Below you’ll find our interview with Finn Jones, who plays Ser Loras Tyrell. This is our very first podcast-style interview…. thing, so apologies for any glitches! Opening and closing music is copyright Hilario Abad, and used with his permission—you can find his original, fan score for A Game of Thrones at Hilario Abad Film Scoring.
Note: At a certain point, we begin to talk spoilers, not just from the events of the first season, but from future books as well.
Thanks to Teresa, we have a transcript that you can read below:
E: Westeros Podcast. Episode One. Interview with Finn Jones.
L: Welcome to the Westeros.org podcast. I’m Linda.
E: And I’m Elio.
L: Together we run Westeros.org, the largest and oldest site and community devoted to the works of George R.R. Martin and A Song of Ice and Fire. We never thought we’d create a podcast, so this is a new experience for us.
E: We’re not sure how often we’ll publish podcasts in the future, but we thought that it might be a good way to release and record interviews with members of the cast and crew of HBO’s Game of Thrones and occasionally just something of interest to fans.
L: Right now we’re just gonna go straight into our interview with Finn Jones, who plays the role of Ser Loras Tyrell.
E: The music at the beginning and end of each episode is from “Leaving Winterfell,” composed by Hilario Abad, and is used with his permission. His fan soundtrack for Game of Thrones, which includes this and many other original tracks, can be found at http://wwww.hilarioabadfilmccoring.blogspot.com
E: This was recorded several weeks ago, as you’ll hear at the end, on the day we finally received our Maester’s Path scent box. Thanks and enjoy.
E: Finn Jones! Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers. Welcome to our first attempt at an interview.
L: Yeah, our guinea pig for our podcast interviews.
E: You got started fairly recently in acting—2009?
F: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I graduated from drama school—ArtsEd: Arts Educational (Schools) in London in 2009. I was there for three years and, yes, as soon as I graduated I managed to pick up an agent. I mean, really, it was only a couple of weeks out of drama school when I landed this job called Hollyoaks, which was completely crazy, really. To go from a school environment—I’ve been in a school environment all my life—to then suddenly be shipped up north to Liverpool to film this. I mean, it’s a huge teenage soap opera in the UK. It was so exciting! It was really fantastic.
E: ArtsEd—I saw that yesterday you had credited it, saying that you really owed a lot to it. Is it something that you would recommend for whoever—people wanting to become actors?
F: Oh! Yeah, yeah. 100%. They’re doing this thing now where they’re really honing in on the television and film aspect of training. Not a lot of places in the UK tend to really focus on that side of things—which I have no idea why they don’t—because that means that’s where all the money is; that’s where all the jobs are. But ArtsEd are really on top of that. It was a real privilege to be there. I got taught by some amazing teachers, and there’s no way I’d be where I was today without going there.
L: How would you say that that differs from a drama school that is then focused more on theatre work? What sort of training…
F: Yeah, I think you just get more of a sense of realness to you. It doesn’t train you up to be a kind of, you know, your standard Shakespearean actor, where you’re so regimented to one way of performing a certain text. It really loosens you up. Especially—I think it was really, really handy for me—‘cause it’s so “with it” on the whole filming side of things. When I did first step onto a television set for Hollyoaks, I felt so at ease and so at home, almost, because I’d been so use to doing it at drama school; whereas drama schools that don’t necessarily focus on that side of things—you lose that. Your first day, your first week on set might be quite nerve-wracking, or you might not be used to it.
E: I see. We had recently spoken with John—John Bradley—about his training. He had a more traditional school, full of theatre work. And I thought at ArtsEd they would film you and basically treat it as a set? Is that how they would…
F: Yeah! I mean, you do whole short films. You’d crew the stuff, as well as acting the stuff. So you’d got a really good, well-rounded idea of how the whole machine works. So when you do go on to a professional set, you’re not just thinking about yourself and how to deliver your lines. You’re thinking about what the sound guy’s doing because you’ve been in his shoes, or what the director’s doing or what the lighting guy’s doing. It really makes it a much more richer experience, and I think that makes you a much more rounded actor as well.
E: Now, straight out of school you landed on Hollyoaks. First it was Hollyoaks Later and then Hollyoaks the regular series, right?
F: Yeah. They’re a series: there were five one-hour episodes that were put on Monday to Friday; they were Hollyoaks—but after hours, so you could have sex, take drugs, you know *laughs* all the cool things and what.
L: So they’ve got a safe version and not so safe…
F: Yeah, exactly. The safe version is at the 6:30 slot.
F: That was really cool. I had a really good character, really interesting character. Worked with a lot of them. It was nice because it was a really nice, young, cool cast, where you did a lot of good work. Also, there were a lot of cool parties to go to as well. It was a very nice thing to go to, straight out of drama school, to warm myself into the acting industry.
E: And then after this, you did The Sarah Jane Adventures (which) came along at some point with the BBC.
F: Yeah, yeah, yeah! The Sarah Jane Adventures! You guys’ve heard of Doctor Who?
E: Oh yeah, we’ve heard about it.
F: The Sarah Jane Adventures is a kind of sister show to Doctor Who. It’s for kids. It’s basically like Doctor Who for kids. Sarah Jane is one of the old Doctor’s companions from back in the’60s, and I was invited along to two special episodes, which had Doctor Who—Matt Smith—in them, as well as one of the old companions, Jo Grant. I played her grandson. It was really, really—it was only two episodes—but it was so much fun! We spent a good three weeks just running around and chasing aliens and getting chased by aliens. *laughs* It was such fun. Really good fun.
L: Were you a fan of Doctor Who before that? Was it something you’ve been watching?
F: Oh, *laughs* no.
F: I never saw Doctor Who before that. I didn’t even know what a TARDIS was. (I looked at?) my script and (through it?). I was like, “What is a TARDIS?!” Obviously, I looked up stuff and since being in the show, watched it. I’m very proud to be part of something, such a huge thing in the UK.
E: What differences have you seen, now that you’ve experienced a big American-style production? What’re the differences? Is it just a matter of money? Or are there some cultural differences in how you do it?
F: There’s no real (difference). It was shot in Northern Ireland, so you still had a very—not British—but that kind of European way of…the film crew were(was?) mainly European. The only difference I’d say was the detail, which it kind of goes into. I mean, everything is so detailed. Everything is so rich. From the costumes to the set to everything. It really is amazing.
L: When you started Game of Thrones, had you researched anything before you got your audition? How did you get the audition?
F: I was on my last day of The Sarah Jane Adventures, and I was in my trailer. I was sitting there thinking, “Okay, what next? What do I do next? What am I gonna do?” And I got this phone call from my agent and—actually, no, no, no. Before this, I had—the first audition for Game of Thrones was back before I even got Hollyoaks. It was an audition for Jon Snow. It was for the pilot. So I got the audition and I went along. I briefly looked on Wikipedia and stuff and looked at what it was. I went through the audition and it went really well. Then a week later I got a recall for Jon Snow. I went into the recall and it went really well, but that was the last time I heard of it. Then I got Hollyoaks and then I got (The) Sarah Jane Adventures.
So, I was in the trailer: my last day, thinking, “What am I gonna do?” I get this phone call from my agent. She’s saying, “Oh okay, hi. I’ve got an audition for you tomorrow.” Now bear in mind I was in Wales at this time, and I had the audition the next morning in London at about…10am? 11am? And it was about 4pm there in Wales! I was like “*expletive*! Okay, cool. Oh, this is great! I’ve got an audition! Another audition for Game of Thrones!’ I gathered that (you?) must have commissioned the season after the pilot. I thought, ‘This is great’ So I got a script sent through for Loras and I briefly looked at it. I didn’t have any time to really look into the whole aspect of the character. I knew he was a famous jouster and that he was respected throughout the kingdoms—but that was about it. I went in and did the audition, traveled all the way back to Wales, (and) got there. The audition went okay…but I didn’t know. I left thinking, ‘Sigh, man. I could have done better.’ I kind of beat myself up a little bit. I really didn’t think I’d get a recall at all out of it. Then a week later, my agent calls me: “Oh, you got a recall from Game of Thrones.” Then I was like, “Really?! Wow! That’s amazing! Great!” So then I was like, ‘Hey, I got a week to prepare this scene now,’ so I looked up on the internet all of the character breakdown.
