Spoiler-warning: The bit with Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) contains brief, oblique reference to some of her season three scenes. Non-A Song of Ice and Fire readers may wish to skip it.
Even in absence, Dame Diana Rigg has the sovereign presence to make people sit up straight and behave themselves. At the mere mention of her name, Finn Jones, the young actor who plays her on-screen grandson Ser Loras Tyrell in Game of Thrones, segues from swagger to awe, following up his description of the Tyrell family in season three as “hot badass b*tches who are going to f**k s**t up” to an earnest list of “amazing”, “wonderful”, “classic legend”, and “such a privilege”. Good to know the Queen of Thorns (or “Nan”, as Jones calls her) commands the proper respect around these parts.
It’s a glacial night at the end of March, and Game of Thrones has commandeered a former nineteenth-century church in central London to debut episode one of its new season. Cast members are here, as is a crowd humming with “Have you read the books?” and “Isn’t that Charles Dance?” conversation (it was Charles Dance, looking authoritative as only a Lannister could wearing a silk polka dot scarf).
The cast was under strict instruction not to reveal a thing about season three, so much so that young Ben Hawkey, the actor behind Arya Stark’s orphan companion Hot Pie, refused to show us even a facial expression from one of his season three scenes. With that kind of obedience, the boy’ll go far.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who plays Bran Stark, was less cowed by HBO’s authority (well, he is the Little Lord) and allowed us a two-word tease for his character this series: “Understanding dreams” was his clue. The almost-fourteen-year-old also gave Den of Geek a glimpse behind the magic, explaining that the Stark kids act opposite a giant plush direwolf toy before the CGI wizardry happens. That toy’s name? Fluffy. Don’t ever say we don’t bring you juicy scoops.
Speaking of juiciness, the succulent Gwendoline Christie (Wizards Vs. Aliens) agreed to play a slightly spoiler-y word association game with us (an interview trick sadly rendered useless in print as the intrigue was all in her delivery). We gave her three words key to her character’s season three story – “Bath, Bear, and Bridge” – to which she replied with a halting “Clean? Win? and The Winner”. Loud and clear Brienne, loud and clear.
Christie went on, tongue happily in cheek, to agree that her co-star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was something of a handful on set, “Yeah, he’s really difficult to deal with. I think it’s unfortunate for him, because for Nikolaj, he’s unable to separate himself from his character, so he’s decided to take all of those vile barbs on in real life and it’s kind of made him a worse person.” Hollywood, and being taken prisoner by the Starks, will do that to you.
Leaving villainy behind, “one of the goodies” next season is Thoros of Myr, played by Paul Kaye (Stella, Mongrels, The Sunday Show’s Dennis Pennis). “I think I’m a goody. Well, I have bad moments, but on the whole I’m fighting for the greater good”.
Kaye’s scenes were filmed in Belfast, “in the forest mostly, and the cave, which is the most incredible set, where they built the Titanic.” Once back to the mundanity of London life inside four walls, Kaye admitted feeling withdrawal for the savage life of the Brotherhood Without Banners, “When I came back to London I started making fires in the garden. I was missing my sword, and my armour and my horse”. Also missed, presumably was Rory McCann, with whom Kaye shares some season three scenes, “The Hound taught me how to play guitar, what a great guy he is, fantastic.”
He’s a religious man, this Red Priest of yours? “When the mood takes him. It depends how much rum he’s drunk, he gets more religious the more he drinks […] Probably his biggest fear is finding out the things that he was cynical about turn out to be true, which is just another reason to drink.” The booziness explains the line of his character’s season three dialogue Kaye gave us: “It’s not easy to find black molasses rum in wartime.” We’d imagine not.
Another line of season three dialogue was offered up by Catelyn Stark’s Michelle Fairley, who said her key words this year were a vengeful phrase you might recognise from the many Game of Thrones promo trailers, “Let them know what it feels like to lose someone they love”.
In other news, we learnt that Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Love Actually, Feather Boy) who plays frog-eating Crannogman Jojen Reed has never eaten a frog, though he says he’s willing to give it a go. Gemma Whelan’s favourite character line as Yara Greyjoy is the unimprovable “Anything with a cock is easy to fool”, Sean Bean was “the coolest dad” Isaac Hempstead-Wright has ever had, and the actor behind Hodor, Kristian Nairn, is not averse to giving the odd out-of-character piggy back around set.
Then it was time to be ushered into the former church’s imposing main chamber to watch the episode with popcorn and a bag of non-Westeros-themed fizzy cola bottles and foam bananas. Post-screening, it was a winding journey down to the crypt for a party and posh bowls of mini sausage and mash. “Whatever happened to vol-au-vents and cheese and pineapple on sticks?” exclaims Finn Jones, “Twiglets!” we shout at an unreasonable volume, “Yes” says Jones politely, before walking hurriedly away.
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