According to the Belfast Telegraph, veteran Northern Irish actor J.J. Murphy passed away mere days after filming his first scene for season 5 of Game of Thrones. Heretofore an unpublicized member of the cast, the Telegraph reports that Murphy was cast in the role of Ser Denys Mallister, a senior man of the Night’s Watch who in the novels was the commander of the Shadow Tower and a leading candidate to succeed Lord Commander Mormont. The Telegraph notes he was due to film more scenes, and speculates as to whether the role will be removed from the show or if another actor will be cast to fill it.
Murphy, 86 years old at the time of his death, had decades of theatre experience. According to the Telegraph, he was best known for his work at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, where actors such as Liam Neeson and Ciaran Hinds cut their teeth and learned their craft alongside him. Our condolences to his friends and family.
UPDATE: HBO’s publicity twitter has released the following statement from David Benioff and Dan Weiss: