Robert Aramayo on taking on Ned Stark and the Tower of Joy

Ned
Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO

One of the major highlights of the latest episode of Game of Thrones was the long-awaited Tower of Joy scene. The epic fight sequence features a youthful version of Ned Stark and his friends taking on Targaryen-era Kingsguard knights in an effort to reach his sister Lyanna in the tower.  This week, Robert Aramayo, the 23-year-old English actor who brought young Ned to life speaks with Access Hollywood and The Hollywood Reporter about taking on the iconic role originated by Sean Bean.

“I don’t think I can comprehend how lucky I am to be able to play such an iconic character, such a loved character,” the actor tells Access Hollywood. He says that he loves Game of Thrones. “It’s the only show that I watch religiously, and it was an honor and a gift to be able to be a part of it.”

On transforming into the younger Ned, Aramayo tells AH he didn’t try to impersonate Bean. “He sounds very earthy and gritty and grounded and stuff, so I just had to sort of think about where that comes from in terms of your voice and sort of trying to find that within myself because the last thing that I wanted to do is sort of impersonate Sean. I didn’t want to do — in the strictness sense — an impersonation of the man. I wanted to think more about Ned, and him years before the Ned that we know so well and the things that a younger man possess that an older man has figured out. So, that was really where my work was situated was in figuring out the parameters that surrounded this scene, this moment in time.”

Though witnessing the scene along with Bran, we learned that Ned’s defeat over Ser Arthur Dayne wasn’t necessarily as heroic as people have always been told, or as honorable as some would have assumed. But how the Tower of Joy’s fight played out may have a big impact on Ned’s character. Aramayo explains, “I do feel like that’s a lesson learned for Ned about like honor and beginning to sort of — because the told story is that Ned beat Arthur Dayne, which is of course, certainly in the portrayal [in ‘Oathbreaker’], kind of untrue, really. And I think that speaks to how honor began to sort of operate for Ned and I would argue that in the [subsequent] years, he would live his life from an honorable place, having been dishonored in this moment.”

Aramayo was aware of the significance of the Tower of Joy among the Game of Thrones fandom.  Quite the weight to be carrying for the recent Juilliard grad who was new to television. He tells Access Hollywood, “‘Game of Thrones’… was the first time that I’ve been on a television set. … It was scary. I didn’t know what to expect, but thankfully everybody — everybody’s been very lovely. And when you do something like this, which is very sort of spoken about, the Tower of Joy is spoken a lot amongst fans of the show, and readers of the book — it’s a very heavily spoken about event in history, so you just endeavored to sort of like give it everything you’ve got and hope that the people who’ve been waiting for this scene, respond in – have gotten everything that they need from that scene.”

There’s even more at the source so be sure to check out the complete article at Access Hollywood!

The Hollywood Reporter also has details to share on the actor, including more about his background as a fan of the show, sharing it with family and friends.

Aramayo“I’ve watched the series since the beginning, since I was 17, with my dad. We were watching it from the beginning when it first aired in the U.K., and we were hooked,” he tells THR. “I’ve watched it ever since. Ned was always my favorite character. I was distraught when he left the show. I didn’t think it was possible. I didn’t think they could do that — killing such a well-loved character was such a shock to me. I’ve always felt very sad that Ned left the show so quickly. He was such an impactful character on the story, and still is to this day. I haven’t read the books, but I have a big circle of friends who are avid book readers, so that was very useful when I was cast in the role.”

Aramayo explains he didn’t know it was Ned he was auditioning for when he read for the part, but after winning the role, he watched season 1 scenes again to get a feel for Ned. “I was especially keen to watch the fight between him and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), because that’s a great example of the way that he fought.”

For research purposes, he did also turn to the written material. “I read the [Tower of Joy] scene in the books. My friend was kind enough to show it to me. My best friend is a very avid book reader, and he wrote down on four sheets of paper everything that I was not allowed to forget.”

(This sounds like something one of us would do, quite frankly.)

And most importantly, he speaks on creating the epic fight scene:

We all went through a bunch of training, which continued through our three- or four-day shoot in Spain. It was intense. It was not easy. I did not find it easy to shoot that fight sequence. It’s not an easy routine at all. And Luke Roberts [who plays Arther Dayne], he’s incredible, man. What a badass, dual-wielding swords and fighting four guys at the same time and dispatching three of them. It was fantastic to delve into that kind of work, because it’s the same…playing a moment in a fight is just like playing a moment as an actor. You have to have an intention. If your move’s getting blocked, you obviously can’t know that, just like when you’re playing a scene through dialogue. You can’t know the response your scene partner gives you is going to be the response you’ll get. You hope it is. Likewise, in a fight, if you’re going to chop somebody’s arm off or stab them in the gut — the intention is to chop that arm off or stab someone in the gut, and you have to play that intention fully. I didn’t expect it, but it takes a lot of skill in terms of acting to play. That’s why I feel the stunt team is so talented, that they can pull off telling you what you’re going for, that this is what you’re going for, and hopefully you’ll get it.

