Hannah Murray teases new scene partners for Gilly in Game of Thrones season 8

Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones /

During last weekend’s Con of Thrones, I had the opportunity to interview Hannah Murray (Gilly). She was very gracious and easy to talk to, for which I was thankful. She was also forthcoming with information about her journey on the show, Gilly’s character development, and even a few tidbits about season 8. Watch our exchange below, and then we’ll hit the highlights!

Let’s start with the big stuff: Murray hinted that she’ll be acting alongside actors she hasn’t worked with before come season 8. “Which cast member have you enjoyed working with the most besides John Bradley?” I asked. Her answer: “There are a few from season 8 that I can’t actually mention.” Ooooohhhhh.

Actually, that’s not too surprising. Last we saw her, Gilly was at Winterfell for the first time, which puts her in immediate speaking distance of characters like Arya, Sansa, Bran and Lyanna Mormont. And before long, a whole host of other characters should be arriving, as well. Will Dany ask to hold Baby Sam? Will Gilly school the Hound in what it really means to have a difficult upbringing? We shall see.

That’s about all the information Murray would reveal about season 8, although she did, as we reported earlier, reveal that she was done with her scenes. “The final day was definitely very emotional because you’re having to say goodbye to a lot of people. I feel so lucky to have been a part of the show for so long, and I’m very excited to see how people experience the final season.” Hear, hear.

Gilly’s scene opposite Ghost was the first thing Murray shot for the show.
Gilly’s scene opposite Ghost was the first thing Murray shot for the show. /

But let’s take it back to the beginning. While Murray hasn’t read all the Song of Ice and Fire books, she read the first two in preparation for her debut in season 2, and read the third ahead of season 3. “I would read them as we did them…Then I stopped reading them because David and Dan told me that Gilly was going off-book for season 4, and I didn’t want to start getting confused between different storylines and stuff.”

"I just use what’s useful. When I read the books, I get little nuggets about Gilly that can be helpful, and other stuff that isn’t necessarily relevant to me, I just ignore it, basically. And I find that works pretty well."

Gilly’s been on a very long journey, traveling the length of Westeros twice over. What, I asked Murray, had changed about the character the most?

"I think she’s become a lot softer and a lot warmer. I made a very conscious decision in the earlier seasons not to smile, because there was nothing for her to smile about, basically, and I felt like it was almost like a facial expression she wouldn’t have learned yet, and it’s been really nice subtly finding places to bring that in…That discovery of joy has been the biggest and most interesting arc for that character."

It’s been a treat to watch Gilly find herself slowly over the years. Murray names the scene in season 4 where Gilly is plucking geese at Castle Black as the first time the character was happy, although in terms of favorite scenes, she’s partial to Gilly’s brief encounter with Ygritte in Mole’s Town. “In some ways they’re like two sides of the same coin. Raised very differently, but they have similarities and differences, and without knowing it, they also happen to be the partners of these best friends.”

Incidentally, during her interview on the main stage, Murray implied that Gilly wasn’t “the biggest fan” of Sam’s best friend, and that she may see Jon Snow as competition for Sam’s time. “I think she’d be like, ‘Go sleep with your aunt and leave me alone.'” Would that we get to see that tension play out in season 8.

In fact, Gilly may be harboring a few grudges. I asked her how Gilly felt about having to return to the North with Sam after fleeing it for warm, book-filled Oldtown, a place where Gilly seemed to be thriving. “I think it would not have been her personal choice,” Murray said tactfully. It’s hard to blame her.

That said, Murray did enjoy the scene in season 7 where she stumbled upon the secret of Jon Snow’s heritage. “I didn’t ever feel like I got to be expositional,” she said. “I never thought I would be involved in the game of thrones, as it were. So to get to drop this big information bomb, and to do it in such a kind of throwaway way, was very very cool. It was like an honor.” But that said, she wishes Sam had given her more credit when he relayed the information to Bran. “He should say, ‘Gilly read it’!”

Thanks very much to Hannah Murray for chatting with me! Here are some other highlights from her time on the Con of Thrones mainstage:

  • The scene Murray read in her audition was was the one from season 3 where Gilly asks Sam to sing for her:
  • To prepare to play Gilly, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss recommended Murray read the book Room, about a girl trapped by an abuser for years in a room with her son. The book was turned into a successful movie starring Brie Larson. The parallels to Gilly’s life with Craster are pretty clear.
  • Little Sam is played by a new set of twins in season 8. Little Sam appearance confirmed.
  • Murray was excited to work with Stephen Dilane (Stannis) in season 5, only to find that her scenes at Castle Black only involved the other members of the Baratheon family.
  • Kit Harington nicknamed Murray “Sack” after the wildling costume she wore for her first four seasons.
  • Does Murray “ship” any couples on Game of Thrones? She wants Brienne to end up with someone worthy of her, but she can’t decide between Jaime or Tormund. She’s also a fan of Tyrion and Sansa. Interviewer: “Do you ship Sansa and Jon at all?” Murray: [Confused face].
  • Murray tells the story of the season 6 scene where Gilly comes out in a dress. It was written so that Gilly looked fantastic, but Murray didn’t think that was realistic to the character, who had never worn a proper dress and would probably be very uncomfortable in it. For my money, that was absolutely the right choice, and made the scene better.
  • What advice would Gilly give Jon and Daenerys about their current incest problem? “I wouldn’t go to Gilly for relationship advice.”
  • The main stage interviewer actually brings up the “fat pink mast” sex scene from A Feast for Crows right in front of Murray. It’s kind of weird.
  • Fan question: “Why do you think television has gained traction and movies have fallen?” Murray: “Money. There’s more money in television.” Bam.
  • The Daily Dot asked Murray about the idea of the show having multiple endings: “So I only just heard that for the first time, just today. I don’t—I was not under the impression that there were multiple endings, but I could be wrong and I could be being fooled and I could have [a] completely incorrect idea of how this season ends.”

Here’s hoping Gilly finishes strong in season 8.

Next: Hannah Murray describes a deleted Gilly scene from Game of Thrones season 7

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