With the fourth season of Game of Thrones releasing of DVD and Blu-Ray in Australia today, we’re bringing you a series of interview with the cast of the show, as they reflect on the latest series of the big budget, highly acclaimed production. Next up we have Davos Seaworth – played by Liam Cunningham – who was in Australia last year to open of the Game of Thrones exhibition. This interview was conducted before Season Four went to air, so don’t worry about spoilers if you haven’t seen beyond Series Three!
Where did we leave Jojen at the end of season three?
At the end of season three you see us walking through a tunnel, to go beyond The Wall.
Where do we pick up in season four?
We are around a campfire, where we seem to spend most of our time, sitting down. We’re now surrounded by snow and we’ve got extra warmth on. We’ve got hundreds of dead rabbit skins all over us. We’ve got quite a different look.
Who’s there at this point?
We’ve got Jojen, Meera, Bran, and Hodor, and that’s it. We’re looking a little bit more worn. Jojen is looking a little bit sweaty; a little bit worse for wear. There’s a fear amongst the group because we don’t really know our surroundings. Even my character only has glimpses – he’s never been north of the Wall – so he only has ideas and visions, or a general feeling. He knows there are an awful lot of things out there, but we don’t know exactly what they are. So there’s a bigger fear factor, and then it just progresses from there. We’re making our way through the snow and the harshness of the North.
Where did you film those scenes?
I thought we were going to get to go to Iceland. The production does go there. We were in Belfast the whole time, again (laughs). Everyone thought, ‘Oh yay! We’re in the North, so we’re going to get to go to Iceland!’ But no. They did do a fantastic job. They were basically filming in very similar locations to what we did in three, with these fantastic forests, lit up and with smoke poured into them. They would kind of raise them up and then cover them in snow, so it looked like a huge amount of snow. Snow machines everywhere, and wind machines and smoke machines.
But it really did work, even to the naked eye. You just walked into this snowy forest and it was magical. In some ways, it was actually nicer, because that snow is made out of paper, so it’s almost insulated – it’s nowhere near as cold as real snow. If you have to roll around in it, or be thrown to the ground, or whatever you have to do, you don’t get quite so wet.
Jojen has visions of the future. How do you show that on screen in season four?
There is a scene in season four where we actually get to see a snippet of what Jojen sees. We just did it with a green screen, and it goes past looking at Bran, and Meera, and it goes on and you get this vision. It was interesting for me, because you see that actually he doesn’t get an awful lot of information: he gets image and a rough place, and then knows a rough direction of how to get there, but not quite what getting there entails.
Does he know how things will turn out?
Even though you do get a snippet of what Jojen sees, we still don’t give away the whole picture. He knows more than what the viewers get to see. He lets on slightly to Bran and Meera and the other people around him, and has this understanding of what the future entails for him personally and the other characters surrounding him. He knows that everything is planned and it’s all meant to be that way. There’s nothing you can do to stop it; it just has to happen.
Do you talk to the writers about your character’s future?
I like to leave it open, to a certain extent. It’s nice to have a slight idea of what’s in the future, and I think you get that enough within the season, to just have read the scripts and know what happens in this part of the story. But they’re very secretive, and even the directors don’t know what happens in the end. They have to plan the episode they are shooting and know what comes immediately after that, and a lot of people speculate and have ideas, but very few people know what happens beyond a certain point.
Would you like to know how it all ends?
I think everyone would like to know. Everyone kind of pokes and prods David and Dan. They give away certain things, but then you’re never sure if that’s just a joke and they’re just leading you on, because they do that [laughs]. They must get people asking them all the time but they’re not going to give it away.
Have you met George R.R. Martin yet?
No, I never have. I’d love to meet him. He sounds like quite a character, from everyone that I’ve spoken to who has met him. He’s quite an amazing person. I mean, he came up with this whole thing in his head, and managed to get it onto paper, and now it’s been turned into this massive TV show. It’s incredible. With all those characters intertwining and all those stories, and you don’t know what’s going to happen – he’s just killing off your favourite characters. It’s so brave and so wonderful.
Did you know much about Game of Thrones before signing up?
When I first got the role, I didn’t know anything about it, really. I’d heard the name. I told friends of mine that I was going up for this thing called Game of Thrones, and some were like me, and others were like, ‘What? Wow! Really?’ I hadn’t read the script, at that point, and I hadn’t read the books, I hadn’t seen the seasons. When I got the part, they sent me season one and two to watch, just so I knew what the hell it was, and what I was getting in for. I watched them all within a week. I think it’s the best way to watch it, just to get the box set and plough through it. I charged through them and I realised, ‘Wow! I get to be part of this in some way. Great!’ This is before I’d read the script, so I didn’t even know how I’d be a part of it.
They’d given me a character outline, so I knew I was with Bran, and I knew roughly what I was going to do, but I didn’t get a script until quite a while after, so I was speculating as to what I would be doing, but I was very excited just to be a part of the show. I became a fan of it, and when I did get the script, I decided just to read my bits, and save a lot of the other characters that have nothing to do with Jojen, so that I could watch it like a fan and not know what happens.
