George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, Dan Weiss, and Jack Gleeson on the unforgettable Purple Wedding

Last night’s Game of Thrones episode has everyone talking, including those directly responsible. Entertainment Weekly has some great new and exclusive interviews performed in the wake of the Purple Wedding. Show-runners David and Dan, George R.R. Martin, and the King himself, Jack Gleeson discuss last night’s shocking conclusion of The Lion and the Rose.

Millions of people watching last night’s episode had no idea what was coming, but George R.R. Martin wrote those fateful scenes in 1998. George explains his decision to end Joffrey’s reign, and why his death wasn’t as painful as some might have hoped.

George R.R. Martin: Joffrey’s death was in some ways a counterweight for readers to the death of Robb and Catelyn. It shows that yes, nobody is safe—sometimes the good guys win, sometimes the bad guys win. Nobody is safe and that we are playing for keeps. I also tried to provide a certain moment of pathos with the death. I mean, Joffrey, as monstrous as he is — and certainly he’s just as monstrous in the books as he is in the TV show, and Jack has brought some incredible acting chops to the role that somehow makes him even more loathsome than he is on the page — but Joffrey in the books is still a 13-year-old kid. And there’s kind of a moment there where he knows that he’s dying and he can’t get a breath and he’s kind of looking at Tyrion and at his mother and at the other people in the hall with just terror and appeal in his eyes—you know, “Help me mommy, I’m dying.” And in that moment, I think even Tyrion sees a 13-year-old boy dying before him. So I didn’t want it to be entirely, “Hey-ho, the witch is dead.” I wanted the impact of the death to still strike home on to perhaps more complex feelings on the part of the audience, not necessarily just cheering.

History has repeated itself, and it’s clear that Westeros is a dangerous destination for a wedding. George explains why for the murderer, a wedding was the perfect time for poison.

George R.R. Martin: I think the idea with Joffrey’s death was to make it look like an accident — someone’s out celebrating, they haven’t invented the Heimlich maneuver, so when someone gets food caught in his throat, it’s very serious… the whole realm will see Joffrey choke to death on a piece of pie or something. But what they didn’t count on, was Cersei’s immediate assumption that this was murder. Cersei wasn’t fooled by this for a second.

Unlike the Red Wedding, the reaction to the Purple Wedding was mostly celebration. Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss discuss what made Joffrey so utterly reprehensible, devoid of any redeeming qualities.

David Benioff: The thing about Joffrey is that typically your villain is such an alpha. You think of Darth Vader — he’s so terrifying because he’s so powerful. But Joffrey is actually this scared little kid, and if somebody stands up to him, he backs down in typical bully fashion. So what makes him so scary is he’s the ultimate spoiled boy who’s got unlimited power. So unlike a typical kid who might throw a tantrum when he doesn’t get what he wants, Joffrey has people decapitated when he doesn’t get what he wants. But part of what makes him so loathsome is there is something recognizable about him. Whenever you see some horrible spoiled brat doing something and you think, “Why didn’t the parents raise that kid differently?” Joffrey is the apotheosis of that.

Weiss: To George’s credit, that’s what makes him real. Far more often than an evil alpha male out to do evil for the sake of evil, bad things often come from people who are unfit to occupy positions of power, who find themselves in positions of power they are not suited for. They don’t have the moral fiber or leadership skills, but for some reason they find themselves sitting on the throne, and that’s where things go horribly wrong. For anybody who’s read history books or read the newspaper, that feels true.

George is not the only one who deserves credit for making Joffrey real, actor Jack Gleeson’s choice to portray the King as a human being and not a cliched demon spawn has earned him a lot praise. Dan and David believe that Jack carried that realism into his death scene.

David Benioff: There are so many other actors would have chosen a much more flashy route — flopping all over the floor. He made it feel real as he always has, and it’s the same as when reading the book. It’s a character you’ve despised for so long and wanted to see him killed, yet you’re seeing a young man — still a boy, really — choke to death, which is a horrible thing to witness. We didn’t want this to be a stand up and clap moment so much as a horrible death of a horrible person.

Weiss: There’s something anti-climatic about it. The standard move would be to give you a sense of release, a sense of happiness … the idea somehow the moral calculus of the world has been made right, and that this person who’s had it coming for so long has finally gotten what he deserved.

For Jack Gleeson it was difficult, but also relieving to film his last scene and say goodbye to Joffrey.

Jack Gleeson: It’s relieving, in a way. You want to do the scene and character justice. It’s a complicated scene; I’ve never had a death on screen before. You want it to look believable — the choking and the coughing… It’s hard to imagine what it would be like. But Alex very kindly walked me through it. It was fun in the end, but kind of stressful to be so focused, but acting like you’re completely unfocused. Difficult, but exciting.

Joffrey has been the character that we all love to hate for years, but Jack believes that the reaction to his death will be split.

Jack Gleeson: I think it will be 50-50. There will be a delight that the person tormenting their favorite characters is gone, but I would like to think there’s a certain sadness at the loss of the delight people take in hating a character like Joffrey.

Get ready for that sadness to hit you like a brick. Jack recorded a special goodbye message for Game of Thrones fans:

These interviews are chock full of goodness, as it would be impossible for me to fit it all onto this page, I encourage you to click through and read all of them in their entirety: George R.R. Martin, David & Dan, Jack Gleeson.

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