Then I noticed that he had a relationship with Renly, which really interested me and really kind of added another layer to the character. So when I did do this scene—because before I’d done this scene and I didn’t really know who Renly was; I just thought he was my commander or something like that—I didn’t really understand the fact that they had this relationship going on. Then when I found out, I was like, ‘Oh my God. How did I do that audition not know?! This is just madness!’ So then I went back and did the recall, and yeah, yeah, yeah: it went really well. A week later I got a phone call and I got the part.
E: I think George actually mentioned on his Not a Blog (journal) that he saw an audition tape, and the scene he saw—this is a spoiler for if anyone is listening to this who hasn’t actually read the books, this is a spoiler—a scene from the third book in which Loras is confronting Jaime and Brienne. Was that your first audition? Or that your second audition?
F: That was both. It was the same audition piece for both scenes.
L/E: Oh okay.
F: Obviously the first time I didn’t really know fully what the whole story was.
E: Right. So that must have been—did that intrigue you about the characters’ arc?
F: Mm! Yeah, definitely! ‘Cause then I looked up the journey that character goes through, which is absolutely huge. The thing that kind of amazes me about Loras is, and especially George’s writing, is the fact that in the books he isn’t one of the POV characters. He isn’t one of the main characters, but yet there’s so, so much going on with that character. He goes through so much. He’s such a well-rounded and formed character and still (to) be such a….not that much of a big player in the books is, I think, is amazing. It really shows fantastic writing.
L: I think that’s one of the strengths of George. He has so many POV characters (that) you think all of the rest must be bit players. Even when they are very small parts of the book, he still makes sure that they’re really well-rounded, so I think that a lot of the actors and I have probably experienced similar things, finding that ‘I have this relatively, on paper, small role’, but there’s a lot to it.
F: And when you look into it, you kind of go ‘Wow.’ These characters are just more complex and well-rounded as Cersei or Jaime Lannister or Ned Stark. Everyone’s character has a huge story.
E: What would you take out of Loras as a sort of—what makes him tick? What’s at the core of a character for you or for your interpretation of him?
F: I think in the first books, I think it is his relationship with Renly. That is something. He is a famous knight; he is well-respected and that’s very important to him—but I think the thing in his life that he really holds dear is his relationship to Renly and their vision together of what they can achieve.
E: So in the game of thrones, he’s playing a part of, as you implied, they have a vision of how things should be.
F: Totally, totally, totally. Yeah, man. Definitely, definitely, definitely. They’ve got—you can see when they go into the second book that they’re not messing around. They want to rule. They want power as much as anyone else. Especially the Tyrells as well. I believe—now this is purely my beliefs, my opinion—the Tyrells have got this plot going on to take the throne as well. Everyone’s at it. It’s dangerous. It’s exciting.
E: That’s interesting. There are some fans online who have a theory about the Grand Tyrell Conspiracy and who are absolutely with you on that.
F: I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it! I completely—yeah, man—I think it’s highly possible. Especially look at what the Tyrells have done up to now. It seems to all be leading that way, isn’t it?
E: Now we can take, I guess, in the actual first season that we’re going to see a bit of an expansion on that political aspect, because in the first book you get the shape of it, but it’s not a main focus.
F: No, not really. It still sticks to the books. But just in my own mind, as the character, and especially going into the second book and second series, it does hopefully get—
E/L: Fingers crossed!
F: Fingers crossed. Yeah. –That you could play on that and hopefully they will open that up because I think it’s really interesting. This whole…the Tyrells trying to get in there, setting that up.
E: Obviously, as you mentioned, Renly—that’s played by Gethin Anthony.
E: How was your relationship working with him? Because I know when I was in Belfast, I was being shown around the Paint Hall (Studios). I was shown everything except the Red Keep, and I was told that was closed because…
F: *laughs*We were doing our scene.
E: So how was that?