Aramayo’s hard work paid off and he did one hell of a job as Ned. Game of Thrones has an amazing track record when it comes to casting and the show’s award-winning stunt team.

By the way, there’s lots more interesting info and background in The Hollywood Reporter‘s piece so I recommend checking it out!

Sue the Fury
Susan Miller, Editor in Chief of WatchersOnTheWall.com

105 Comments

  1. Excellent interview! You can tell that Aramayo really cares about the character, the show, and the opportunity that he was given to bring such an iconic scene to life. He knocked it out of the park. I’m very much looking forward to watching the rest of his scenes this season!

  2. Best fight choreography in GoT till date for sure!
    I can’t wait for the next behind scenes after episode 4! They will be covering episode 3 and 4 this time.
    I’m really hoping to see more of how they filmed and trained for this amazing sequence.

  3. i think he is great as Ned, his approach to the character really works even if he is not identical, and even then he is close enough. He delivered those lines perfectly and his fight was great

  4. “I was especially keen to watch the fight between him and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), because that’s a great example of the way that he fought.”

    That’s what I thought just after seeing the scene, Aramayo moves just like Sean Bean did, great work.

  5. Personally I didn’t think the casting for him was that great. I didn’t get the feeling I was seeing Ned Stark at all.

  6. Florian: That’s what I thought just after seeing the scene, Aramayo moves just like Sean Bean did, great work.

    I felt the same. He did a great job!

  7. I think all of us here can appreciate him studying up on Ned’s season 1 mannerisms, as well as his friends having him read the ToJ sequence. I think he did a great job, especially considering the pressure that there are always going to be some people (ahem) who are going to complain because he’s not an actual clone of Sean Bean. But I think he did a fantastic job, and I can’t wait to see him do some less physical and more emotive acting inside the tower 😉

  8. He did a great job and he looks fairly close to Sean Bean and the movement was spot on. Almost like Sean. I was dissapointed that it wasn’t Sean at first (come on Beanie) but Robert did a great job. It wasn’t the last flashback we’ll see him in. In fact maybe even more than one. Really love his passion for Game of Thrones, he studied Sean Bean’s movement, mannerism and TOJ sequence from the books.

    Don’t know if anyone posted it already but Eddie Eyre played both Ser Gerold Hightower and Ser Oswell Whent. In case you didn’t know. There must be wet nurse or someone helping Lyanna and my bet is on Wylla. So Ned, Howland and Wylla. Maybe that’s why Wylla was supposed to be Jon’s mother.

  9. Loved him! Looking forward to the scene inside the tower. That will be emotionally charged, for sure.

  10. I really liked the casting of Aramayo and Roberts as Ned and Dayne and think they did an amazing job. Also had thoughts of the the wolf vs. lion scene when Ned had to fight Dayne alone, this really matched. Don’t know if it was the best fight scene in GoT (so much competition), but it was for sure extraordinary.
    But the real highlight for me was the Zafra castle location. Best location they could find for the ToJ scene, just perfect, although I wished we would see it from more different angles.

  11. I loved his portrayal. Brilliant casting as always. Hopefully the next flashbacks will be equally excellent.

  12. Geralt of Rivia:

    Don’t know if anyone posted it already but Eddie Eyre played both Ser Gerold Hightower and Ser Oswell Whent. In case you didn’t know.

    Where was Hightower??? The other KG guy was clearly meant to be Ser Oswell Whent with the whetstone.

  13. The only complaint I had about the ToJ was how quickly the fight seemed to be over, in relative terms, but, after reading what Armayo said went into shooting the scene, I can understand the relative brevity. 3-4 days to shoot what they did, yeah, it would have been cool if it lasted a little longer, but I can appreciate the reasons for the length it ended up being; all that fight choreography, all that training, all that hard work, and it takes 3-4 days to get just that much at that quality.

    Shooting schedules for TV are pretty hard; you’ve only got so much time to devote to a given scene, especially when you’re location shooting, like they did for ToJ, and there’s more to the scene than just the fight too, so, loved it, just wished it had been a little longer, totally understand why it wasn’t.

    And for my money, Armayo nailed it as young Ned. Great job.

