Alfie Allen and Emilia Clarke interview: Game Of Thrones, TV fantasy, HBO and more
With Game Of Thrones getting its UK premiere later this month, we caught up with two of its stars to chat about the series...
Even by the standards of other HBO shows such as Band Of Brothers or The Wire, the forthcoming fantasy series, Game Of Thrones is a sprawling mass of interweaving characters and intersecting plot lines. Benefiting from a generous budget and a starry cast (which includes Sean Bean, Mark Addy and Jason Momoa), it's a dizzying, bloody history of feuds, affairs and intrigue.
Game Of Thrones is so intricate, in fact, that some characters are only glimpsed for a few minutes, at least in the opening pair of episodes we saw before heading off for a series of round-table interviews.
Despite only getting a brief idea of Alfie Allen and Emilia Clarke's characters beforehand, we enjoyed an entertaining chat about the series' epic storyline and the growing quality of television shows in general...
First of all, can you tell us a bit about the characters you play?
Alfie Allen: I play Theon Greyjoy, and I was taken from a family in the last big war in this kingdom. Most of my family was killed off, apart from my sister and father, and I've been living with the Starks ever since. Essentially, I'm a hostage, but not really, ‘cause Sean Bean's lovely. He gives me free run of the castle.
Emilia Clarke: I play Daenerys Targaryen, and I'm an exiled princess. I'm on the run, essentially. I start off as an incredibly submissive creature, who doesn't have her own freewill at all. She's at the mercy of her brother, because my mother died giving birth to me and my father, who was the rightful heir to the throne, was usurped by Robert Baratheon, who is on the throne when the series starts.
So, I have no early family at all, and I'm very submissive. The first time you see me, I'm being married off to a lord of the horses, Khal Drogo, and it goes from there.
She has a very creepy relationship with her brother...
EC: Yeah. Bit dodgy. [laughs] Like I said, he's the only family she's got, so everything she knows about herself, her family, everything comes from him. He was orphaned at a young age, also, and he wants to get back his throne, because he was next in line.
To keep the line pure, the Targaryen family always marries brother to sister. So, there's that in there as well. There's an underlying theme of incest, but because she's so submissive to him, there's a slightly more aggressive nature to their relationship.
What was it like working on set, because from our perspective, it looks pretty epic.
EC: Yeah, I'd say it was pretty epic. A lot of the locations we had were incredibly epic. The locations in and around Belfast were quite incredible, and the sets themselves were so detailed. They put so much into each set, it felt like a film set.
AA: It was crazy. We came to the shipyard, and saw the studios we'd be working in, and they were huge, in these warehouses. They had these little huts outside for the armourers, all these people working on the production. It was just a different scale. I've been on film sets before, but nothing on that scale. It was pretty incredible.
What was it like working with the cast? Were you star struck by Sean Bean?
AA: I got to spend some time with Sean. He's a very serious actor and I respect that completely. When we did the execution scene at the top of the mountain, I remember going up to do that, and he was just really in the zone.
I wouldn't say I was star struck, no. It was just great seeing people like him work. And Mark Addy as well, who's just a legend, in my opinion. It was great to see them work, to see their methods. It was really cool. Relaxed, as well.
EC: I think the calibre of acting was really good. And I got to work with Iain Glen, who's a legend.
Do you think the lines are becoming blurred between film and TV now? I mean, the scale of Game Of Thrones is on a par with a film.
EC: It's like a ten hour film, basically.
AA: My mum's a film producer, and I know there was a point where there wasn't much money going into film. HBO are doing so well with DVD sales and stuff that they have a lot of money to put into something like this.
EC: The calibre of TV's changing. It's becoming much more epic. To rival film, definitely.
But also pushing boundaries in terms of violence, language and nudity, in a way TV didn't a few years ago, perhaps.
AA: I think that the world's climate, in that sense, is changing.
EC: HBO can push those boundaries, as well.
AA: And it's not a show for kids! [laughs]
HBO Representative: Don't forget that HBO has no advertisers.
EC: So, you have no obligation to not offend anyone.
