Game of Thrones was not an easy world to bring to life. Whether it was creating the dragons, building incredible sets, the unforgettable production, or the costumes; it was all a testament to how amazing the crew working behind the scenes was.
Australia’s ABC News spoke with Game of Thrones’ production designer, Deborah Riley, about her experience on the series for the four seasons she worked on it. As you can imagine, it was quite the task that required foresight and imagination, and we likely wouldn’t even pick up on what’s fake or not. That’s the beauty of the work that’s done here.
Let’s start with the final season’s highly-anticipated Cleganebowl. It was a moment fans had been waiting and waiting for. I wasn’t the biggest fan of how it played out, but that’s a rant for another day. In order to create the staircase that the Hound and the Mountain fought on, Riley had to put in some out-of-the-box thinking.
You’ve all see the actor who plays the Mountain, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson…I mean, look at that shoe size, folks. No idea what it is, but I think we can safely assume it’s something ridiculous.
“The actor who played The Mountain is obviously a very tall guy and his feet are really quite big,” said Riley.
So why does his shoe size matter? Because Riley had to factor it in when she was creating the staircase the fight took place on. If the step was too small then he’d have tumbled right on down and likely bumped into Cersei as she was excusing herself around the brothers.
We all remember season 7 of Game of Thrones when our heroes ventured beyond the wall. And if you recall, they ended up in quite the predicament on a frozen lake.
Well, it was not a frozen lake — it was a quarry in Northern Ireland with concrete over it.
“I remember the producer Chris Newman standing there [in the quarry] and saying ‘well this could be it. Jon could enter this way, the Night King would stand over there’ and all of us going ‘OK. Right. […] When you were in that quarry it looked pretty much like as you see it on screen,” Riley said.
That’s something I’m really proud of because people just don’t appreciate, unless you were there, how much was built. How much fake snow went down. […] You would never believe it unless you saw. And that’s the great thing, because we don’t want people to see it. That’s the magic of the whole thing.
Mind blown. Game of Thrones never ceases to surprise me with the amazing things the production team was able to accomplish under Deborah Riley’s watch. We can say what we want about the final season and how it ended, but this level of production is something we may not see for a very long time…well, let’s see how Amazon does with its The Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings shows.
The city of Meereen was a big part of Daenerys Targaryen’s storyline in Game of Thrones, and its production was one of Riley’s proudest accomplishments on the show. She studied architecture at the University of Queensland so she was well-versed in the great works of famous architects from the past, including Frank Lloyd Wright.
In fact, it was Wright’s Los Angeles mansion that was Riley’s inspiration for Dany’s Meereen chambers.
I don’t think anybody had ever thought before, particularly on Game of Thrones, to bring 1930s Frank Lloyd Wright references to Westeros. […] Recently the Frank Lloyd Wright magazine contacted me and I thought ‘Oh no! Here we go. They’re going to tell me off’. But they loved it!
Yup, Riley was responsible for creating the Hall of Faces in Braavos’ House of Black and White as well.
She recalls creating the whole thing was a “weird scenario” but she was able to rely on a trip she took to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Hong Kong and some monasteries she visited in India to give her some inspiration.”When you put those two together, you get the Hall of Faces,” she said.
Deborah Riley certainly helped create an awe-inspiring world, on Game of Thrones, and I can’t wait to see her next project.