Who would be your favourite characters apart from your own?
I do think Tyrion is a fantastic part and a brilliant character, and the development of that character is great. He comes from a very rich family, and it’s only because of that that he’s still around. If he was from a poor family he probably would have been murdered by his mother for being a dwarf. He’s a fantastic character.
Did you read the books once you got the role?
I don’t like the idea of knowing what is going to happen, although my character, to a certain extent, is supposed to – within his line, anyway. So I chose to read the script, and even then, not all of it, so that I could save it as a fan. I know a lot of the cast members have done the same thing. I’d say the majority haven’t read the rest.
What was your response to the Red Wedding?
I haven’t actually seen the Red Wedding episode. I missed it because I was away. I only ever heard about it, and it was one of the scenes that I chose not to read. I heard all the cast talking about the Red Wedding, and I knew people were going to die, but I wasn’t sure which ones, and I wanted to keep it. But then I ended up missing the episode as well. I know now, but I still haven’t seen it. It’s kind of ruined it really. I still have to go and see the episode.
How did you feel when you found out what happened?
I think if you’ve done that in the third season, with the Red Wedding episode, then you’ve completely taken away any trust that was there. It’s like with Ned Stark in the first season getting his head chopped off. You watch that and you are so shocked and think, ‘I thought he was the star of the show!’ He just gets killed, and that’s brilliant. I think that should happen more often, because it’s exciting. You put all this investment into these amazing characters and then they just die, because Game of Thrones doesn’t follow normal procedure for watching television or watching films. With this, the bad guy wins or the goodie is slaughtered. And it’s like, ‘Who do I follow now? Do I follow the bad guy and like him now?’ It plays with people’s heads, and creates this uncertainty within the whole show. That’s true of Game of Thrones style, and it’s part of what makes it so addictive to watch.
And you think season four has more of that?
Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff going on, and there some shocking moments. In season four there are characters that we know and love, and some that we don’t love, that die. That’s all part of it [laughs].
What sort of feedback do you get from the fans?
People are asking questions about every little part of the show, stuff that I don’t even know about. They are so into it, and have studied it. The hardcore fans know it inside out; they probably know it more than George R.R. Martin, in some ways. They have these ideas about where it’s going to go and I’m in awe of them! It makes you think about the show and go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a good point, maybe that might happen.’
The show leaves it open to interpretation so much, and the fans who follow it are constantly speculating about what could happen. You say a line, and it seems quite meaningless at the time, but you don’t know that might actually be quite important three seasons on. That’s why you’re not really allowed to improvise at all, because each line has been thought about and processed, and probably been through several department heads, and all over the place. Even if it just suggests something, and it doesn’t lead to anything, it makes people go, ‘Hmm, maybe…’
Do you enjoy being part of such a huge series?
Very much so. I wasn’t sure quite what to think when I first joined, because it had already been two seasons running, and it’s a big cast and a big crew and a massive American budget. It’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve ever been part of though. I haven’t ever seen anything quite on the scale of having two whole units, and sometimes three units, working simultaneously. The amount of crew involved, and the cost! The costume and props departments are just vast. The quality in workmanship and craftsmanship that goes into each department is mind-blowing. When I first joined I was like, ‘Is this going to be a massive machine that I’m just part of?’ And it’s not. Despite all that, it has this very close very small feel to it, in some ways. It feels like a family.
When I first joined them, the cast and crew were very welcoming to me, and immediately made me feel comfortable. These are characters that have become incredibly famous now, all these massive names and faces that people recognise, they all just hang out at the hotel and do normal things. We all go out and go down the pub, and I think there’s also the Irish thing of being like, ‘Oh it’s those Game of Thrones guys, that’s fine. Have a drink.’ It’s very relaxed, you don’t feel like you’re on a massive big important thing, and there’s no kind of segregation between cast and crew, or key cast and smaller cast, and that’s what makes it enjoyable to work on.
Do you ever see the actors on the other units?
There are still quite a few people that I’ve never met. I’ve never met Tyrion. Because we have the two units, and sometimes three, there’s two or three things going on at the same time, but we all stay at the same hotel. There will be some weeks where there are loads of us in there, and you go down to the hotel bar and there’s a whole bunch of us there. You talk about what day you had, and we all had completely different days on completely different sets doing completely different things, but we’re all part of the same show. We all get along really well, and that’s great, because you never know who is going to be in the bar. Sometimes you walk down to the bar and it’s just you, and you look at the call sheet and realise you’re actually the only one there, and then sometimes it’s twenty, thirty of us.
Is it the same block of time each year for you?
Yeah, roughly. I think the whole shoot is something like seven, eight months. That’s big, but because there’s so many characters involved, each episode only goes to that character for one, two scenes, or something. Sometimes you’re not even in an episode, so actually the workload per storyline is not that big. So I think I work for about five weeks, for a season, which is a very short shoot for a seven month long thing. It’s not that time-consuming, but it’s great fun to do.
Game of Thrones Season 4 is released on Blu-Ray and DVD in Australia today.