“You go in for the fantasy, for the dragons and white walkers, because you believe in the characters…” – hmv.com talks to the cast of Game Of Thrones
As the fourth season of HBO’s monster hit drama comes to DVD on Monday (February 16th), we sat down with Alfie Allen, Sophie Turner, John Bradley-West and Kit Harington to look back on the season and chat about the future.
(There quite a few spoilers within the interview, so if you are not up to date with the show and don’t want to read spoilers, stop right here…)
We speak with Alfie Allen, who plays the devious Theon Greyjoy. He’s been through a real tough time in Season Four, after losing a big part of his anatomy in the previous series, he’s now been forced to live as a servant named Reek, serving a ruthless master and spends the series being endlessly humiliated.
Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, also spoke with us. Season Four was a season of growth for her, she’s escaped the clutches of the Lannisters and is now on the run with the ever resourceful Littlefinger, though for the first time she’s the one holding all the cards.
We also get words from John Bradley-West, who portrays the affable Samwell Tarly, now a staunch member of Night’s Watch, he’s permanently on edge, with Gilly, the one-time wildling and girl he loves and his best friend Jon Snow, still contriving to fry his nerves.
Finally, we chat with Kit Harington, who plays the stoic warrior Jon Snow. He’s lost his first love, wildling Ygritte, and he’s angry and pining, not a good place to be…
Here’s what they had to say…
How do you look back on Season Four?
Alfie Allen (AA): “I remember speaking to David (Benioff) and Dan (Weiss, who are both Game Of Thrones’ writers and show runners) at the start of Season Three and them asking if I was ready for it. They described season three as physical torture and season four as more mental torture. It’s a brutal, brutal journey.”
"He loses a big part of his anatomy, which is really the only thing he’s had control over, the only time he’s free is in the bedroom, he’s been a slave his whole life, so to lose that is a real blow. In season four you get to see what becomes of him when he’s stripped of everything.”
Sophie Turner (ST): “Sansa has been growing slowly, but obviously at the start of the season everything changes, you get Joffrey’s wedding and then Joffrey dies. She goes to the Eerie and something suddenly clicks and she realises Littlefinger, the master manipulator, has a weakness. She sheds the skin of the young, vulnerable girl and becomes this strong woman. It was very exciting to do.”
John Bradley-West (JB): “I don’t think I’ve ever had a more difficult challenge than charting Sam’s emotional life through Season Four. He’s really put through the mire, his spirit is either being lifted or plummeted back down to earth. He starts off well, he’s got his best friend, the girl he loves and her baby in one place, so a little micro family, then before you know it he thinks she’s been murdered and Jon Snow’s gone again. Then, hey presto, she’s not dead. It’s a right rollercoaster, so I had to be very mentally and emotionally agile to drop myself into these different moments.”
Kit Harington (KH): “Jon’s going through two major changes. He’s lost his first love, one of the biggest things you can experience. And, Jon being Jon, he’s not talking about it, internalising it all. In the books he’s always thinking of Ygritte, thoughts of her red hair, thoughts of her naked body, break-up stuff. You couldn’t really write that, so I had to bring it to life internally.”
“He’s also lost his major paternal figure again, Commander Mormont is gone, so he has no one to order him and he’s finding that difficult. He has to focus on the threat to the wall, so it’s a real journey.”
What has the show meant to you personally?
ST: “It was the first thing I did. It’s the first major thing for so many of us. We just feel so lucky, we get to develop stories over years and years and work with these incredible story arcs. I don’t think we’ll ever get this chance again, TV series don’t normally give you a decade with a character.”
JB: “I came straight out of drama school into this, it’s where I learned to act on camera. I remember turning up before my first day and thinking ‘I’ve only got one scene tomorrow, I wonder what I’ll do in the afternoon?’. I had no idea anything could take that long. It was an incredible place to learn to be a screen actor.”
KH: “I’ve learned how so many different directors work. How some want your input, some want distance, you’d have to work years in film to get that kind of experience. On a grand series like this, you get all of that. I have to kick myself sometimes, when young actors join the cast now and they can’t stop going on about the size of their hotel rooms, I was that kid once, I remember how exciting all of this was. You have to remember that.”
Are there any scenes that you really relish shooting? What are your favourites?
AA: “I love watching Charles Dance, that scene where he’s skinning the deer, just incredible. I’m not as big on the fighting scenes, mainly because I’m always getting beaten up.”
ST: “I love working with Peter Dinklage, he plays that character in so many ways. He was the first actor I played opposite, he could do a scene 20 different ways and they’re all amazing. Bizarrely, I quite enjoy the devastation, all the crying, no-one’s life is that eventful.”
JB: “I like working opposite Kit in the scenes where Jon and Sam just talk to each other. It’s easy to get swamped by how high the stakes are. The show is very dark and very violent, but when those two get moments to talk, it’s a nice contrast.”
KH: “I love the action scenes. I like learning all that physical dialogue and then showing it off. This character doesn’t like talking, he much prefers action, he doesn’t like playing politics, it’s a good crossover with me, I like doing what Jon instinctively wants to do.”
Do you guys get to hang out much anymore?
AA: “Less and less. During the first season, when we were shooting the pilot and during the filming, you’d quite often be on set and waiting to do a scene and you’d not be required for two or three days and so you’d just sit and wait and you’d get to hang out with people casually. Now, not so much. Me and Kit seem to end up filming quite a lot together, but there are so many storylines."
Why do you think Game Of Thrones has been such a huge success?
AA: “I do conventions from time to time and you actually meet a lot of families who watch the show together, I think the fact that it doesn’t pander to any age range or go after any specific target audience is a real strength.”
ST: “Although it’s fantasy and there's magic and dragons, you’ve got humans at the heart of everything. It’s about politics and bargaining and there are themes that you can take into the present day. These issues are still reflected in modern day life.”
AA: “I’ve long thought that the subtext of Khaleesi’s character is Boris Johnson.”
JB: “I think a lot of fantasy series make the mistake of making the good guys and the bad guys vessels of how to tell a story and not making them people. This show spends a lot of time on the characters’ emotional life and building dysfunctional relationships with this world."
“You go in for the fantasy, for the dragons and white walkers, because you believe in the characters. It’s not like the people in the show accept the existence of dragons or white walkers until they’re presented to them, it makes it that much scarier.”
KH: “I actually think it’s pretty simple why it’s a success. The books had a worldwide following, it was a completely unique and interesting series. People take risks with historical dramas all the time, but I could name you a whole host of fantasy books that would become huge if they were done properly.”
“The Wizard Of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, it’s a fantastic book, massive following and it should have been made into a series long ago, it hasn’t been because no one will take a risk. HBO took a risk on this, invested in it, cast it well and it’s really paid off.”
Finally, do any of you have a clue about what’s going to happen next?
KH: “Well we’ve overtaken the books now, well some of the script has. The only people who know what’s coming are George, David and Dan. No one’s been told anything beyond this, none of us knows what’s going to happen next. It’s very exciting.”
JB: “It’s tense because we actually don’t know what type of story this is. Is it a redemptive story where good triumphs over evil? Or is an indictment of the fact that evil people can be successful? None of us know.”
Game Of Thrones: Season Four is released on DVD on Monday (February 16th).