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Season 4 Interview: Maisie Williams & Rory McCann

Last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with a number of the actors involved in Game of Thrones, to talk about the journey so far, and perhaps to draw out a few hints about what’s to come. First up in this interview series—leading up to and into the next season—I had the pleasure to talk with Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) and Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane), the latter of whom I’ve never had the pleasure of interviewing before. We have a chance to talk the joys of Vine, the pleasures of Iceland, and how their characters get along as season 4 commences.

Interview

Maisie, many people have mentioned you as a very impressive actress. Do you have any method you use, or have you just picked things up since you started the show?

Maisie: When all this started and I was cast as Arya, it was sort of because I “was” Arya and that kind of thing. When you’re that age, you’re not really acting, I guess, so you try to find someone who is similar to the role. Since then, I’ve worked with some fantastic actors and actresses, and I’ve learned so much from them. I’ve watched and learned how people make it more natural. At the beginning, I wasn’t too worried about what I was doing, and I try to keep to that because it worked then, and I hope it works now.

How does it feel not to get to act with Sophie?

Maisie: I still see Sophie all the time when we’re filming. We crossover a lot this season, actually, as we were filming at the same time a lot of the time. It was really great to see her at the hotel and things. I was in New York recently and she was shooting a film there, and we both went to a fashion show together. We still do loads of great things. She’s doing fantastically, and we get on so well. It’s great to also have that escape of hanging out together, because most of the scenes we do on the show are really, really intense so it’s nice to just go home and make stupid vine videos and things like that.

On the back of that, which cast member can be counted on for light relief?

Maisie: For me, Sophie, definitely! She comes and knocks on my door with a towel around her head.
Rory: I’ve seen you where you’ve got to be in a certain mood and want to be brightened up, and you’ll look at videos of Sophie.
Maisie: [laughs] Oh my god. yeah, so for every Vine video that is posted, there’s about seven more that we don’t post because it’s too embarrassing to have on the internet for the rest of our lives. I had to do ADR recently where I had to laugh. Personally, I find laughing at command much harder than crying on command, so I was just watching these videos of Sophie…
Rory: Go on, show one!
Maisie: No, no, she’d kill me!

Okay, so, is it correct you two filmed in Iceland this year?

Rory: That’s right.

I know you’ve been there before, Rory, when you worked on Beowulf and Grendel. Didn’t you also used to live there for awhile?

Rory: Yeah, yeah. It was great to get back there. I lived there for about a year. It was a bit bizarre actually, leaving that place five or six years ago after working as a carpenter, with just a couple of bucks in my pocket, and now coming back in this great show. You just think how life goes up and down. It’s great. By the way, I just managed to kick an Icelander out of my boat in Scotland!
[Laughter]
Rory: It’s really something special. It kind of marries up well to the outdoor locations in Belfast, so we can film a scene in Iceland and then be back in the Northern Irish countryside and it’s seamless.

Does it help you get into your role when you look at yourself in the mirror once all the makeup has been added?

Rory: There’s been some times where I’ve done a scene—like when the Hound tells the king to piss off, or when I had this quite heavy scene with Sansa trying to convince her to leave with him—and I hadn’t seen my face all day, and then I looked in the mirror and, “Jesus! No wonder you’re scared. Why’d you want to come with me, all covered in blood?” I should be doing that more often, to remind myself why my character is like he is. His anger is because of his physical attributes, and what his brother did to him.

You two make for an unlikely duo. What kind of journey are you going on together this season?

Rory: It’s a pretty mad road trip! A few bruises on the way.
Maisie: [Laughs] It’s been fantastic, it was so much fun this year. We had a great laugh. As far as the story goes, you kind of see their relationship progress. I think that Arya and the Hound aren’t necessarily trying to fight one another anymore, they’re just trying to get on. Arya’s maybe trying to learn from him a little bit, because he must be doing something right—half of Westeros is scared of him, and she wants to learn from that.
Rory: It’s like Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, if they left a trail of blood wherever they’re going.

What does the Hound want?

Rory: Arya’s the Hound’s meal ticket now, so a lot it’s about surviving in this violent, dangerous world. So it might mean money, it might mean a place, it might even mean something with peace at the end of it.

Does Sandor care about Arya, at least a little bit?

