The actor behind Jorah Mormont talks about his fight scenes in Season 5, getting to know Tyrion, and his enduring love for Daenerys.
HBO: We first saw Jorah this season in a brothel in Volantis. Do you have any thoughts as to how he was spending his time after his banishment?
Iain Glen: I'm not saying he spent the whole time drunk in a brothel, but I think it's indicative we found him there. He had a very strong purpose and mission in his life supporting and promoting Daenerys in her pursuit of the end game. They had worked very well with each other, and I think it says something that Daenerys doesn't find herself in a good place, getting advice from all quarters.
HBO: Do you think he even considered returning to Westeros to collect his pardon?
Iain Glen: I don't think so. I'm always going judge Jorah favorably because I'm playing him, but my instinct was that although his initial approach at the Dothraki wedding had a serious duality to it, it was within days – if not hours – that he changed his mind. You see that in that first season when he saves her life, and he has done so a number of times across the five seasons. The notion of returning has never been important since Jorah fully appreciated who Daenerys was.
HBO: Jorah's time on the road with Tyrion is both comic and profound. Does he have a new appreciation for Tyrion after spending time with him?
Iain Glen: Tyrion is a very complex character – he's a man who has murdered the head of his family, so obviously he has got something conflicted going on. Jorah begins to see the man for who he is. Like all things in Thrones, it's not an easy journey. They have to go through a near-death situation to understand each other. And they have patter – Tyrion can spontaneously introduce the idea that Jorah could survive if he really sells himself within the world of the fighting pits, and Jorah is swift to roll with that idea.
As much as I, story-wise and personally, missed working with Emilia [Clarke, who plays Dany], there was a real bonus to being released to a very different story line and working with different players, particularly Peter [Dinklage]. Like the best actors, he is very interested in trying to tell the best story he can.
HBO: Were you given any instructions going into the season about how to prepare for the fights?
Iain Glen: The production is always thorough in their preparation. I knew before I even read any of the script that it would be a physical season for me. I went out a month before we started shooting and got an outline of what was going to be required. The Stone Men fight was going to be worked out closer to when we saw practicalities of the boats. It was a much more spontaneous fight. The big one, at Daznak, is a series of one-on-one fights that need to be integrated into the overall fight. Let me say the stunt coordinators and guys who I fought with are incredibly flattering of actors. They make us look a lot better than we are. You very rarely get bruised because they know how to look after you.
Combat unarmed and armed, is something I've always loved since I was at drama school. The trick of it is to know it inside and out. It's exactly same with stage fighting or film fighting, you need to know the moves, and if you know them, they can go fast without worrying, "Oh god, what's coming next."
HBO: At Daznak, Jorah declares he fights and dies for Daenerys' glory. Is he prepared to die for her?
Iain Glen: He was always willing to lay down his life. The fact that he has contracted greyscale, there's a sense for Jorah that his demise might be coming sooner. He had tried a number of ways to get back to Daenerys and his big play with Tyrion didn't work. He walks away and thinks, "F**k it, I don't care. I'm going to put myself in front of her one more time and the only way to do that is to put myself against seasoned fighters in a pit. If I can't persuade you with words how I feel, then I'll show you."
HBO: As he tackles each fighter, is he hoping she'll stop the combat?
Iain Glen: There's one point where he feels that it's over, and he looks to her. I don't think he wants her to stop it – he's willing to sacrifice himself – but he's saying, "Do you believe me now?" It forces Daenerys to react. Jorah can see her panic and fear. But she's a strong lady and she's made her decision. There's a lovely moment after the fight when everything goes pear-shaped, a hand is offered and a hand is taken. Something is forgiven and united at the moment.
HBO: Can you describe Jorah’s reaction to seeing Drogon in action?
Iain Glen: He's seen her walk into a fire; he's seen her consume a horse's innards; he's seen her rise to so many occasions and just do the incomprehensible. It's probably one of the biggest of those moments. They're in such a dire strait, for the dragon to arrive and for her to climb on, it's a moment full of wonder, love, and admiration.
HBO: It's nice to know that as stoic as Jorah appears, he can still be moved by a sight like that.
Iain Glen: I've always seen Jorah as a romantic. He's adored this woman. If it's unreciprocated then so be it. He still can't help it.
HBO: Who would you want to have scenes with?
Iain Glen: Arya, I would love a scene with her. She's been through such a weird and wonderful journey, not the least in this season. It'd be very good to find out where her head is.
HBO: Which character would you like to face in a fighting pit?
Iain Glen: As Jorah… it sounds cowardly, but I'd like to face Littlefinger. I'd like to know the reality of what he spreads and some of the consequences of the balls he sets rolling.
As Iain… Jerome Flynn (Bronn). I've known him from when we were in opposing drama schools in London. We used to play football together and try to cripple each other on the field. He might be better than me at football, but in armed combat, I'd whip his ass.
HBO: Who would you want to see on the Iron Throne?
Iain Glen: I'll give you one guess.
Read more about "The Dance of Dragons" in an interview with the man behind Daario Naharis, Michiel Huisman.