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Belfast Trip Detour: The Moot

This is a detour from my set visit reports. You can get to the last segment before this by going here to Part 3.

I had made grand plans to go out for dinner at a well-reviewed restaurant after getting back from Magheramorne ... but after witnessing the traffic and realizing just how much I wanted to share with Linda (including uploading some photos for Linda to oogle over), I grabbed a quick bite at the Subway near my hotel instead. A couple of hours later, refreshed and ready, I took the short walk to Robinsons Bar where the Brotherhood without Banners had taken over the basement bar, dubbed BT1 (after the street code for the City Centre). Outside, I saw HBO’s representative with a reporter and cameraman from UTV who were waiting for George. A slight miscommunication led to a little delay prior to his arrival, and I soon joined Parris and some of the other BwB members to collect decorations and prizes for the charity raffle which the BwB was holding.

We got things set up just in time for George’s arrival, with many cheers and applause from the crowd. There were many extras present, many fans, and one very noticeable actor: Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor. I ended up meeting some of the fellow GoT-watching fans, who were all very hospitable and pleasant! Among them was Joe Campo, an American actor/filmmaker and Belfast resident who’s made a quest of getting cast on the show, and it sounded to be like he was getting closer thanks to advice from GRRM. At some point in the evening, a number of actors started to arrive, and after this point I sort of start to get fuzzy on the conversations I had and their order. So what I’m going to do is just try to run through the actors I spoke to, and my impressions of them, as well as anything interesting regarding the production they mentioned. This will be in very rough order:

* Miltos Yerolemou—Cast as the former First Sword of the Sealord of Braavos who’s hired as a “dancing master”, Miltos is really nothing like Syrio Forel in appearance, but I quickly grasped why they hired him for their part—though small in stature, he’s incredibly vibrant and charming, full of life and incredible energy. And as others remarked, he always has a smile on his face. He loved interacting with the fans, and loved his role. He was a bit bruised and battered from rehearsals, but was very game to hang out. A rumor had gone about that a new Syrio-Arya scene had been written, and he confirmed this, describing it as an additional scene to help flesh out Arya’s training and her relationship to Syrio. It sounded terrific.

* Kristian Nairn —Eventually Kristian and I were introduced, and for all too short a time! He really is massive, and at one point Finn Jones showed up to just remark how BIG he was. He insisted that Kristian was taller than Conan Stevens, cast as Gregor Clegane, and Kristian admitted that that was true. And also, while Conan’s a very muscular fellow, he doesn’t have the broadness of Kristian’s build. “And trust me, I _fought_ the Mountain, I should know!” Finn indicated at one point. Hmm… ;) Qthulhu, a member of the forum who’s been an extra, joined us and shared with us that he had been a Winterfell Guard extra who had been part of a scene with Kristian kept having to get up and sit down again. Eventually the extras started hearing a loud pop or cracking sound from Kristian’s direction, and wondered if it was his back. Eventually someone asked him about the problem, and he said it wasn’t really a problem, just his _knee_. Ow! And when asked about how the brace was doing, he indicated he didn’t actually have one on. After that, every time they heard that cracking, the extras would wince in sympathy. Parris ended up taking a photo of Kristian and I together, and I kept telling her maybe she should step back a bit further, because Kristian’s a good foot taller than I (at least!)

* Finn Jones—He’s certainly a handsome fellow, which I suppose means he’s certainly well-cast as the famed, and beautiful, Knight of Flowers. I’ve recently read he works in a bar, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that he really seemed to be in his element, and was chatting away with many, many fans! I first spoke to him as another fan was speaking with him and Gethin Anthony (Renly Baratheon) about a certain ... quirky individual on our forum, and the two were having a laugh about something. That something became clear to all the Moot in time: the two had just finished filming a scene, a new scene, which had been described to me as “intense”. In fact, this was the scene that was filming at Paint Hall when I visited, and because of the intensity of the scene the set was closed, so I didn’t get to see most of the Red Keep sets.

After this, I later ran into Finn again when I joined George in chatting with him. We discussed his recent tweet at the time about how the only lethal thing in his luggage was a copy of A Storm of Swords, and then we chatted about his character. There’s a particular event in the second book that he was very enthusiastic about, hoping they’d film it for a second season if it came to pass. He really seemed to get the character, and I admitted to him that I’ve long been a fan of the character, as he captures something of the spirit of chivalry and pageantry which makes Westeros so vivid.

