Keisha Castle-Hughes Mastered the Sand Snakes' Stunts


In her second interview of the season, the woman behind Obara Sand talks through how she learned the moves for Sunday's big showdown in the Water Gardens.

HBO: How did you prepare for Obara's stunts?

Keisha Castle-Hughes: During the course of shooting and training, I watched a lot of videos of Pedro Pascal [Oberyn Martell] training. Every morning I watched that trial by combat scene. As my fight scenes got closer, I watched it numerous times a day to really put myself in that headspace. As an actor, I had the same motivation as the character: I wanted to honor what Pedro had set up – and as Obara, I wanted to honor that her father had given her these skills.

HBO: How rigorous was the training?

Keisha Castle-Hughes: I started training in the martial arts of wushu as soon as I was cast. Obara is a warrior monk, so her state of mind was as important as her physicality. Martial arts really lends itself to that dynamic.

I also started working with the spear straight away. The shoot was spread out over such a long time, so I went back and forth to quite a bit from Belfast to where I live in New Zealand. I wasn't allowed to check a 7-foot spear on the plane, so I had a retractable walking stick. I was lucky enough that I could work with our assistant stunt coordinator, Paul Shapcott, in New Zealand. I had a spear there, a spear in Belfast and my retractable walking cane in between.

HBO: What was the most challenging part of training?

Keisha Castle-Hughes: One of the most difficult things was the fact that three women are simultaneously together – we had to learn to work in each other's space. I don't know if you've ever heard a bullwhip crack, but it is one of the loudest, abrupt, freaky sounds. It's so scary – it blows out your eardrums.

When we were training, we'd be in the stunt tent in Belfast. Jess [Henwick, Nym Sand] would be cracking her whip for eight hours a day. It honestly took like six weeks for both Rosabell [Laurenti Sellers, Tyene Sand] and me to stop flinching. It was important that the sound became soothing to us. It's funny because now I love both those girls like sisters – if I hear any sound that's remotely similar to the bullwhip, it immediately makes me yearn for Jess.

HBO: What was it like to film the fight?

Keisha Castle-Hughes: There's so much going on. It was much easier for us, I'm sure, than for Jeremy Podeswa, who directed the episode. He's definitely the man who had the hardest job, dealing with five actors who all have very, very dangerous weapons.

HBO: Did you do your own stunts?

Keisha Castle-Hughes: We did most of it ourselves. I had a fantastic stunt double who helped out. It was the middle of summer in Seville, which is nothing to complain about, but it was hot with all the armor. The stunt doubles were really helpful for when I was running low on energy. That scene took two-and-a-half days to shoot, and we all did as much of it as we could. We worked so bloody hard that there was no way we weren't giving it our all.