Liam Cunningham (Davos) on the White Walker Invasion: “Now we’re into Survival”


We first met Ser Davos Seaworth in “The North Remembers,” the first episode of Game of Thrones season 2. Since then, actor Liam Cunningham’s portrayal of the smuggler-turned-counselor-of-kings has made him a fan favorite.  Now that only six episodes of the show remain, Cunningham spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the coming White Walker invasion and what the end of the show means to him and his fellow cast members.

“‘The Great War has begun,’ is what Jon Snow said,” Cunningham reminds us. “I think it’s absolutely right. I think the next season is where all of the pieces of the puzzle are going to come together …  It’s going to be interesting where it goes, because all of these people and families who don’t know each other are getting together to fight the common enemy. The dynamic is incredibly interesting.”

Kit Harington as Jon Snow and Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth. Photo: HBO.

Discussing the breach of the Wall, Cunningham says there was “an inevitability” to the White Walker invasion, “with those extraordinary almost Celtic symbolism of the corpses of the horses and the people and all of that.” Fans have waited seven years for the Night King’s undead army to cross the Wall, so it wasn’t about surprise; it was about execution. Cunningham’s thinks the show’s success was its ability to deliver on questions like “How are they going to do it? How are they going to make it work? How are they going to make it look gorgeous?” He’s happy with the result.

"I think it had to happen. We’re obviously very loosely based on the War of the Roses and Hadrian’s Wall, which separates England from Scotland, and the fact that the Romans as well were afraid to go above that wall because there were monsters out there — basically, the Scottish people. So I think in George [R.R. Martin’s] mind, I think there’s an obviously magnificent storytelling at work. Hadrian’s Wall never fell in reality, and I think he wanted it, dramatically, to fall in our beautiful story."

As for the awkward timing of Jon Snow’s paternity reveal, which we learned about while he was having sex with Daenerys, Cunningham was amused. “I would not want to be sitting at the breakfast table with the two of them when they both find out, let me put it to you that way.”

Is Jon going to sit on the Iron Throne? Cunningham thinks Jon’s case is legit, but it’s now a messy situation, and such things might be better dealt with after the White Walkers are defeated:

"On paper, the guy is legitimate. He’s the boss. He has the rights to be the king. Don’t forget, in episode six, which we saw last Sunday, he just bent the knee, even though he was in bed at the time. He has metaphorically said he’s bending the knee to his queen. So that’s another awkward conversation that’s going to be had. Is he going to turn around to her and go, “So, about that knee that I bent…” That’s going to make things incredibly awkward, in the middle of a having a hundred thousand White Walkers and wights and the Night King coming through the Wall. I think the priority is going to be to save the place first, and work out the politics a bit later on"

As for Littlefinger’s recent demise, Cunningham admits that “I was always so jealous of those beautiful scenes of Varys (Conleth Hill) and Littlefinger, when they’re just strolling around the throne room, playing tennis with the beautiful words that the guys gave them.” Surely Littlefinger and his machinations will be missed. But “that’s the thing about it,” Cunningham notes. “Look at what he’s getting replaced with. While he disappears, we have the Night King coming across the Wall … We’ve gone from politics and diplomacy, and now we’re into survival. That’s what the priority is.”

Kit Harington as Jon Snow and Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth. Photo: HBO.

Cunningham believes the human villains like Euron and Cersei “will pale in comparison now” to the evil of the White Walkers: “The bad guys and the good guys are going to have to come together now, to sort out the really bad guy: the Night King.” Cunningham hasn’t yet seen the scripts for season 8, and he’s “interested to see what the dynamics are going to be. Differences are going to have to be put aside.”

Despite being shown the wight, Cunningham finds it fascinating that Cersei has chosen to ignore the northern threat, instead moving to consolidate her grip on the territory she has. Daenerys has grasped the scope of the danger, but Cersei refuses to face reality. “Instead of Seven Kingdoms, there will be no kingdoms,” he muses. “It’s like that beautiful line I had the first time we met Daenerys: It won’t matter whose skeleton sits on the Iron Throne if we don’t stand together, if we don’t sit down and sort this out — if we don’t stop thinking locally, and if we don’t start thinking globally in a sense.”

Of course, Cunningham knows how there’s always a counter-current on the show, which is what keeps the audience coming back for more:

"But knowing Game of Thrones, and knowing George and knowing [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss], it’s not going to be as simple as that. There’s still going to be stuff going on. There’s still going to be stupidity. It’s extraordinary, the possibilities with this. It could go anywhere. It just shows you the quality of the writing, that speculation is even more so than it has been as this story continues rolling out. People don’t know where it’s going, don’t know what the battles are going to be like, don’t know who’s going to be on the throne at the end. We don’t even know if there’s going to be a throne! Anything can happen. That’s one of the big reasons we still have the size of the audience we still have, because the audience has not been spoken down to or patronized or treated as children. It’s an incredibly complicated story, made by adults, for adults."

Cunningham also commented on the huge meeting in the Dragonpit. “It was extraordinary,” he said. “You have to remember, the Dragonpit was shot in one of the biggest colosseums outside of the one in Rome.” The brutal history of the location really affected the actor:

"… when we walked out there as actors in this magnificent ruin, there were hundreds, if not thousands of people who died in that arena during gladiatorial battle in the Roman times. Where we were standing, there was an incredible amount of violence that was cheered on by thousands and thousands of people who were enjoying this spectacle of death. So, from the get go, the atmosphere was quite strange and quite weird."

As storylines merge, many Game of Thrones actors are performing together for the very first time. This was the first time Cunningham had worked with Cersei (Lena Headey) and a number of other cast members. “All of us standing there, all of the sudden, all of these stories — and all of us as actors — we all finally came together. Because the only time we would ever really meet was on red carpets! So, doing that in this scene was extraordinary. It really did feel like everything was coming together, both dramatically, actor-wise, location-wise… it was quite a bizarre feeling.”

So, how is Cunningham going to feel when he sits down with the cast for the last table read of the last script for the last episode of Game of Thrones?

"It’s going to be very weird. It’s going to be extraordinarily weird. What we’ve been doing, and what we’ve been saying — especially myself and Kit, since we spend a lot of time together, what with me being Jon Snow’s right-hand man — we’ve been preparing ourselves not at the beginning of this season, but for the last year, that this beautiful piece of gold that we were all handed is going to be taken back from us … It’s closing the circle, that’s what’s going to happen. It will be time for all of us to move on. We’ve all done terribly well out of it … For us to have this beautiful showcase, and to be a part of this story — this undeniable cultural phenomenon — it’s an extraordinary gift. It’s one of the proudest things I have on my résumé. I will smile about this job until the end of my days."

Well said, Mr. Cunningham. Chances are, all of us readers/viewers will follow suit.

Next: John Bradley (Sam) on White Walkers and Jon Snow’s true heritage

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