So, it's that lack of obligation that gives HBO the freedom to make these kind of shows.
HBO Rep: Certainly one of them. We're also invited into the home. It's a pay subscription. So, between that and not having advertisers, we can do what makes sense for the story, not necessarily language or sex for its own sake, but what makes sense for the story.
EC: Also, I think Game Of Thrones is incredibly true to the books. I think the fans will, hopefully, be very pleased with how true to the books we are. I don't know if you've read them, but they are grotesque and there are sexual things in them.
Had either of you read the books before you began working on the series?
AA: I have to admit, I hadn't.
EC: It was during the audition process for me.
AA: Yeah. That's when I started to read them as well. It's funny, I haven't met many people in England who've read the books, but they're huge in Europe. I think it's good, though, because people will be more surprised by what happens [in the TV series].
George R R Martin just kills off characters like that [thumps hand on the table]. I think it'll be quite a shock.
EC: There are loads of shocks, definitely.
Do you prefer TV to film, or is this the perfect hybrid?
AA: I think it's the perfect hybrid, yeah. But I don't have any preference. I just love acting, man. [laughs]
EC: Ditto. I want to do everything.
How long was the shoot?
EC: Oh, goodness me. July to December. Quite long. We had read-throughs in July, where we got to meet everyone, so we all got really excited. Then we didn't see each other for two months.
AA: There was only one point where we were all together as one big crew.
EC: Because there's so many different plotlines going on.
Was there any training you had to do before you started filming?
AA: I didn't have to do much sword training. I was in the gym for about five months. Solidly. And I'd never done that before in my life.
That sounds quite traumatic.
AA: It was great! It was traumatic to start off with, but then you get into it.
Are you keeping it up?
AA: [Taps stomach] Roast dinners and chocolate cake. [laughs] I'm getting back into it now, but over Christmas I stopped.
EC: In episode two the work pays off.
AA: [Conspiratorially] In episode four it pays off.
EC: Oh, yeah. [laughs]
AA: I can't give too much away. I didn't do much sword training because my specialist weapon is the bow and arrow, so I worked with the armourers for a few days doing that. It was fun. I was a mean shot, actually. It's better when you don't think about what you're doing.
I snowboard as well, and it's better when you don't think about a trick. If I do, I just mess it up.
It was cool. In one scene, I had to keep shooting these arrows into a target, and I got four bullseyes in one take.
Is there talk of a second series, yet, or is it too soon to ask?
AA: Well, there's always talk, isn't there? I don't know yet. I've yet to hear anything. But I've got my fingers crossed.
HBO Rep: Do you want the official HBO word? There's no pick-up yet. There are plans underway, and they have to look at scripts at this point in preparation for it, but in general, HBO make a decision once the show goes on the air. It's not been picked up yet.
So, clearly, you'd be up for a second series. Which means you both survive this one, presumably.
EC: You'll have to watch and see. Or read the books. The information is there!
Is Game Of Thrones the kind of thing you'd watch on TV?
AA: Definitely. Anything with HBO is great, without sounding too brownnosing.
HBO Rep: What I used to find is that people used to like the shows, but wouldn't necessarily know they were HBO, because they're all over different channels [in the UK]. Sex And The City, The Wire, Oz, Entourage. With Sky Atlantic, they're really starting to be gathered.
AA: I'm watching Generation Kill at the moment. It's brilliant.
EC: It's so good. I was watching Band Of Brothers the other day.
AA: I haven't watched that.
EC: It's amazing.
It's all boxsets now.
HBO Rep: Maybe Sky Atlantic will get some of that back catalogue as well, I don't know. Six Feet Under's still my favourite after all these years.
EC: Game Of Thrones is your favourite!
HBO Rep: Well, it's going to be my favourite. Six Feet Under's always going to be special, and has, in my opinion, one of the best finale episodes ever done. The Sopranos was amazing, but people have differing opinions on how that one ended. Six Feet Under's final episode? Everyone loved it.
Thank you both very much.
Game Of Thrones makes its UK premiere on the 18th April on Sky Atlantic. Check back next week for lots more Game Of Thrones goodies...
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