F: Great! Really good, man. When I got the part, Gethin sent me a message on Facebook, just kind of saying, “Hi, I’m Gethin. Would you mind coming out for a drink?” I thought ‘Great!’ We met up for a drink and we got on really well. I mean, we’re really good friends. He called me this morning when I was in bed, asking for a drink next week, but I was too tired *hushed* so I put it on silent. But, yeah, we get on really well. It’s really good that we’re very good friends because of the scenes. Because we have to be lovers, I think it really helps that we’re very…what’s the word…kind of—
L: Comfortable with each other? At ease?
F: Yeah, exactly. We can have a joke about but we can also be very serious about it. We’ve had many discussions about our relation—the characters’ relationship, and what it would mean in that world and all that kind of stuff. It’s a very good, healthy working relationship.
E: Now that said, on the day, how did that feel?
F: It’s great!
E: Did you have to break nerves up?
E: Did you just go right into it?
F: The night before, we joked about it, saying, “Oh, I need to this,” but as soon as you’re there on the set, as soon as you’re in the costume, as soon as you’re in that world, you can’t help but not be in that world. It’s so detailed. Everything’s just so rich. There’s just no time to think about yourself as an actor. You just are that character. You are playing that scene. You are in that story. Because the story’s rich—especially Loras and Renly’s relationship towards each other—because it’s so dynamic. I mean for me, I can’t help but not even think about maybe it being awkward. It doesn’t even come into my mind. As far as I’m concerned, when I’m in that role with Renly, I am madly in love with him and that is it. That’s it.
E: Have you ever read fantasy before getting this job?
E: Never, really?
F: Never ever ever. Ever. I remember…when I first looked at the big, long synopsis on Wikipedia or something like that, before I read the books—which I think really helped me out because there are so many names and so much stuff going on—it was really good to have an overview of the whole series before I got into it. Then I could really pinpoint what was going on because I’m not used to fantasy. But it’s great! I recommended it to so many of my friends. I think I got at least four friends at the moment that I’ve been, like, “Okay. You need to read these books.” They’re a bit like, “Uh, okay.” Then I’m, like, “No. Seriously. Here’s my copy. Read it.” Within three weeks, they come back to me saying, “Oh my God, have you got the next one?” It’s got to the point now where I’ve got two friends that are actually—I mean, I’m just about to finish the first part of the third book—but I’ve got friends that I’ve recommended books to who finished them already. They’re coming up to me saying all these things, like, “Oh my God! When that bit happened, wasn’t that so cool?” and I was, like, “Oh, I haven’t read that bit yet.” But yeah, it’s really cool. The books are fantastic.
E: I recall on Twitter seeing that you ended up losing your copy of A Storm of Swords at some point—on an airplane, was it?
F: I think I left it on the plane on the way back from Ireland once. I think I left it on the seat, stupidly. Then I just managed to get one off of Amazon. But now I’ve got one of those Amazon Kindles!
E: Oh yeah?
F: Which is so great! I’ve just got all the copies of the books on there, the scripts and stuff. It’s so handy because you can just carry it around. What’s really good is, say, if you want to find something about your character, you just type in, like, “Loras.” Then it comes up every time Loras is mentioned throughout the books. For us, a character researcher, to refresh your mind is really useful.
E: Actually you mentioned something. Your scripts are on the Kindle?
F: Mm! ‘Cause they’re all in .pdf format.
E: I see. Alright, so you just toss ‘em on there? That’s pretty cool.
F: It’s the same for auditions as well. Whenever I get an audition script. Rather than printing it out, it just saves paper. You can just put it on there and whizz off to the audition. You’ve got it there and, yeah, it’s very handy.
E: So when you’re showing up on the set, I suppose, I mean you might have a Kindle and read up (and?).
F: Yeah, maybe for Season 2! I never had it for Season 1. Actually, Bryan Cogman had one. He inspired me to get one. I remember we were filming the tourney scenes and he was playing around with this device. I was, like, “Dude, what’s that?” He was, like, “Oh, it’s a Kindle,” and he showed me all the scripts on there and stuff. Mm. It’s very handy. Very, very handy.
