With the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones approaching, the stars are out there reflecting on their weird wild journeys. The Guardian talked to a gaggle of them, getting their opinions on everything from fan interactions to favorite memories and maybe even a few teases for the season to come.
Carice van Houten
Carice van Houten was actually invited to audition as Cersei Lannister when Game of Thrones was first starting up, but she turned it down. I can see her in the role, but I think we all agree that she’s iconic as Melisandre, even if she found the role “a struggle in the beginning.”
The things I’d done before, in film or theatre, were tragicomic roles where the focus was on human flaws, fears and doubts. This confident, religious, extreme character seemed to lack all of that. So I really had to work hard.
Melisandre did eventually reveal a more human side, but first she had to burn Shireen Baratheon, Stannis’ young daughter, alive at the stake. “I thought, okay wow, this character has gone to the next level,” van Houten said of that scene. “I was quite shocked reading that, but at the same time I thought, this is such a bold, daring scene to do.”
“I’m happy I did the Shireen scene before I had my own kid,” she added. Yes, probably for the best.
For the record, van Houten’s favorite character is Samwell Tarly. “He’s the one truly good person in the show. You just wish that the world was full of people like him.” Her most vivid memory? Anytime she was on a horse. “I was terrified every time.”
Isaac Hempstead Wright
At 19, Wright is among the show’s younger cast members. He tried to live the life of a university student for a while, but it was tricky. “I ended up being assigned a campus police officer,” he said. “It was really full-on and I felt completely overwhelmed. I couldn’t walk out of my halls without being mobbed or having to take selfies. Everyone knew where I lived. Because you’re on the university email system, I’d log on to get my lecture notes and have 40 messages from random strangers saying: ‘Hi, Three-Eyed Raven!’”
Wright does plan to return to return to school and continue to study neuroscience, but right now he has his hands full not revealing the end to Game of Thrones. “I’ve got good at saying absolutely nothing with a lot of words,” he said.
But the sheer scale of the final season is massive. Big characters who have been kept separate all arrive in Winterfell. Storylines converge and come to fruition…Bran’s story arc is fantastic. He’s a disabled kid in the harshest environment, yet he doesn’t just survive, he triumphs. It’s such a great message. He’s not traditionally glamorous, he’s not an action hero, but he could save the world.
Oddly enough, Wright’s favorite character is Jaime Lannister. “Even though he pushed me from a tower window.”
As the High Sparrow, Jonathan Pryce played one of the most quietly devious characters on the show, but Pryce never thought of him as a villain. “I was surprised when people referred to him as this horrible bad guy,” he said. “I’d get quite offended on his behalf. Initially he went out among the people, washing and feeding the poor. His opening words to Diana Rigg [who plays Olenna Tyrell] were: ‘You are the few, we are the many’, which is almost Corbynesque.”
At least his makeup and costume routine was easy compared to a lot of other cast members. “Mornings were easy,” he remembered. “I’d come in, slip on a bit of sackcloth and they’d throw dirt at me. That was my makeup regime.
I knew I was only there for two series, but by the time it came to my death I was really enjoying it and regretted being blown up.
Looking back, I think Pryce’s turn as the High Sparrow was just about perfect. He got in, turned King’s Landing upside down, and got out. And he was incredibly compelling doing it.
In contrast, Iain Glen has appeared as Jorah Mormont in every single season of the show, and has been impressed as he watched costar Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) mature into a powerhouse actor. “She had a huge weight to carry,” Glen said. “We became very close. I have really enjoyed watching her become a bit of a star, and handle it all incredibly well.”
As for his favorite memory of the show, it’s most definitely when his eight-year-old daughter Mary visited the set during the filming of the attack on Daznak’s Pit in Meereen:
The Game of Thrones family took her and dressed her up like Ser Jorah, put her in a little kilt and put blood marks and cuts on her, made her all really dirty, gave her a wee sword and sent her off to the set. The director got her to sit beside the monitor and call ‘Action!’ and ‘Cut!’ in a tiny little high-pitched voice, as a massive fight sequence was brought to life. That’s a very fond memory and she still talks about it.
That’s definitely the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.
Jacob Anderson, who’s played Dany’s Unsullied commander Grey Worm since season 3, was one of the few interview-ees who talked about filming season 8. “There was one night-shoot I’ll always remember,” he said. “I couldn’t see any cameras or technical equipment, and I was completely immersed, with fake snow blowing and hundreds of extras – there was a surreal moment in which I forgot I was acting. It was kind of terrifying, but also really exciting.” Bring it.
He also has wistful memories of his last day on set:
On the last day, my dresser, Jade, took my armour off and I realised it was the last time I was ever going to wear it. I said, ‘Please, could I leave it on for just a few more seconds?’ I didn’t want to let go of it. And I hated wearing that costume. It’s really uncomfortable. I didn’t expect to feel as emotional as I did.
What if Grey Worm, of all people, becomes emotional in season 8? I dunno if I could handle it.
Kristian Nairn, who will forever be remembered for holding the door against a horde of wights as Hodor, came by his Game of Thrones gig in an unusual way. “I was working as a DJ and in musical theatre,” he remembered. “I didn’t have any real aspirations to act but my agent put me up for a role in Simon Pegg’s film Hot Fuzz. Another one-worder, oddly enough – that was ‘Yarp’. I didn’t get it, – by coincidence, it went to Rory McCann [the Hound] – but the casting director remembered me, and four years later, called me back for Hodor.”
That could have been Nairn. “When I told my mum that I’d done another weird one-word audition, she freaked out because she’s a really big fan of the books.”
And the rest is history.
Like Anderson, Bella Ramsey, who’s been playing little Lyanna Mormont since season 6, is also going to miss her costume. “When I go to set in my normal clothes in the morning, I’m completely Bella,” she said. “It’s a weird transformation. As soon as I step into my costume, it makes me feel like Lyanna.”
I like how tough she is, she doesn’t take any nonsense from anyone. She’s a badass, and I also like the fact she’s never condescending or mean without a very good reason. In the past, female roles were often damsels in distress, so it’s important to have multi-dimensional characters like Lyanna.
We’ll all go once more unto the breach with these characters when Game of Thrones season 8 premieres on April 14.
You can take in even more cast interviews at The Guardian.