s wife, she was a star in her own right.

The Artistic Achievements of Erica Schmidt

Erica Schmidt’s Mac Beth, (her creative all-female adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth), got some major accolades from the critics. She scored Drama Desk Award nominations for Outstanding Direction and Outstanding Revival, plus a shout-out for the Lucille Lortel Award.

Schmidt’s other directorial credits include The Play Company (for which she received a Callaway Award nomination) and chashama (for which she won the New York International Fringe Festival Award for best direction).

She also won a Lucille Lortel Award for the play Humor Abuse, which she co-created, co-wrote and directed.

How Erica Schmidt and Peter Dinklage Met

Erica Schmidt and Peter Dinklage fell in love in the most romantic way. Dinklage said meeting his wife-to-be was like something straight from a “crazy, romantic movie.”

During a press junket for Cyrano, the I Care A Lot actor opened up to The New York Times, about how he fell for Erica.

“It was about 18 years ago now. We were all at a friend’s house and someone said, ‘They’re walking the elephants through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel.’ The circus was in town and it was snowing, and they were walking the elephants through Manhattan, a long line of them. It was like something out of a beautiful, fantastical, end-of-the-world, crazy, romantic movie… So that’s the night we met, the night the elephants walked through Manhattan.”

Peter Dinklage and Erica Schmidt’s Elopement

For Peter Dinklage marriage was a no brainer! In 2005, Erica Schmidt officially became Peter Dinklage’s wife in the most low key way possible.

The couple eloped in Las Vegas, after Dinklage had been visiting the city to show support for a charity event.

“While we were there, we just decided to do it. It was a bit lonely. We got a VHS videocassette of the wedding that no one will ever see, that we’ve buried in a box deep beneath the earth’s core.”

Peter Dinklage, The New York Times (2016)

Even though the elopement may have been a bit lonely, married life certainly isn’t!

Everything We Know About Their Low Key Family Life

With two children and their active careers, Schmidt and Dinklage definitely keep busy and keep out of the spotlight if they can help it. For Erica Schmidt and Peter Dinklage family is everything, and they try to keep their home life separate from their fame

For Peter Dinklage and Erica Schmidt career comes second, family comes first!

The couple welcomed their daughter in 2011, just on the heels of from when the Game of Thrones actor won an Emmy–his first of many to come!

Peter Dinklage speaking at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con International, for “Game of Thrones”, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California / Wikipedia

6 years later, the pair welcomed their second child in 2017 but the couple has never share the names of their children (or gender of their second child) to the media. That doesn’t mean fans don’t have a fun time guessing though!

One of Dinklage’s favourite theories he read on Wikipedia was he named his daughter ‘Zelig’ after a character in his favourite Woody Allen movie. Though he was quick to dismiss the guess as untrue, he doesn’t mind the speculation. “Let me tell you right now: her name is not Zelig. But it’s hilarious that that’s a fact in Wikipedia.”

When asked about how they maintain a low profile, Schmidt didn’t mince her words for CBS News

We lived in Chelsea [in Manhattan] for a while, and we had a dog, a very big dog that had to be walked a lot. And this was probably season three of Thrones. And he started walking down the street, and all of these people came—I don’t know where they were coming from, from the restaurants—and it was, like, 30 people, you know, ‘Peter! Peter! Tyrion!’ coming towards him.” Because of his short stature, Schmidt notes, it’s hard for her husband to hide.

“He can’t put on his sunglasses and a hat and disappear.”

Dinklage and Schmidt have been partners in life for nearly 20 years, but in 2021, the couple got made their relationship a little more serious!

Erica Wasn’t Sure She Wanted To Cast Her Husband As Her Script’s Leading Man

Before Cyrano was on the big screen, Schmidt had written the musical for the stage. The performance premiered in 2018 in a smaller theatre production in Chester, Connecticut, featuring Hayley Bennett as Roxanne.

After director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina) attended the performance, he commissioned Schmidt to adapt the play for the big screen, with Bennett reprising her role.

The question was…who would play the role of the title character, Cyrano?

In a 2021 interview with CBS News, Dinklage admitted to begging his wife for the role of Cyrano.

“Begged’? Yeah. I mean, essentially, yes, that’s true,” Dinklage responded. “For an actor, you always wanna do something that — for me at least — that scares you … I just never had sung since I was a kid.”

“The minute he started reading, I thought, ‘It’s his,’ ” Schmidt says. “There’s something about how Cyrano deflects with wit — he’s not self-pitying at all. That’s exactly how Peter is. There was a fricative energy happening that was really exciting.”

