Ross Mullan played a White Walker for three seasons on Game of Thrones—Hear his story

Image: Game of Thrones/HBO
Image: Game of Thrones/HBO /

For three seasons, Ross Mullan turned in memorable performances on Game of Thrones without ever uttering a line. He first appeared in the season 2 finale, “Valar Morghulis,” playing the White Walker who led the army of the dead past a terrified Samwell Tarly. It’s one of the most iconic images of a White Walker to this day.

“I was bare-chested, wearing a mini-skirt,” Mullen remembers in an interview with i News. “We had a zombie army – as you do – and a styrofoam rock for Sam to hide behind. It’s the reveal. The season finale. All these things came together to unveil the White Walker. He looks down the camera. He lets out that scream. It’s spine-chilling.”

And it was all the more impressive for having no dialogue, which makes for a unique acting experience. “You don’t have scripts and lines to work with,” said Mullan, who’s made a career out of playing different creatures on TV and film. “You try out different things, and are slowly being dictated to visually. It took four or five days to shoot a two-minute scene, because you’re seeing how different approaches and variations work.”

And that wasn’t the last time Mullan would encounter Sam as a White Walker. In season 3’s “Second Sons,” Mullan’s White Walker character (possibly the same one from the season 2 finale?) tries to steal Gilly’s baby and is thwarted when Sam stabs him in the back with a dagger made of dragonglass.

Finally, Mullan appears as a new White Walker in season 4 — his character abducted one of Craster’s infant sons and brought him to the Night King, who made his first appearance here. “I was riding out of a storm made of soap and shredded paper, with my horse bucking beneath me,” Mullan said. “It was an incredible experience.”

As Mullan tells itthere was very little CGI used in his performances. “With the White Walkers, it’s 99 percent prosthetics,” he said. “Only the steam coming off my body and the blue eyes are CGI. But you need a bit to blend the scene.”

It’s good to hear that Game of Thrones commits to using practical effects where it can. Yes, there’s a lot of CGI — that’s inevitable when your story involves zombie armies and dragons — but the show still leans hard on stunt work, physical sets, and prosthetics, and it’s the better for it. “When they were putting on the make-up I realised how incredibly beautiful the work was,” said Mullan, who’s made a career out of appearing as creatures in movies and on TV. “I was looking at myself in the mirror going, ‘wow, this is wild!'”

"It’s about the difference between 100 per cent CGI work and prosthetic work. The best work lies in marrying the two I think."

And being covered head to toe in prosthetics has advantages off-camera, too. “One of my favourite things about Game of Thrones was coming off set, before I’d taken off the costume, and making small-talk with the make-up crew. You’re standing there dressed as a White Walker, and they’re going: ‘So what are your plans for tonight?'”

Now that he’s no longer playing a White Walker on the show, Mullan can be seen at Game of Thrones fan conventions. He’ll be at Thames Con 2018 on April 28. And don’t worry: he assures readers that he’s a personable, smiley guy, whatever Sam Tarly may tell you.

Next: Maisie Williams is taking combat training for season 8, surprising no one

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