E: You mentioned the tourney of course and that’s sort of guess going to be a central scene for the character in the first season.
F: Yeah, yeah.
E: What was that like? Because I mean I’ve seen photos of the set, and we’ve seen some videos. It just looks fantastic.
F: It’s beautiful. Really beautiful. We shot it over five days, I think it was. Five days. It was great. I was in armor all day for five days. *laughs* Yeah, it was great; it was really good. Sitting around on the set in this huge armor, awkwardly sitting on the thing and asking someone to pass me some water. It was great. Really great.
E: Was that very uncomfortable, actually, being in that armor? Is it lighter than you think?
F: Not so much. The armor team did a really good job of making it as flexible and as comfortable as possible, but at the end of the day, it is armor. To be in it for 9 hours a day, I wouldn’t say—it wasn’t uncomfortable. But at the end of the day, when you took it off—especially with the chainmail ad all that other bits and bobs—when you took it off, you did kind of feel like, “Sigh, wow.” You had to go home and have a bath and just chill out. But it was good. It felt like I’d done a good day’s work, having all this armor on me.
E: I’m actually going to send you this link to this picture, that I—gosh, I don’ t know—it’s actually one that you posted a while ago. I’ll send it over on Skype, and you can just check it out. I wanted to ask you about it.
F: *received the picture* Oh! Oh yeah… *laughs*
E: This is a picture of you photographing yourself while you’re taking riding lessons, and there’s Conan—Conan Stevens, who plays Gregor—behind you without his shirt.
F: That takes you back….That was at the horse riding place. The Devil’s Horsemen. It was in Milton Keynes, and for about (a) good five weeks, I had two-hour lessons every week. I go to this horse riding school, and I’d spend an hour in the pen, learning how to ride the horse and how to joust, slowly building me up. The next hour we’d go out into the countryside, so you can see behind it *refers to the picture*. We’d just be cantering, galloping around, and it was beautiful. This one *refers to picture* was when…it was really funny. Conan is a fantastic guy, but he has this thing of just taking his shirt off all the time. *laughs*Me and Camilla, the horse lady, were just like, “He’s always got his shirt off! Always!” We’d be out riding somewhere and we’d come back…and he’d be in the pen, jousting away—with this shirt off. I just found it so funny. I think this *again, refers back to picture* is one of my last days, and I just had to take a picture of Conan riding his horse with his shirt off. *laughs*
E: You mentioned some jousting. I’ve spoken to Conan a bit, and he said that when it comes to the actual jousting—the actual hits—those are? stunt riders. We saw that in one of the videos, and we saw…your stunt double, I guess?
F: Yeah, yeah.
E: Was he from The Devil’s Horsemen?
F: Yeah, yeah. They were. It was all a really close-knit, very hardworking team—which I all met beforehand. I think, really, the reason they trained me up to do the jousting, even though I wasn’t going to be actually getting the hit, was so I looked like I could do it. There wasn’t any hesitation. They had the option, so when I did get there, if they needed a shot of me with a lance in hand, going down the lists—that it was there, you know?
E: That was really cool that you actually got to do that. I don’t know. Are those lances made out of balsa wood? Or were they heavy?
F: They were really heavy. Really, really, really, heavy. I mean, thank God, the stunt team did most of the jousting because I don’t think my little arms could take it. I mean, really—Loras needs to buff up. *laughs* They’re so heavy. You think you know. And the armor wasn’t even real armor. If you really look back to what it must have been like, back in the day when these guys were actually doing it—it’s just mad. I don’t know how they did it…because the armor is so uinflexible. The jousts are so heavy. I mean, they must have been machines, really.
E: I know, I’ve seen old archaeological data. They’ve got these guys with these built-up right arms and shoulders, from swinging a sword and carrying a lance…
F: They’re really heavy! Especially with the armor as well. I had to have help getting onto my horse and oh yeah! You had one person behind me, pushing my bottom up onto the horse, the other person on the other side to bring my leg down…. That wasn’t even with proper armor, so what it must have been like, I don’t know.
E: So you have to sit on that horse—we’ve got a shot of you on a horse—and you have to look good while you’re doing it, like you’ve been born in this armor, you’ve been riding all your life.
