As promised, this season brings more juicy scenes per episode than we are used to, and that means more interviews with the cast as well, as they dissect their particular characters’ highlight scenes in the episode. This week, after Stormborn, it was the turn of Nathalie Emmanuel and John Bradley, who talked about romance and gross imagery — I’ll leave it to you, clever reader, to guess which of them talked about what.
The Hollywood Reporter discussed Sam’s scenes from this past episode with John Bradley, who is quite ecstatic about the reaction it got, though not surprised: “I knew it would be another memorable moment, and a visceral moment,” Bradley began. “Something that people are going to have a strong emotional connection to, and something people would be talking about. I was happy to be involved in something that was essential not just to my plot but also to Jorah’s storyline and how it impacts the Daenerys story. It was nice to feel like a part of that and the wider landscape and story. I was really happy for Sam as well. He’s taking matters into his own hands. He’s being brave. He’s defying authority. He had that dragonglass moment at the end of the first episode, and now he has another moment here where he can save somebody’s life. It’s nice for him that he’s now fulfilling his promises and putting his skills to good use.”
That doesn’t mean it was an easy shoot, however. In fact, it was a highly technical scene:
“Iain had to get up at 3 AM every morning we were filming those sequences,” Bradley revealed. “He had to sit there in a prosthetics trailer while they applied these really detailed and intricate greyscale prosthetics, piece by piece. That was a very long process. When I was peeling sections of that off, I was basically peeling the plastic latex prosthetic off of Iain’s actual body. He was kind of in a suit, and then there were a few parts with more give than what I could take off, which made it easier. It was the same as pulling away a prosthetic. It was a very, very big technical job for the prosthetics department. There were about five or six guys on set that day that you can’t see but were just out of the camera line, there with pumps and buckets of pus.”
After going into even greater detail about exactly how equally difficult and disgusting the scene was to film, Bradley moved on to the stone-man himself, Iain Glen:
“It’s quite a grueling process to have all of that applied to you, and you just have to sit back and stay still,” Bradley commiserated. “It’s quite a grueling experience to have four or five people swarming around you for hours at a time. I tried to be respectful in between shots and takes, giving him as much quiet time as I could. He needed to save some energy for the takes. It was a big job, to put across that level of pain and discomfort, the agony that his character is in. It’s a big acting job,” he told THR. “When you hear [Jorah’s howling], it really kind of pierces through your heart. The idea of a man being in such agony and being so uncomfortable … it was so distressing to hear … I think he was exceptional. He was exceptional on the day, and the way Mark shot it and edited it, it was just such an interesting sequence. I’m so happy that I got to be a part of it and to share the screen with Iain Glen. I’ve admired him for so long. I think he’s amazing.”
Once John was done with even more gushing about Iain Glen (who wouldn’t), he moved on to the commonalities between their characters, and the link that unites them:
“He feels he owes a debt to Lord Commander Mormont, and that’s what links those characters together … It was nice to play the part of meeting somebody you have this connection with, and somebody whose life you instantly want to save. There was something really beautiful about putting these two characters together. It was another one of the ways where the show can link two characters who you think have nothing in common, but it turns out they do and it’s really lovely.”
Maybe Sam and Jorah couldn’t have connected back when we first met them in season one, but they have both gone through a lot, especially Sam, as Bradley explained in detail to The Hollywood Reporter: “He walks into the room and sets about his business. He’s not tentative in that moment at all. He’s not dancing around Ser Jorah in a reserved and hesitant way like he normally would. He goes in and becomes the boss of that room. He tells Ser Jorah what to do. ‘Drink that, bite on that, take off your shirt.’ It’s a much more assertive side of him than we’ve seen before. We never even approached 10 percent of how assertive and confident he was in that moment. It’s all about stripping away all of that emotional baggage. Actually, it’s an interesting metaphor. He’s stripping away Jorah’s physical scars as he’s shedding his own psychological scars. They’re both shedding unwanted stuff. Jorah’s is physical and Sam’s is emotional, but they’re both progressing. You can see Sam’s progression this season already. He’s no longer willing to be shat on by life. He’s going into situations and taking control and doing things only because they’re the right thing to do. I love that progression for him this season.”