Rory: Yeah, I think there must be a little admiration for her, because she’s still alive despite everything she’s gone through. There has to be something special about her.
Maisie: I like to think they both kind of respect one another, but they’d never say that to one another. They’d never show it. There’s some fantastic scenes this year where they really have a go at one another, like that scene from last year—
Rory: Even more so this year.
Maisie: Yeah, even more so.
Rory: There’s still quite a bit of comedy as well, isn’t there? It’s played straight but I’m sure viewers will be laughing.
Maisie: It’s like that scene when the Hound is eating all the pigs feet.
Rory: Ugh!
[Laughter]
Maisie: It’s just chicken!
Rory: Don’t say it’s just chicken!
Maisie: I read that line, “I’m going to stick a sword through your eye and out the back of your skull,” and I was, “Wow,” but when I watched it I realized people would laugh because it’s played straight.

Is Sansa a kind of connection between Sandor and Arya? They both have a relationship to her. Does that come up this season?

Maisie: Arya knows Sansa is still alive… but she doesn’t ask any questions, she doesn’t want him to know she cares about anything like that.

Because the rest of her family is gone?

Maisie: Yeah. At the end of last season, Arya’s given up trying to control her future, be reunited with her family, or have a final destination almost. She’s now just trying to survive. In this world, you can’t control anything, and she feels like she’s always been a step behind. So now she’s just hoping to survive and then one day maybe she’ll turn a corner and fall into something good.
Rory: I do think she plays the Hound a couple of times, where she tells him what he wants to hear and keeps him on track. Don’t you think so?
Maisie: Yeah, I think she knows how to control him and what he’s looking for. She’s very clever in that sense. If she hears something that may be a good idea or hears of a place they should go that may be safe, she’ll say little comments that makes him start thinking about it.

In one of the trailers we hear you say that the heroes are having a come back, but in a universe where even children are killers, what makes the good guys good?

Rory: I’m not a good killer?
[Laughter]
Maisie: I think lots of characters are fighting for the Iron Throne, which in my opinion isn’t the right thing. Some characters are fighting for the good and some for the bad. It depends on whose opinion you’re listening to regarding which characters are good or bad, because whatever character you meet, they may be presented as one thing but you don’t know their background really. Like Jaime with his big monologue in series 3, the one with Brienne, when you learn so much about his past and you realize not everyone is how they’ve been made out by other characters. And then with Catelyn, when she betrays Robb and things like that—there’s complexity. Everyone’s trying to do the right thing, but the characters are always going to upset someone.

When you started the show, were you given the background of the character?

Rory: Yeah. From day one, I tried to get as much information as I could to help with the performance. If there were any doubts—they’re so accessible. You can send a quick email to David Benioff or Dan Weiss, you can even contact George Martin, and get an answer within half a day. Even in the middle of filming, on set. It’s all very accessible.

Each character’s so complex in the books.

Rory: It’s true. Like in the first series you got a bit of back-story, but he was mostly just a spear-carrier at that time and we were talking about bringing him forward slowly, so that you could start building a picture of what he’s all about and see what makes him tick.
Maisie: In the show, we can’t fit half as much as what’s in the book, so much has to be inferred, it can’t be on camera. Between scene to scene so much may have gone on, but you won’t have seen it.

In your opinion, what makes the show fascinating for people?

Maisie: I think it’s because… Well, we call it a fantasy, but it’s so broad: there’s comedy moments, there’s violence, there’s horror. There’s something for everyone. You may not be a fan of every storyline, but you may be a fan of one and that’ll be enough to keep you entertained. And then there’s the big plot twists: the beheading in series one, the dragons, things like that. Even if they’re not your thing, it reminds you anything can happen.
Rory: And when you’re reading the books, you realize like every chapter ends with some sort of cliffhanger, like on TV… but instead of a commercial break, you jump to someone else’s story. It just sucks you in, it hooks you, and the TV show is written that way too.

So you’ve been reading the books?

Rory: Oh yes, I’ve read the books. But to be honest, I’m slow on it now, and now I need to watch more of the show to keep up.
Maisie: I think we’re getting the Blu-ray of season 3—
Rory: Oh, about time! Finally. I’ve got friends and family who know the season’s almost out, and they’re practically waiting at the airport to see if I got some DVDs for them!
[Laughter]

To finish up, is there any character you wish you had scenes with, or more scenes with?

Maisie: I would have loved to do more with the people in King’s Landing, but I don’t think that’d work so well for Arya. And for myself, I’d love to work more with Sophie, and with Lena—that’d be great fun.
Rory: I want to work out in the cold, away from the heat and that armor—send me off to the Wall!
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