F: Yeah, there was a lot of rehearsal and practice and stuff, so I got confident and happy on the horse. I think I’ve always been. When I was training on the horse, I kind of took to it naturally. I know a lot of people get slightly scared of the horses and don’t really know how to sit them. I just had luck? and took to? it.
E: I’ve heard someone who was on the set saying that there was a problem with the visor—that it would keep falling down at times?
F: Oh, yeah. It wasn’t really a big thing. It was, just at times, it kind of kept on dipping ‘cause the horse was so bouncy. Sometimes, when you would be galloping, the visor would tend to slip down a little bit, but that was easily fixed.
E: I know that last week I believe some of the cast and crew got a special screening of two of the episodes. I know you can’t really talk a lot about it, but what were your impressions? Was it what you imagined? Was it beyond what you imagined?
F: Oh, it was totally beyond what I imagined. It was, sigh, amazing. Absolutely amazing. After the two had aired, I think there was just a silence throughout the room, (everyone) just taking it all in. It was a real moment of ‘Wow! This is actually happening.’ All these months that we’ve worked so hard for—and to see it there on the big screen—you kind of just think, ‘Oh my God, this is really happening! This has been made! This is fantastic!’ Completely blew us away. Completely.
E: And if, again, there is a second season, is there anything from your own reading that you’re really looking forward to?
F: Oh! If it does get commissioned and it does go down the whole Loras and Renly relationship part, I think for Loras there’s so much, so much stuff going on in that second book. From even before—sorry this is gonna be a spoiler—even before Renly dies, there’s the whole business of Brienne. Brienne comes in and (there’s) the whole jealous love triangle between Renly, Loras and Brienne, (so) Loras has to deal with that. Also, you’ve got the fact that Margaery is marrying Renly, so then for Loras, there’s that whole idea that his sister might have to sleep with his lover. I think even that is so complex for the character and so much going on. Then when Renly dies—like I was saying earlier, you said, “What motivated Loras?” (Is? It’s?) his love for Renly…I mean, sigh, I can’t even imagine what it must be like for Loras to lose that one person that matters to him. He’s got so much pressure on him: he’s famous throughout the land, all the women absolutely adore him, (but) he’s not really interested in that that much. He really appreciates it and respects it, but as far as his concern, he has—he’s found his true love, and that’s all that matters to him. So when Renly does die…whew, wow. What does he do? There’s a beautiful scene where he takes Renly and buries him, which I think, sigh, it’s just beautiful. The whole idea of it is really special. So what else has he got left? He joins the Kingsuard to protect his sister. I think it could be—if they choose to go down that route—a very interesting and complex season for Loras.
E: I totally agree with that, and I think it’d be great to see more of the Tyrells in the second season. Any upcoming projects that you want to mention, or anything else that you have on your mind that you’d like to share with people?
F: Nothing at the moment. I’ve been auditioning all year and (becoming?) close to stuff. As an actor you’ve got to keep grounded and keep sane. Sometimes things don’t work, but you’ve got to have the belief that it will work out. I really hope that the second season gets commissioned, and we can get crackin’ on that really soon.
E: Terrific. Last thing I’d like to ask you about: I know that you’re a big music fan and that you were at this Caribou concert…
F: Yes, yes!
E: Any music you want to recommend to people?
F: Oh! Sigh. Wow, wow, wow. I’m a massive fan of Arcade Fire at the moment. I’m so happy that they won the Grammy. They’re doing really well. I’m going to see them in Hyde Park in a couple of months. Also, there’s a band called lcd soundsystem—a New York band—and they’ve got their last-ever gig coming up in New York in April. It’s(it was) sold out—within a matter of minutes. I managed to get tickets, and I’m going. Oh, I can’t wait. Caribou were great. I saw them live. There’s so many. I’ll keep updating on Twitter. I’ll constantly be bombarding you with excited tweets like, ‘Oh my gosh! This song’s amazing! Check it out!’ *laughs* That’s what I usually do.
E: Terrific. Okay, thank you very much! It’s been a pleasure talking to you.