Fans of Game of Thrones have come to learn one thing: never get too attached to a character.
The same goes for the actors themselves. “It’s odd on this show because you can make friends with people and then they are off it before you know. It’s kind of heartbreaking at times”, says Kit Harington, who plays the honourable Jon Snow.
“There are some people who I haven’t even met, and then they have died so they aren’t even on the show anymore. So I might meet them one day and go, ‘oh, we were on the same show years ago but we never met!'”
The difficulty of surviving in Westeros makes life perilous for many familiar faces in season 3, but the cast nevertheless continues to grow. “For new people coming into the show, it can be a bit nerve wracking”, says Michelle Fairley, who plays the iron matriarch Catelyn Stark and is similarly loyal behind the scenes.
“You have a responsibility to make them feel welcome, comfortable and included. It’s a very happy environment.”
Charles Dance beams with admiration for his cast mates. “I have the pleasure of working most of the time with Peter Dinklage, who is phenomenally gifted. He must be the envy of every dwarf actor in the world, I should think.
“Parts like this don’t come along very often for people who are not little people. But for people like Peter it’s very, very rare. He’s a joy to work with because he’s so good and he’s also a very, very nice guy.”
The 66-year-old actor has spent a career playing villains, and is eager to make Dinklage feel at ease. “Tywin Lannister treats him like shit and I spend a lot of time apologising at the end of scenes: ‘I’m so sorry Peter for some of the things I’ve had to say to you.'”
Not everyone is so considerate. Gwendoline Christie plays Brienne, whose physicality in the show is spoken of in less than flattering terms. “You’re much uglier in daylight” is one such nugget delivered with relish by the cruel Jaime Lannister, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
“What [Charles] said with Peter, I get to do that too with Gwen. I don’t apologise though!” he laughs, Christie at his side. “It’s so much fun to get to say those lines.”
Afterwards, he recalls expressing remorse. “I did apologise! You don’t remember I did after the first time.” Christie is unconvinced. “I think it was probably a weak apology and probably a quiet one and it certainly didn’t resonate as I have no recollection of it whatsoever. Just the onslaught of insults that have swamped me ever since.
“Every day I spend working with Nikolaj is never without enormous fun and complexity,” she adds cheekily, before they both dissolve into laughter.
Pranks are an important part of maintaining morale, so explains Richard Madden, the man who plays Robb Stark. Madden, along with ten-year-old Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark), fell victim to a rather morbid and elaborate joke while filming.
“We had a reaction shot where Ned beheads the deserter from the Night’s Watch and [the director] said, ‘We have no light, we’ve only got one take – so no matter what happens just carry on with the take, just do it!’ And Sean [Bean] goes to swing the sword and then we just hear, ‘Medic! Medic!’ and one of the actors just starts rolling about as if his hand’s been cut off! We couldn’t stop because it was the last shot of the day so we had to kind of have terror and fear in our eyes… which is okay because it’s a great shot.”
Obvious off-screen camaraderie can result in getting scenes written especially for you. John Bradley, who plays Samwell Tarley, is great friends on and off the set with Harington.
“We were together a lot and used to just joke around and fool around and started getting on really very quickly, so [the creators] just said, ‘We will use that relationship’. And they wrote a scene six weeks after we started shooting and just put it in. It shows that whatever you are doing, they are watching, and if they see something, they are going to use it.”
Harington agrees; “It’s nice to get a made-up scene”, he says, noting that hard-core fans rushed back to the original books to confirm whether or not the scene was an original.
New to the cast in season 3 is Australian Noah Taylor, whom Coster-Waldau describes as “Amazing”. Norwegian Kristofer Hivju also makes a splash as wildling Tormund Giantsbane.
“His first scene he had to be eating a whole chicken, he had it dribbling down his mouth,” says Harington. “And I thought, that’s really good, that’s a really strong choice. And then we went to dinner with him later and we just realised that it was just how he ate!”
Charles Dance is effusive about his latest onscreen partner: “Look out for the arrival of Dame Dianna Rigg (who plays Olenna Tyrell), a kind of female version of Tywin Lannister – we had a lot of sparring to do”.
No word yet on whether she warrants an apology, or indeed who will make it through the season alive.
– Sydney Morning Herald