Game of Thrones: Features

Game of Thrones is a site for the HBO-series based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.

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Interview with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Of all the roles in Game of Thrones, Ser Jaime Lannister may be both the most popular and the most hated character in the novels at the very same time.

And why not, when he’s such a larger-than-life figure, an arrogant, swaggering swordsman caught up in an illicit relationship with his own sister and largely despised by all honorable men for a single act? The Kingslayer, as he’s called, seems driven by ego on the one hand and by family on the other ... and in between those two forces, there’s a hint that there may be more than meets the eye. So it was a pleasant surprise when we first learned that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau—a Danish actor who’s made a splash in the U.S. with rolls in some of Ridley Scott’s big recent films and the leading role in the New Amsterdam television series—landed the role, bringing to the part all the energy and confidence that fans could have hoped for.

Below, Nikolaj took time out of his schedule to answer a few of our questions about his role, the preparation for some of the scenes, how he sees Jaime’s relationship to his family, and more.


Interview with Conan Stevens

Conan Stevens was one of the first actors that came to the attention of fans in association with the production, when it was simply still in development: he put out the word that he thought he’d make a fantastic Mountain that Rides.

Many months later—after a pilot was ordered, after it was considered, after a second season was green lit—he landed the part he set out to get. Below is our exclusive interview with Stevens, who discusses his early career, his views on the differences between Thai and American productions, and more.

Intervew with Miltos Yerolemou

Episode 3, “Lord Snow”, entered with the entrance of a character who is certainly a fan-favorite among fans: Syrio Forel, former First Sword of the Sealord of Braavos. Forel is a water dancer, a master of the bravo’s style of fighting, who Lord Eddard Stark hires to train his daughter Arya (to keep her out of trouble, one expects, as much as to give her something to do).

When Miltos Yerolemou was revealed to have won the role, there was a scramble for information about him. His show reels were examined, his credits considered. A gifted physical actor, Yerolemou has trained in a wide variety of acting disciplines, and seems to have found a particular knack for playing Shakespeare’s clowns, including having performed as a clown in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Othello whose Desdemona happened to be played by none other than Natalia Tena, who plays Osha in Game of Thrones. With his extensive acting background, Miltos has brought boundless energy to his portrayal of Syrio Forel.

In the audio interview below, we discuss his entry into acting, the variety of training he’s had, his working with the legendary choreographer William Hobbs to develop the “water dance” style, his thoughts on young actress Maisie Williams, and more.

A Historical Dissection Of ‘A Game Of Thrones’ Part I

Via our friends at MTV Geek, we’re pleased to be able to provide the first in a series of articles that take a close look at George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series from the perspective of a Ph.D. in Medieval history and literature.  Each book in the series will be analyzed against actual historical events in the Dark and Middle Ages along with literature, factual or fictional, from that time.  This is the first time the author is reading the novels, so keep in mind that she’s unaware of major spoilers but that spoilers will be revealed as she progresses through the material.

Interview with Tommy Dunne

Tommy Dunne is the weapon master for Game of Thrones, meaning that he’s overseen the conception, design, and production of the many, many weapons used in the production. The total number of weapons has gone into the hundreds, we’ve been told, and all that thanks to Mr. Dunne and his team.

His career in television and film production was not something he really planned for, but began (tellingly enough) with a little film named Braveheart. From there, Dunne has gone on to work in some pretty remarkable productions. Just a short list: Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, V for Vendetta, and both Band of Brothers and The Pacific. He’s certainly no stranger to high-end productions, nor is he a stranger to working HBO. Read below to discover how he got his start, the influences behind some of the weapon designs, and the surprise he got when it came to creating the swords of the white walkers.

On Race and Gender: A Response to Certain Accusations

There are a couple of complaints I have seen made on Twitter and on various forums regarding the first episode that, quite frankly, baffle me. This may be something of a minefield considering the topics, but I tried sitting on my hands and it didn’t work.

