Today, at the first-ever Game of Thrones fan convention, Joanna Robinson and David Chen of the A Cast of Kings podcast hosted a panel discussion with actors who have already died on the show. All of the questions were about death!
Called “Ghosts of Westeros,” the panel featured Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton), Kate Dickie (Lisa Arryn), Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Mace Tyrell), Amy Richardson (the original Myrcella Baratheon), Sam Coleman (young Hodor), Kerry Ingram (Shireen Baratheon), and Miltos Yerolemou (Syrio Forel).
The panel started with Robinson teasing Yerolemou about the long-standing fan theory that Arya Stark’s season 1 mentor Syrio is not actually dead, and that he might make a surprise appearance in season 7. “There was a rumor going around that Miltos might not be able to join this panel and I was wondering if that’s because you think Syrio might not be a ghost of Westeros?” she asked.
Yerolemou laughed, accusing Robinson of “stirring up a lot of trouble,” but he later hinted that he already knows what many of the character conflicts will be in the upcoming season — HBO is notoriously guarded with the scripts for the show, not even letting actors remove them from set and often blacking out major plot points when they aren’t need-to-know, so it does seem odd that an actor who played a character that “died” six years ago would know anything at all. If you’re invested in Syrio truthing, let me know if this ostensible slip-up does anything for you.
All of the actors were asked to recall when they found out their characters were going to die, and to describe the experience of filming their deaths.
In a thick Scottish accent, Dickey said “I was just pleased to get to die.” After a round of laughter she explained, “I read the book up to Lysa’s death, I was just trying to get a handle on her background, and how she became what she was, so I knew that she died in the Moon Door. But I didn’t know if they were going to depict that [on the show]. There’s just so much in [the books], you don’t know what’s going to make it.”
Kerry Ingram, whose fan-favorite character Shireen was burned at the stake by her own father, said she knew full well there was going to be a backlash against the show following her death: “I found out about halfway through season five. I was really, really excited. I knew exactly what the reaction was going to be and I was so excited for it.”
As for how each death was filmed, many were simple cutaways or predominantly CGI. Ashton-Griffith’s death by wildfyre for example, was not very interesting. But Dickie’s involved holding Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) by the back of the neck for several hours, then swinging over “the Moon Door” (which was actually only a hole about a foot deep) in a harness. “They said okay ‘we’re going to put you in a harness and dangle you from the top of the ceiling and you’re going to hang over and die,’” Dickie remembered. “In the books, Lysa’s death was silent but there was no way I was going to be able to be silent.”
Rheon said his gruesome death scene — in which Turner feeds him to his own dogs — took four or five hours to film and that he was actually tied to the chair with “crap” all over his face the entire time. He wasn’t anywhere near any dogs though. “They had to protect my face, even though it was my last scene and I thought they might just be like, ‘enh.’ The dogs we used were not pet dogs. Those aren’t the kind of dogs you want near your face. The first time I saw them I was like ‘Ohhh, hello!’ and they were like ‘GOD NO, DON’T TOUCH THE DOGS.’” Image Engine, the VFX team behind the big moment, made a CG jaw for Rheon, and animated his ripping skin and gums.
Richardson joked that she didn’t actually get to die as Myrcella on the show (she was recast after season 4 and replaced by Nell Tiger Free), but she did “practice bleeding from the face” at home in her bedroom just in case.
But Ingram’s filming experience was by far the most brutal, and she launched her story saying, “There was minimal CGI involved, and minimal acting.”
The scene was shot at the bottom of a quarry, with real flames, fake snow, and powerful winds whipping around the rock walls. “I looked and I was like ‘oh shit.’ The wind had blown the flames that far [measures out a foot] away from my dress. So I was screaming. It wasn’t until after that take that they told me my costume was anti-flammable.”
Most of the fan questions were for Rheon, whose character Ramsay Bolton sits at the center of a sizable and dedicated online fandom. A Song of Ice and Fire-inspired Bolton fan fiction reached a new zenith by the time Rheon’s portrayal of the character was fed to the dogs at the end of season 6. He was asked who he wants to see die next (“that bastard”), who inspired his performance (Heath Ledger’s Joker performance and Liam Gallagher’s stage walk), and what what his character meant when he told Sansa “There will always be a piece of me inside of you.”
That question, which hinted at another popular (and pretty grotesque) fan theory that Sansa is pregnant with a baby Bolton, got a truly rowdy “oooh” before it was cheerfully shut down. “I think that’s misquoted,” he laughed. “That’s what you wanted to hear, and I’m not gonna say what you want.” He also quibbled with the fan’s protestation that she didn’t want Sansa to be pregnant with his “bastard,” but was just curious about the line: “Well, we were married so it wouldn’t have been a bastard, thanks.”
“I think he just meant that he left an imprint on her and she’d never be the same after that. That’s the kind of sick individual he is. And anyway, how the hell would Ramsay know? I hear dolphins can use sonar, but come on.”
It does seem unlikely, but it’s probably worth remembering this is a show with dragons, ice monsters, and magic wolves. Anything is possible. Only two more weeks until Game of Thrones comes back!