Directors and showrunners will agree that extras don’t often get a lot of money, attention or even thanks for what they do — but they’ll also be the first to admit that without the multitudes of never-credited background actors, a show like Game of Thrones that requires armies, battle scenes and city streets alike would never be possible.
Showrunners Dave Benioff and Dan Weiss recently talked with EW about the “spectacular” extras they’ve worked with on Thrones, especially those on the Northern Ireland set where epic scenes like Season 6’s Battle of the Bastards was filmed. According to EW, extras were separately trained for each army in the battle to develop a group’s sense of comradery, coordination, and teamwork, while some had the grueling job of serving in 20-foot-high body pile, spending all day intermingled with gory mock corpses.
Weiss noted that the “enthusiasm and the realism [the extras] brought” made all the difference.
“They work so hard with these insane hours,” he said. “You think back on how many of our scenes where the extras play such a major part.”
“Many of these guys kept long hair and beards purely for the show, and they even came up with character names and backstories for themselves, their childhood traumas, what House they owed allegiance to, even though [those details] are not in the show,” Benioff added. “It really adds to the believability of so many shots — whether they’re behind Jon Snow at Castle Black or at Winterfell or wherever — that these dudes really take this seriously and have passion for it.”
Benioff and Weiss feel incredibly grateful for the dedication of extras and their understanding of what it means to be “in the background” of a shot — especially when high-profile extras like celebrities are part of a shot and don’t realize what they’re getting into.
“A lot of people — especially bands that would come on the show — would come on [as extras] and we would warn them: ‘You realize this is going to intensely, numbingly boring for you.’ And they say, ‘No, no, it’s great,’ and then six hours into their three-day shoot you have Sigur Ros asking if they can go home and you’re like, ‘No, you’re in this shot, and this shot lasts for three days,’ ” Weiss said. “They were as far from being divas about it as you can imagine but you could see this little piece of them die when they realized they were going to be there for another two-and-a-half days.”
Speaking of battle-hardened warriors, cast members like Richard Dormer (Beric Dondarrion), Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane), Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) and others told Radio Times that they were gifted with storyboards from the production team that commemorated their time on the show and their role.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark) got one of the scene in which he’s pushed out of a window; Conleth Hill (Varys) received a storyboard from the scene where he reveals his backstory to Tyrion and “unboxes” the sorcerer who cut him; Coster-Waldau was gifted a reminder of the scene where his sword hand was severed; Carice van Houten (Melisandre) was given an impression of her birth of a shadow assassin in Season 2; and Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth) received a reminder of the wildfire explosion during the Battle of the Blackwater.
Interestingly, some cast members received storyboards from the upcoming final season, which would seem to indicate that their biggest, most defining moments are still to come.
“I just got a scene, one where I…it’s one of the scenes of this year,” McCann said. “It’s just a small scene I can’t discuss yet.” Ditto for Christie, who said that she couldn’t divulge the scene “But not because I don’t want to – I just can’t.”
Dormer also added his storyboard was of his last scene, which he “can’t say anything” about yet. Pease not that storyboards are usually reserved for action setpieces and any scene that needs heavy pre-visualization; this being Beric’s last scene, it doesn’t bode well for him that it’ll likely be an action sequence.
Finally, ChannelNews Asia posted a quick interview clip with Christie, Dormer, Cunningham and van Houten making their picks for who should or will sit on the Iron Throne will the series is all said and done, and they ranged from sensible (if a little far-fetched) to the unorthodox.
“I’m currently favoring one of the direwolves, because it’s not gone well with humans,” Christie said. Van Houten chose Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), simply because “there’s no way he’s going to be on the Throne,” and Cunningham had an interesting choice: himself (or at least his character Davos).
“Character-wise, wouldn’t it be nice? I’m not saying he does, not saying he doesn’t, but he’s a decent man,” Cunningham said. Dormer agreed, although he noted that Davos would have to have a strong right-hand man — a “bad cop” to Davos’ “good cop.”
The eighth and final season of Thrones premieres April 14th!