A Lexicon of Ice and Fire

One of problems readers (and viewers) new to fantasy often bring up is the wealth of strange names, odd places and curious words that don’t always mean what you think they should mean. Of course, with Game of Thrones one could easily look up any of those odd words on the various sites dedicated to the books, but in doing so one would run the risk of being spoiled. In light of this, we’ve put together a mini-lexicon for Game of Thrones-newbies that basically gives short, spoiler-free explanations for some of those words that might give you pause. We’re not covering characters here (see our guide to the Characters for that) but if there’s something else you think we have missed, let us know!

Interview with Kit Harington

Kit Harington hardly needs an introduction to fans of Game of Thrones, but for those who are new to the story, lets just say that his role as Jon Snow is one of the most central in the series. The bastard son of the Lord of Winterfell, Jon has grown up without a mother but has had his father and siblings around him all his life. Driven by a hunger for glory and a chance to prove himself, he joins the Night’s Watch, and finds life there harsher than he imagined. Harington agreed to be interviewed while beginning filming on Silent Hill 3D, shooting in Toronto, which will reunite him with Sean Bean, who starred in the original Silent Hill film.

Interview with Gethin Anthony

The role of Lord Renly Baratheon was one that many fans were interested in seeing cast. Filling the role is Gethin Anthony, who brings his talents to bear on a character whose role in this season culminates in a crucial decision . . . and who may well go on to become one of the chief players of the game of thrones if a second season is commissioned. Below is our interview with the actor, discussing his early career, the auditioning process, his views on Renly and Renly’s family, and more.

We know you read English at Oxford, but you also performed some theater there. Was that part of your education or was that extra-curricular?

I studied English Language and Literature for my B.A., but there’s a great theater scene in Oxford—there’s a lot of theaters there—as well as a burgeoning short film scene as well. There’s a lot of people interested in it, and because it’s not actually a course at Oxford, you do it as an extra-curricular thing. There were quite a few societies and organizations there—the Oxford University Drama Society, the Experimental Theater Company, a great company called Crackhorse Productions as well to name a few—who were putting on plays and being very fortunate and privileged to have the space, the resources, and support to do it. We were supported by people like Thelma Holt, who’s a big producer here, and Cameron Mackintosh, who give up their time and money to help students put on their productions. It was a big part of my life while I was there?


Our First Impressions

Before we launch into our general impressions of the first six episodes of Game of Thrones, some disclaimers.

First, the episodes are not complete—ADR, color grading, VFX, music, and sometimes even credits are still temporary—though the very first episodes seem much nearer to complete than the final episode.

Secondly, as “superfans”, Linda and I have been in some fashion involved in the fan community, the re-reading, the discussion, the news reporting and article writing, almost every day of our lives for the past twelve years or so—we have been about as immersed in the books as anyone not named George R.R. Martin can get. This gives us a perspective that is certainly very different from that of the new viewer unfamiliar with the books, probably very different from all of the professional critics (who have, none the less, been very positive so far about what they’ve seen), and even rather different from that of many other devoted fans of the novels. It’s very hard to divorce our views from our knowledge of what the story is in the novels, to try and imagine how it plays for those unfamiliar with it, so we’ll not make much effort to do that.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: visually, this is a feast for the eyes. From the stunning main title (bank on an Emmy award nomination next year) to the closing credits, you’re treated to the epic, expansive sweep of Westeros; the tall castles, the knights in armor, the glittering courts, the rugged landscape, its all there. The production has not been afraid to put their own stamp on things—their conception of the Red Keep is a fantastical construction, the Eyrie is even more incredibly sited than what’s described in the books—but there’s definitely a real sense of this place being a world of wondrous vistas.

Interview with Bryan Cogman

We understand you trained as an actor at Juilliard?

Yes, I did. I went there from 1997 to 2001, right out of high school. I was a stage actor after that in New York, then I came out to Los Angeles where I was doing Shakespeare. I expected to act for the rest of my life, but ... life takes you to unexpected places.

So you didn’t intend to become a writer and editor?

Like a lot of actors, in between roles I’d try to write the script that I’d star in and become famous with. Everyone wants to become the next Ricky Gervais and sort of create the great vehicle for themselves.

