The actor who plays Daenerys’ right-hand man Jorah Mormont reflects on the battle’s outcome, and watching an 11-week night shoot come together in the midst of his own personal trials.
HBO: What was your initial reaction to seeing how the final season unfolds?
Iain Glen: On the whole, I thought [creators] Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff] had really excelled in shaping the final endgame. It was always a concern with Game of Thrones how many different storylines and worlds can be sustained through the course of a season, and that became less of a problem with these later seasons because we were all beginning to overlap. But then it became an issue of giving everyone a proper sendoff and journey that meets audiences’ hopes and expectations. When I first read it I went through a real range of emotions.
One thing I think all actors do, when you first get the scripts, you flick to the first page of each one where they list who is in the episode. I saw Episode 1, Episode 2, absolutely, Episode 3, yep there I am it’s all good… and then oh no, chances are I’ve copped it, I’m a goner. So that filled me with a great sense of loss. But I tried to remain patient, and over the course of reading the episodes, it felt right. I felt at peace with it. Because in some ways Jorah has been offering himself, his life, to Daenerys for six or seven seasons. So there was a completeness to it. And also, it was an ending, instead of having that sense of, “Oh I wonder what happens to these people going forward.” Having a beginning, middle and end, it satiates. And the way it was described on the page was very moving and affecting.
HBO: Jorah has always been one of Dany’s most trusted advisors, and he gives her two suggestions early in this season: to forgive Tyrion and make friends with Sansa. Why do these feel important?
Iain Glen: Whatever you say about Jorah, one of his good qualities was that Dany’s best interests were always paramount; in many ways he put that ahead of any self-fulfillment. Jorah realizes that people do need to compromise and come together. He’s very persuaded that Tyrion has Dany’s best interest at heart. He trusts him. With Sansa, he’s trying to encourage a unified front and stop any instinct Dany might have to separate herself. He feels quite strongly that’s not the way to win the war.
HBO: We finally got to see Jorah have a scene with another Mormont in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” What was it like working with Bella Ramsey?
Iain Glen: It was a lovely scene to do, she’s such a fine wee actress. One of the delicious things about Thrones, is that these characters who may be connected by lineage or family have been kept lands apart — and it takes eight seasons for people to come together. In the show I never interacted my father [Jeor Mormont] so it was lovely to interact with someone from the same house. She’s a very fiery character. It was funny, and there’s an edge of humor to it; you realize she’s not going to be moved or affected by whatever Jorah says to her, she’s going to be pursuing her path, which is a quality Jorah has too, but he can’t recognize in himself.
HBO: What was it like shooting “The Long Night”?
Iain Glen: It was probably as hard a sequence as we’ve ever shot over the eight-plus years. One aspect of Thrones I’ve always loved is the awesome scale of it. I still feel like a kid on the most extraordinary adventure when I walk onto set, and this was that in spades. I loved being a part of it.
I really recognized that as actors we are the one element within the crew that does not need to be there all day, every day. It was 11 weeks of night shoots, and it was a moving night shoot where they had to adjust with the moon. Part of the dynamic of the episode was the elements, so it had to be cold, dirty, snowy, and windy, but as actors at least we were coming and going. Nevertheless, those weeks I was involved were really hard. An episode like that is really where all the great skills of all the craftsmen, artists, and various departments of the show really have to do their best work, because it’s such a mammoth task to put it all together. I’ve got undying admiration for [director] Miguel Sapochnik and the crew and the way it was put together.
HBO: How about your final fight?
Iain Glen: It was spread over two nights and involved a big fire element. The first night we were set to shoot we had really high winds, so there was a fire issue, but they were going to try and resolve it. I had been waiting for half the season to do what was for me one of the most important scenes. My wife was in dress rehearsal for a play that night, and I rang her to say, “break a leg” and there was no reply so I left a message. And then I was called to set to rehearse the scene, and when I went back, I got a message from her saying she was in the hospital — she had suffered a brain hemorrhage. The nature of it, after it was all said and done, means it’s never going to happen again, and she’s fully recovered, but I was completely on the floor at the time, a total mess.
And of course there was a connection with Emilia [Clarke, who plays Daenerys], who I know has spoken publicly about her medical issues, and she was brilliant, and she, Miguel and [executive producer] Bernie Caulfield told me to go, get on a flight. We came back two weeks later, and they had all the elements in place, and conditions were good, and it felt like the right time to do it. It was my last scene of the episode, and it was a pretty amazing night. It felt like the right ending for Jorah.
HBO: That’s an incredibly emotional situation to be put in on top of an already emotional performance...what was it like for you once you wrapped?
Iain Glen: It was a very weird and lonely sensation. Once I was done, I just wanted to get out. I just wanted to hold it all in my head: what had been basically 10 years of my life. A massive slice of my working life, and in many ways the most important thing I’ve ever done.
HBO: We’re going to miss Jorah standing by Dany’s side. If he were with her for the rest of the season, what advice would he give?
Iain Glen: Try and find compromise with those people who can help your cause, and try and find forgiveness where you need it.
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