Why Cyrano is a role close to Peter’s heart: Love isn’t just for “pretty people”

Actor Peter Dinklage attends the Film Independent Screening of “Cyrano” at Harmony Gold on December 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

In a Times interview, Peter offers his perspective on why he is as worthy of love as anyone else. Due to his condition of achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism, Peter has spent his entire life trying to shield himself away from prying, judgmental eyes.

“Being my size, I get second looks quite often,” he shared. “My whole life I’ve had stares.”

– Peter Dinklage, The Times

As a result, he suffered from a startling lack of confidence and would often pursue dangerous strategies to quash self-doubt. Those actions landed him in trouble more than a few times and left him feeling starved of love and compassion.  

Today, he’s a wildly famous actor, with countless accolades to his name, not to mention the millions of dollars he has banked as the lead of one of–if not the–most popular television series of all time. He has started to get used to a different variety of fame, one that’s not so singularly hinged on his size but his work as a whole.

“Now there’s an ownership to someone looking at me or approaching me. It’s because of something positive,” he said. He’s no longer solely defined by his height; he is being associated with the cultural phenomenon of Game of Thrones as well as his witty, thoughtful performance that’s generated his own following over the years. 

Moreover, Peter is learning what it means to be a leading man. His nearly seventeen-year marriage with Erica taught him how everyone is entitled to experiencing love. It isn’t just a concept deserved for beautiful people in romantic dramas who face the same set of challenges time and again. No matter what you look like or where you come from, you deserve love, and you deserve the full spectrum of emotions that accompany love.

Similarly, in an ideal world, the love depicted on our screens can’t feature just pretty people, either. “The idea of a leading actor is changing now,” he said. A few years or decades ago, Peter might not have had the illustrious career he does today, but representation engenders a collective change in society. Even we are exposed to diverse identities, we gain a better understanding of how similar we indeed are. As Peter has ascended through the ranks in Hollywood and carved out his place in the public consciousness, we are more open to seeing leading men like him. In his view, everyone has a love life, and we need to move beyond the perspectives of “pretty people.”

We’ve been stuck with this stereotype of a leading man and it’s healthy to open that up. Love life is not the domain of pretty people — everybody has a love life.

Peter Dinklage on The Times

He struggled with feeling “worthless” when he met his wife, but she taught him how to love himself

Peter Dinklage and Erica Schmidt (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures & Universal Pictures )

Playing the lead in the Cyrano, helped Peter re-examine what it means to pursue a romance, especially since he’s been with his wife for a while. Funnily enough, Erica herself wrote the script for the film and was a massive force in persuading Peter to take the role. He told the The New York Times that Cyrano is a man “who doesn’t know what to do in the face of love, who has nothing to blame but himself.” That’s how Erica initially perceived him, so naturally, he was the ideal candidate for bringing her vision to life. 

When he was a young man in his twenties, Peter had a tendency of falling for people who didn’t reciprocate. “Because keeping it at a distance is more romantic than bringing it up close,” he said. However, the self-inflicted, “self-saboteur” torment phase wasn’t going to last. Like everybody, he had to make those mistakes in his youth so that he could mature and gain clarity on what he really wanted. When he first met Erica, he felt “unworthy” of her love. The love was so all-consuming and formidable and compelling that he had to convince himself that he stood a chance. “It was like something out of a beautiful, fantastical, end-of-the-world, crazy, romantic movie,” he said about their first meeting. 

If anybody’s been lucky enough to experience love, it just grabs hold of you. You don’t control how you feel, but you can choose what to do with it.

Peter Dinklage to the New York Times

Over time, the “torment” doesn’t necessarily end, but you get older, and you start realizing how it doesn’t have to be so painful. When you’ve been with your partner for a few years, you realize how you are just as valid as anyone when it comes to love. Sure, you’ll make mistakes, and you’ll hurt people, but as long as you remain attuned to what your partner needs and you’re able to preserve the romance, things work out. That was his primary motivation for taking the role of hopelessly romantic but shy Cyrano. He wanted to uncover the “worthlessness” we all feel when we come across the love of our life. We don’t think we deserve them, but in actuality, we deserve each other the perfect amount. 

Peter Dinklage reminds us we’re all worthy of love!

Nobody is too small or big for love. Nobody is too rich or poor for love. Love is an immensely malleable phenomenon that will fit your life no matter where you stand. You don’t have to look a certain way to deserve something special. You don’t need to have a certain number in your bank account to feel worthy. Your journey will take place as it’s meant to take place. Obviously, it isn’t perfect, and you’ll go through struggles, but it’s never too late to make changes. As you go through life experiences, you will understand how lovely it is to be yourself, just as Peter learned, and still be able to understand the meaning of love. 

embrace love
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
– Lao Tzu