I had an idea for a story that I had been writing in my head for years and I thought, “Well, I probably should put that on paper.” I started fiddling with that, I worked with that for a little while—again, not really thinking I would actually become a writer—and then I met David [Benioff]. My wife Mandy was David’s nanny and I guess I was over there one day four years ago while she was watching his daughter, and I was fiddling with the script and David noticed. I’d only met David once or twice before that, but he asked, “What are you doing?”

Interview with Kristian Nairn

Below you’ll find our interview with Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor, the simple-minded, giant stableboy of Winterfell. We discuss a number of topic related to the series, such as his audition tape (which briefly leaked to the public via the internet), his approach to playing Hodor, the travails of appearing nude in a scene, Margret John’s reaction when she first she first met him, a song that he heard entirely too much of while on set, and more! Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Conan Stevens, and Rory McCann are also mentioned in the course of the interview.

We also discuss how he got into acting, his career as a musician and DJ, his love of fantasy, and his passion for World of Warcraft. Plus, his hope of getting to Renovation, this year’s Worldcon in Reno, Nevada. And, additionally, a looney theory presented by us to Kristian concerning Hodor’s origins…

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 around the 16:50 mark, we begin to talk spoilers, not just from the events of the first season, but from future books as well.

Download Episode 2: Interview with Kristian Nairn

Thanks to Teresa, we hope to have a transcription posted in the next few days.


Interview with Finn Jones

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.

Download Episode 1: Interview with Finn Jones

Thanks to Teresa, we have a transcript that you can read below:


Interview with John Bradley

One of the people I met when I visited Belfast was John Bradley, the actor playing Samwell Tarly. He was one of the actors we had discovered had been cast via a mention out in the wilds of the web (in fact, it was the website of his drama school), and then somewhere along the way he was on Twitter and was just rather hilarious with his acerbic, self-effacing observations. I remember asking him at Belfast if he was really like that in “real life”, after noticing that he seemed rather reserved at the party, and he admitted that Twitter was sort of a “release valve.”

Since graduating drama school, he’s landed a quick one-two punch of notable roles: not just Samwell, but also Giovanni de Medici in Canal+‘s Borgia. Below, you can read about his education as an actor, his views on how to approach a character, his particular talents, and what happened when he had his callback audition and was reduced to a pale, sweating mess after the train failed to run on time…

Belfast Set Visit Report: Part 5 and Last

[Note: You can read Part 4 here.]

It was about a 45 minute drive to Magheramorne, with our driver taking us past Carrickfergus Castle. GRRM quite admired it, and said he needed to visit it the next time he was in Northern Ireland. We spoke along the way about the production, how it’s very nearly matching GRRM’s wildest dreams, and the like. He also mentioned to me two particular points where small changes in the production may have some significant consequences in relation to fidelity to the series, but that these were things he was working with the executive producers on so that they wouldn’t be an issue. It was pretty remarkable to hear some of the little details in early books which are seeds for things that even now have not yet come to pass, and that even back when he started the series George had plans for things that wouldn’t come to fruition before the final novels.

On the whole, George and Parris sound quite happy with what they’ve witnessed and their interactions with the production. Stephen Warbeck’s selection as the composer was briefly brought up [note: Ramin Djawadi has since replaced Warbeck], and we had a laugh about Ladyhawke‘s daring (and, in our mutual opinions, ultimately failed) attempt to use typical 80’s synth music in the film. I suppose we’re all glad Toto wasn’t hired to score Game of Thrones. In discussing the need for the show—even one with a cast of about 300—to have to trim characters on occasion, George mentioned how he was sure there’d be complaints about some minor characters (at least, characters minor in A Game of Thrones) missing, and talked about the fans who seemed to love to support obscure characters.

For example, he has had fan mail regarding Lord Tytos Blackwood, a character who barely appears in the novels and is distinguishable just because of his raven-feather cloak and yellow-and-black armor. He wondered at this whole “Boba Fett syndrome”, which he’s spoken of before. Or, he said, take the Red Viper, a character who shows up in a few chapters .... I told him that I could understand his wondering at why Tytos would resonate with anyone in particular, but I did have to tell him that Red Viper fans were entirely his own fault, since he made such a charismastic character; Parris grinned and nodded her head in agreement at that.