* Gethin Anthony—I get a sense that Gethin’s going to be an actor who’s going to be getting a lot of attention after his turn as Lord Renly Baratheon. Just a feeling. Very personable fellow, very charming ... well, all the actors were, really, but anyways! I ended up speaking with him and Bryan Cogman, where we ended up starting to talk about the way George has a way of just killing characters suddenly and unexpectedly. But we started to get ahead of ourselves, as we started to discuss a certain wedding which Gethin hadn’t read yet! He did share the fact that he had read the second book, and had a great anecdote of being on the tube in London when he noticed the man next to him was reading the second novel, A Clash of Kings. And he was reading a certain very important scene for Renly, which Gethin recognized. He loved the man’s reaction when he read the scene, flipped the page forward . . . and then stopped and flipped back to re-read it to make sure he understood it right!

I did mention to Gethin that one of the things in the text is that Renly is supposed to look very much like Robert in his prime, and that one had to admit he and Mark Addy didn’t look terribly alike. He agreed, and added that in his own mind, he didn’t really look that much like Renly as described, either. He had really wanted the long, black hair—some of the other actors have gotten wigs—but for some reason the production wanted it a short, rather more modern cut. But he did add that he thought certain of his features were a little like Mark’s . . . and he knew a number of other London-based actors who had auditioned for Renly, and if he didn’t look much like Mark, they really didn’t look like him. We parted about the time of the raffle, after I mentioned to him that he was another character I always thought people were overly hard on, and I shared my opinion that if only a certain character had listened to Renly, things would have gone much better. He thanked me for that, and joked that when it came time to film that scene, he’d try extra hard to be convincing. Heh.

* Mark Stanley—Cast as Grenn, he was game to chat with fans, even if he seemed a bit more of the strong, quiet type. I introduced myself and mentioned I had seen him at Magheramorne, and in fact I’m afraid I got in his way as he tried to retrieve his jacket from behind a space heater while an interview was being conducted. He was very gracious! Like many of the other actors, this was the largest (and in some cases, only) professional productions they had been part of, and he really hoped to be able to film further seasons. He was aware of some of Grenn’s story, and I mentioned to him that Grenn’s got a great scene in the 3rd book that should be terrific to see.

* Eugene Simon—A handsome young actor, Eugene plays Lancel Lannister. He was wide-eyed when he learned that fans (well, a fan) was absolutely interested in seeing more of him on screen (with Cersei). I’m told he put his head in his hands and groaned, “No pressure there!” He was terrific, pulling out his phone to make sure he had the address of the forum right, and then sharing a photo of himself in his blonde wig. He also shared with George and I a great bit from his scene at the tourney, the “breastplate stretcher” scene as it was called. While he was supposed to act as if he were struggling to get Robert’s breastplate on, he said Mark chose to act the scene by just staring at him with increasing annoyance, which made it very easy indeed to act as if he were flustered. The last thing he noted when I was speaking to him was that he had a new scene he was going to film, featuring King Robert, Ser Barristan Selmy, and Ser Jaime Lannister. He said his own role was basically to serve some wine and then get kicked out by Robert, but the scene was going to help establish who and what the Kingsguard are, and perhaps reveal some of the tensions between the various involved characters.

* Mark Addy—The king himself, and unarguably the most well-known actor present at the Moot. He was fantastically personable, joking around and being quite cheerful. At one point he asked some of us to keep an eye out that no one knocked into him as he bent down to tie a loose shoe lace ... I wonder, does this make us honorary Kingsguard? ;) Simply had a great time chatting with him about the production. George and I mentioned we had spotted his breastplate in the armor shop, and he asked us if we had seen Robert’s helmet. We had missed it, and he laughed, held his arms way up about his head and a bit apart, and told us with amusement that they had real, proper antlers on! Curiously, though, when George asked if he’d seen Robert’s warhammer yet, he admitted he hadn’t. George promised that when Valyrian Steel finished their replica of King Robert’s Hammer, that he’d make sure to send him one.

I did apologize to Mark for having borrowed his chair, indicating I had had a chance to sit on the Iron Throne (more on that in my resumed Paint Hall visit reports). He pointed out that that was more than he had done, as he hadn’t even seen it yet. It sounded like he might be filming a scene or three with the throne this month, but it sounds like the throne itself wasn’t placed in the throne room set until quite recently. The last thing I asked him was how much longer he was with the production, and he said he wasn’t precisely sure, but he thought

his last scene

production was wrapping some time in early or mid-December, which fits with what I was told (December 18th or 19th, was what I was specifically told at the time.)

* John Bradley West—Amazingly well cast as Samwell (more of that on my Magheramorne report), John has one of the wickedest, most acerbic senses of humor that I’ve seen among the cast on Twitter. I asked him about whether he was as acerbic in daily life as he was on Twitter, and he laughed and said Twitter was sort of an anger-release for him, and indeed, he seemed much more mild-mannered face-to-face. Like some of the other actors, this was the biggest production he had ever been involved in, and he stressed it was really his very first professional job, so he was really pleased and aware of how lucky he was to start his career this way.

* Luke McEwan—Luke had just finished up his role as Rast, one of the Night’s Watch recruits (and one of the ones who doesn’t ever really get along with Jon), and seemed a little saddened by that. At the same time, though, he was very enthusiastic about what he had done, and the show in general. He and the cast get on very well, and one of the things I noticed from several of the cast members was that they all indicated they’d often hang out after filming. This fits with what George and Parris told me when I arrived in Belfast, that they had had the company of a number of the young actors in the bar at his hotel. At Magerhamorne, we sort of met when he had done filming and was looking to get transportation back to the unit base to change. He ended up coming into the van with myself and the reporters, and for a minute he sort of sat there waiting for the van’s driver to show up to transport us all. It was an awkward but funny moment when he finally realized that we were there waiting to conduct the next interview, and off he went to find a ride!

* Bryan Cogman—Not an actor! But Bryan was kind enough to show up, and we had more of an opportunity to speak. Besides confirming a new Lancel and Cersei scene, he told others that a new Varys and Littlefinger scene had been written, which sounds very interesting! At one point he was talking about all the great worldbuilding George had done (he was mentioning something about the War of the Ninepenny Kings as an evocative, almost throwaway reference), and I wondered if George had shared some his historical notes, such as the Targaryen genealogy and the like. Bryan said he hadn’t and joked, “He’s holding out on me!” I insisted he really should ask for some of that material, as there’s things in there that might be useful for the little curios and bits of set design they create for the show.

There were a number of other actors, and a lot of extras, I never had a chance to speak with. Hats off to all of them for showing up! I’m told James Cosmo (Lord Commander Mormont) had entered for a few minutes, Jamie Sives (Jory Cassel—he informed someone else, JacMac I think, that he had a new scene with Jaime Lannister to help establish their antagonism) and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) were there at the event for much of it. Also Josef Altin, who plays Pypar, and who seemed to be having a terrific time. Maybe next time!

I’ll wrap up with some links and video.

Here you’ll find UTV’s recording of GRRM’s arrival at the Moot and a brief interview with him. And here’s a few of the gallerys that have been posted with pictures: Martin’s, Doc’s, JacMac’s, and Lord Mountain Goat’s. And finally, here’s two more videos I want to share.

The first, courtesy of Lord Mountain Goat (who did a brilliant job helping to organize this), features BwB member lilsisorcha singing a spine-tingling rendition of “The Last of the Giants”, a song readers are introduced to in the third novel. The crowd in the bar listened to it attentively, and I suspect I wasn’t the only one who felt a chill at the lament of it, and the bar positively exploded with applause and cheers. Alas, Ser Mel T’s hilarious song for the Night’s Watch was not published, as she felt her voice wasn’t up to scratch after a summer spent roaring on battlefields and the like (for re-enactments! She also taught me something I never knew, and I’m not sure if I wanted to know it: Joe Abercrombie is a buff, hard-bodied bloke and very, very fit ... I gather “fit” in U.K. slang is not quite the same as what it means in the U.S.!))

And this last is JacMac30’s video of the raffle, where most of the actors and Bryan helped draw the numbers. I actually appear here after managing to win (I never win these things, as I remark). A great look at everyone, and the camraderie of the cast as they banter. The raffle raised £377, which was sent to Teachers & Writers Collaborative and Action Cancer. Prizes were donated from various sources, including GRRM and Parris:

With any luck, should have the next part of my set visit report cleared to be posted tomorrow, and now we’ll be getting into the real nitty-gritty of what I was able to see of a number of the sets.

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