Alexander Siddig (Doran Martell) has never been shy with his opinions. The actor who originally rose to fame with the role as Julian Bashir in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 was one of the biggest A-list names the show brought in after it became an established hit. And although Trek was a global phenomenon when Siddig first got cast in it, he says the experience was nothing like the one he lived through with Thrones.
In a wide ranging interview with StarTrek.com, Siddig was asked to compare his experience boarding a Federation starbase with boarding the Game of Thrones production bubble. He says that the experiences almost can’t compare, thanks in part to new technology.
"Everybody is paranoid about some leak on Facebook or Instagram or YouTube. The internet has changed the landscape since 1992. Pretty much you had a blog with no pictures in 1992, and you couldn’t really get anything exciting on the web. But now you can leak pictures and footage, and people can get the episodes and the scripts and whatnot. So I think the secrecy is kind of understandable, but also there is an element of hype about it that makes it… the more secretive it is, the more special it is. And certainly Game of Thrones plays that."
How odd…it says “Hail Hydra.”
Siddig also confirms what some of us have become all too aware of after last season’s filming: “They misinform the crowd and they give them tidbits to send them in wrong directions.” As we know, at one point the actress who played Tyrion’s late lover Shae was seen on set in costume, sending us into spirals of “why is she there?” It was all misdirection.
But then he says something jawdropping:
"…last season, I believe that the first few episodes were stolen and downloaded online, and everybody got to see them before the show actually aired, and everybody was furious at HBO and whatnot. I don’t know if you remember. I am almost positive that those four episodes were leaked by HBO themselves. So there is an enormous amount of spin going on. I can’t tell you that for sure; that’s just my opinion, but it’s games; everybody’s playing these games."
Okay, that’s a HELL of an accusation. For one thing, the leak he’s referring to—which happened with the first four episodes of Season 5—was seen as one of the reasons HBO refused to release screeners for Season 6 episodes. The only people who saw any of Season 6 ahead of time (other than Entertainment Weekly, which has the inside track with the production) were those who were invited to the top secret premiere of “The Red Woman” in Los Angeles three weeks before it aired. If there’s any truth to this (and I don’t actually think there is) that means HBO played a long game on giving themselves an excuse to keep Jon Snow’s resurrection under wraps from every angle.
Speaking of death, Siddig also talks about his experience in this bubble. “‘My goodness, you’re just throwing this dough around, this cash,'” he remembers thinking. “So everything was really top-notch, and when we got out on set the crew was spectacularly good…It was so huge. That’s what I remember, everything was so huge. And actors praying they weren’t going to be killed.”
As for his own character, Siddig reveals he was originally contracted for four episodes for Season 6. So what happened? He doesn’t know. He claims when he got “the call” he was told the original plan was to kill Doran at the end of Season 5, but it was delayed, “‘so we’re going to have to kill you off at the beginning of next season.’”
"I was like, “Okay, life goes on.” But there was something wrong about that because I had been contracted for four episodes in the following season, so if they were going to kill me off at the end of the last season why would they contract me for those four episodes? Because it costs them money whether I do them or not, so it’s not great business sense to do it just in case. So something happened; I have no idea what. There was an enormous amount of fan excitement when I got named to be on the show, and everyone was like, “Oh my god, yes, Doran Martell. He’s going to be great as Doran Martell.” That might have been the kiss of death. Maybe they didn’t want quite that much attention on that character. Maybe they thought, “Well, let’s prove that we’re going to stray from the books. We’re going to do something else, and he will be our first example of that.” So maybe that could have been the case. Or maybe I just screwed up. Maybe I said the wrong thing to the wrong person."
Or maybe the show realized it screwed up the Dorne storyline so badly, a mercy killing was the only way out. Siddig doesn’t seem troubled, though. “[P]rofessionally you don’t want to be on a show like that for too long, unless you are one of the top leads who originated the show, because your schedule gets kind of messed up,” he said. “You don’t earn as much as you would if you were doing another show, because they’re Game of Thrones, and they don’t have to pay anyone. So it’s kind of a blessing in disguise.”