Speaking of characters cut, in some cases there are partses which play a big role in later seasons, but who in this first season would have nothing to do but appear and speak a line or two. George said that the solution in some cases would be not unlike the “Ralphie Cifaretto” situation. Cifaretto (played by Joe Pantoliano) was introduced in the 3rd season of The Sopranos but viewers simply had to accept had always been around in the background even if he had never been mentioned before.

One more topic we touched on was the various forums for discussing the series, and particularly how certain characters were discussed. George suspected it quite possible that some of the characters with more vociferous detractors may well find much more support in their televised form; when much of the criticism comes from the way a character presents themselves purely through internal dialog, it may be that the lack of interior dialog on the show will make the character seem rather different. This reminds me of GRRM’s response to those who characterize characters like Catelyn as a “whiner”, where he pointed out that if you were never inside her head, you’d probably see the very strong and stalwart facade she tried to maintain without fully realizing the traumas and tragedies occupying her thoughts because she did her best to keep them to herself. Readers get a privileged position inside the heads of characters, and sometimes this can bias opinion (sometimes in the favor of a character, sometimes against them) which don’t quite fit with an outside view based solely on their actions.

Oh, Parris was greatly taken with Ron Donachie (Rodrik Cassel) as well. We took to talking a bit about George’s past works, and she said she always dreamed that Fevre Dream would be adapted. She then told me that if it were to happen, she really wished Donachie would play the lead role of Abner Marsh. It seems Donachie had read Fevre Dream many years before, and as we know from the past, has been an admirer of GRRM’s work for awhile. While Donachie was modertly uncertain that he could play such a role, Parris reassured him that he had her in his corner if an adaption of George’s Antibellum horror novel ever came about. I’d certainly pay to see it, as it’s a fantastic, gripping vampire story with some truly memorable characters.

We finally got to Magheramorne. We changed cars at the unit base, to something rather more robust, since the road the rest of the way into the quarry was a muddy, potholed, winding thing. George had warned me that layering up was best, because the Magheramorne site could be very windy and cold. It certainly was drizzling, but the weather hadn’t quite gotten cold enough for it to be more than a minor inconvenience (then again, I was used to giving the dog a walk in sub-zero morning temperatures just about then). As we rode along, the great quarry wall came into sight. George took great relish in sharing what he heard from the former quarry master, who now works with the production: from the surface of the lake at the foot of the quarry (this was once the location of the management offices, which are now underwater since the quarry was abandoned as a quarry site) to the top of the Magheramorne wall was a height of 400 feet. George was stunned, and kept looking at it and muttering, “I made the Wall too tall! It’s just too tall!” He later said that he had congratulated himself on not making it 1,000 feet tall, thinking that 700 was a more realistic figure. Quite a lot of chagrin and humor there, and he’d point this detail out to a couple of other people on the set while we were there.

When we stopped, I could see Castle Black a short walk up towards the face of Magheramorne, but what drew my attention was a dozen or so extras in the Night’s Watch uniforms, lining up at the catering area to get some hot food into them. They looked great, with their costumes looking worn and lived-in. And muddy. Oh, yes, muddy. There’s a lot of mud on site, and in my mind Magheramorne—which has a certain stark, natural beauty—became “that miserable mud-pit”. Greeted by HBO’s representatives, I was introduced to the international reporters (representing media in Canada, France, the United States, the Republic of Ireland, the U.K., and—yes—Sweden. The Swedish reporter and I were particularly introduced to one another, and funnily enough, she turned out to be an absolute fan of the series who had read all the books. She later asked me to take a photo of her with George.)

Let me pause here and say that at this point, I was sort of a hybrid of guest of the producers and media reporter. This means that my reporting on what I saw at Magheramorne has to be a sparse, because the reporters are embargoed until much nearer the air date, and so I’m going to respect that and leave things to them (maybe when the show airs and I see their reports, I can go back and fill in on things they missed). Let me just say that cast members such as Owen Teale (Ser Alliser Thorne), with his insightful interpretation of his character (which I later shared with GRRM, as he was very curious), and James Cosmo (Lord Commander Jeor Mormont), greatly impressed me as men of real craft and talent, and that they took this project on with complete determination to do the material justice. But this is how everyone I met that day and night seemed to be. I was also there for the David Benioff interview, where he said many of the things that were just what I wanted to hear about his approach to adapting this ambitious series.

So, besides these interviews, Bryan Cogman showed us all around to get a look at the set, which I’m told is a composite set, meaning it contains several distinct locations all together, so almost all Castle Black filming can happen right on the site. Everything looked real, even though I know many of these “stone” walls aren’t really any such thing. The reporters (and I) had hoped we could get a ride up in the elevator that’s providing the winch cage up to the Wall, but unfortunately a scene was filming and that simply wasn’t possible. An actor at the Moot later told me that the cage floor was basically a steel grid and you could see straight down as you went up the face of Magheramorne.

I mentioned a scene filming, huh? Happily, I can report on that. In fact, I saw two scenes, both from Episode 7, directed by Daniel Minahan. First, we had several takes of Lord Commander Mormont’s speech to the recruits as they were being passed on to become full members of the Watch. This scene involved most all the principal Night’s Watch actors, both recruits and officers, that have been named. It was a great experience to be there, to watch a scene being acted out that really was almost word-for-word from the novels (I was pretty sure of that when I heard it, and later double-checked it against the text).

The other scene I witnessed was also very close to the text, though a bit more compressed. This featured the incredible Peter Vaughan as Maester Aemon, who provides more detailed assignments and then has to deal with Jon Snow. Despite the rain, the cold, and his age, Mr. Vaughan was fantastic, showing Aemon’s undimmed wit. Harington as Jon Snow is a very intense young actor, and I think will fill the role admirably. It truly was a privilege to watch this being filmed. There’s an additional line here, a funny one, which George wondered aloud if that was his line or if they had added it. He laughed when I told him that it was new, remarking on my memory (well, I have read these books enough times!) David had to leave part way through the takes, and asked if he’d see me the next day at Paint Hall with the reporters. Alas, I was returning home then, but he thanked me for coming and hoped we’d meet again some time. Before he left, he handed me his headset so I could hear the dialog pretty much just as it would be on screen, while we all clustered around the monitors. In the course of this scene, George made a off-hand comment to Bryan Cogman about something he has planned for the series which was ... well. Unexpected. Very unexpected. And almost certainly likely to prove revelatory when it comes to pass.

One other thing we got to do was meet the sword smith involved in making man of the weapons, to discuss a bit about the job of his team. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say, they’ve made a lot of weapons for this production. In the hundreds, in fact. Many are simply cast out of resin, and are carried by extras who’ll never be looked at too closely. others are made of aluminum, for the fight scenes. Finally, a few are “hero” weapons, forged out of real steel. In the case of Valyrian steel blades, like Ice, they’ve created them using pattern-welded steel to get the appropriate rippling effect. The same goes for the infamous dagger… and for Longclaw, which was brought out for the reporters and I to see. I was grinning like a loon, I admit, when I was asked to hold its scabbard while George was holding it for a few photo opportunities.

Besides Longclaw, there was one more weapon, an unusual one because it was made of resin… but it was a “hero” weapon, in its way. It’s amazing what they can do with resin, including having it be entirely translucent, and still able to take a beating… I only wish I could have visited the armory where the weapons were designed, created, and stored; it did not seem to be at Paint Hall, but I may simply have missed it.

And with that, it was time to return to Belfast to get ready for the Moot. But I’ll leave this last set visit report with a remark I had from one of the reporters, later that evening at the Moot. I asked if they had much experience with being on television sets, and she told me they had been on a lot of TV sets before, in fact. I then asked what she thought of what we had seen, in light of thatexperience. Her response was that—bearing in mind they were primarily a television journalist—they had never seen anything so elaborate before, and it led her to suppose that this production was more like a film production than a television drama.

That’s what I took out of it, too. The time, effort, and passion that has been sunk into this project should leave us all very excited for when April 17, 2011 comes around. Something very sepcial is coming, thanks to HBO, thanks to David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, thanks to all the cast and crew… and thanks, most of all, to George R.R. Martin, for creating a world that can be brought to life so vividly.