Nathalie Emmanuel talked to The Hollywood Reporter as well, though the subject matter was more pleasant, discussing first why Grey Worm and Missandei came together:
“They were both suddenly thrust into freedom. It was a whole new concept: freedom of having individual thoughts, or feelings, or opinions, as opposed to being told what to do and when to do it without question. They’re both thrust into this world based on their own skill and the respect of, in Missandei’s case, Daenerys, and Daenerys respecting Missandei’s abilities. For Grey Worm, it’s the mutual respect in his ability as a soldier. He’s elected as the leader of the Unsullied by his peers,” Emmanuel compared them. “Out of all the people who surround Daenerys, they understand where the other one has come from more than anybody else. Missandei is asked to teach him the common tongue. It grows from there. It grows from a mutual understanding, and also their vulnerability of being a little bit afraid, and also being afraid together.”
The actress then credited the writers —that is, showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, as well as Stormborn‘s writer Bryan Cogman— for telling this story in the first place:
“They’ve given it the time it’s due. These two characters, like I said, are both at least slightly nervous. This is all-new territory and slightly scary for them. To see this romance blossom so slowly over the last four seasons, it’s happened when it was supposed to happen. At no point could this have been rushed in any way. It wouldn’t have been truthful to them and the people they are, facing this whole new world and this foreign environment they’ve found themselves in together … I think the only reason it happened is because he was leaving [for war.] The situation made it happen sooner than it may have happened organically if there wasn’t the threat of war. I really appreciate the writers choosing to do that. It made it so much more of an impact. It made it so much more special when it did finally happen for them.”
“When I read it, I found it very touching,” Nathalie said, regarding the sex scene. “I thought it was very, very well-written. All of the moments and feelings of each of those characters was laid out so beautifully on the page already. It made me very excited about discovering more and seeing what else we could bring out of it. We had rehearsals for it when we eventually came around to filming. We played with other different ways of telling this next phase of their story.” This is not to say she didn’t find the nudity “nerve-racking,” but she felt “incredibly safe” thanks to Jacob Anderson and director Mark Mylod, and the extensive preparations made it easier: “We rehearsed and decided exactly what was going to happen in terms of the disrobing and the action of the scene. We walked onto set that day knowing exactly what was going to happen … It allowed us to pour our energy into the performance and hitting the notes we wanted to hit, and to show each character’s feelings in the scene and what it meant to them.”
Finally, Nathalie Emmanuel had a few stern words for those who were confused by how they could possibly have sex without a penis, a sentiment I very much agree with:
“I think people are very unimaginative if that’s all they can think about. It’s interesting. I read an article this morning about the scene, and this idea that people who are eunuchs aren’t sexual beings — these heteronormative ideas of sex of a penis going into a vagina, like it’s the only way people can conceive sex and sexual intimacy. Obviously we know from the many different types of relationships in the world that penises aren’t always needed.” Whether Grey Worm’s “pillar” was cut as well as his “stones,” a fact not actually revealed in the universe of the show, Emmanuel believes it’s inconsequential: “Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to these two characters. It doesn’t mean they can’t be sexually involved with each other, even if he has no penis. It’s so interesting to me that people are like, ‘Well, how did they do it?’ Well, if you don’t know, I sort of feel sorry for you. (Laughs.) You maybe need to explore some things, because it’s really fun if you do!”
Amen! Seriously. The confused reaction to their romance before this scene (and during it, in some cases!), from men especially, has been disheartening. It paints a sad picture.
“Her wanting to see him isn’t about whether or not he has a penis,” Emmanuel continued with an explanation that wouldn’t be necessary with some basic sex ed. “It’s about seeing all of the man that she loves. Despite everything they’ve both been through, all of the scars and the brutality, she just loves this man. She accepts him in his entirety. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about whether he can perform in the bedroom. Even if he couldn’t, up to this point, it hasn’t stopped her from loving him any less. She knows his situation. She came from that world. She knows what the masters did to those boys and she loves him anyway. Their intimacy is something else. It’s an emotional connection, which, for me, personally, is the foundation of any physical intimacy that means anything. It’s a great basis for them to have a physical relationship already, but whether or not the show decides to reveal those details is irrelevant. It doesn’t change how Missandei feels about him. That’s the point, and that’s why they probably chose not to [show it]. I can’t speak for the writers, but that’s the obvious reason for me as to why we don’t know or not: because ultimately, Missandei does not care. She loves him anyway.”
Give Emmanuel a medal, please. So many people need to read these last few paragraphs. You should read both interviews in their entirety, too, as Emmanuel and Bradley got much deeper into their scenes — the sex scene and the background for it, and the technical aspects of Jorah’s treatment, as well as Sam’s story with his father, respectively.