  14. Robert Aramayo probably never imagined when he started watching the show as a teenager he’d end up playing Ned, much less any other role six years later. Congrats to him, what an exciting opportunity. (Also amazing that enough time has passed that GoT has become so influential among younger, up-and-coming performers already.)

    Ser Cyrus,

    I keep thinking Martin should just set up a website and post everything he’s written for Winds online. At least the loyal book fans can have something, after all these years waiting!

  15. Except for the guy in the foreground left just swinging at nothing while Dayne rips his friends new ones.

  16. His body language when fighting was spot-on, especially when he raised his sword before going 1-to-1 with Dayne. Looking forward to seeing him interact with Lyanna.

  17. Robert Aramayo As Nex was amazing , he captured everything and more you would expect. Let’s have a prequel and get him in a full series as Ned. Brilliant fantastic nailed it Aranayo

  18. Lyanna_Targaryen,

    I think you nailed it on the other thread when you said that the episode 6 title “Blood of my Blood” would possibly refer to the Flashback That Was Promised. I think we’ll see a Hodor-centric flashback in E5 and the rest of ToJ in E6 and then flashback time’s over because the Night’s King is taking over 😈

  19. Jared,

    Thanks for the info, but this I think is really strange. Why would Dayne do all the talking with his Lord commander standing behind him? The only line “Hightower” got matched one of Whent’s from the book and he didn’t look like much of a “White Bull”.

    On the other hand, I know, show is show and book is book, but for me he will remain Ser Oswell Whent.

  20. Rhaenys Stark,

    I wouldn’t say alone.

    Someone will have to help her during birth. My bet is on Wylla, in the books it was stated that they had to take Ned away from his sister. Didn’t it? No fighter inside but someone needs to be there.
  21. Wow – very impressed by this young actor, his comments and his desire to play the part so well. Looking forward to more of him later (hopefully this week) and to see him acting elsewhere as well.

  22. I didn’t like his Ned that much. His voice was too high, the accent was a bit off (The way he said “No..” was almost like an cringy, exaggerated impression of Bean’s thick Yorkshire accent).

    The way he moved was pretty close but his facial stucture was completely wrong. Sean bean had a long gaunt face when he was younger. This guy’s face is too round and eyes too narrow, he looks a lot more like Neil Patrick Harris than young Beanie.

    It could have been much much worse in the end though and I still enjoyed the scene very much, especially the fight sequence.

  23. Geralt of Rivia,

    I just can’t wait to see this part of the flashback. Do you think we’ll have it in episode 5? Or 6? ‘Blood of my Blood’ sounds like an appropriate title for the big reveal.

  24. Ser Cyrus,

    Have you any information as to whether the new chapter is new as in the sense of brand new or is a pushed back from DWD chapter?

  25. So I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this but Ice is WAY smaller in these scenes compared to earlier in the shows history. Just google pictures of Sean Bean as Ned Stark and compare him holding Ice to Robert Aramayo in the above pictures. Its been incredibly scaled down.

  26. Oskaras:
    I didn’t like his Ned that much. His voice was too high, the accent was a bit off (The way he said “No..” was almost like an cringy, exaggerated impression of Bean’s thick Yorkshire accent).

    Aramayo is from Yorkshire.

    FlyingMonkeySoup:
    So I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this but Ice is WAY smaller in these scenes compared to earlier in the shows history.Just google pictures of Sean Bean as Ned Stark and compare him holding Ice to Robert Aramayo in the above pictures.Its been incredibly scaled down.

    That’s not Ice, it’s Ned’s longsword. He also carries it in season 1: http://imgur.com/kpxp1QT

  27. Guys , tell me where I’m wrong here.
    Ned had five companions.
    Against he greatest swordsman in living history and his sidekick.
    What is more honorable?
    Risk the lives of your 5 companions to save his 1 sister or have them draw their crossbows and have 2 KG yield or just shoot bolts and arrows through their chests or throw a net on them, etc? This whole ordeal seemed so dumb and unecessarily forced overdramatic.

  28. FlyingMonkeySoup,

    That wasn’t ice, ice is more like a ceremonial sword, it cant be used to fight because of its size, if you look the first season ned uses that same sword all the time and ice only to chop off the head of the dessertor of the night watch. Sorry the english 🙂

  29. Rhaenys Stark,

    Could be but it fits even more to Daeny, Jorah and Dothraki. The Door title sounds interesting and it could represent literally door to her chamber. One of these two it will be and truth will be revealed.

  30. I got all my good money on… – Wylis getting traumatized into Hodor at the tower of joy. He’s in the tower and its Leanna’s death that does it, or young Ned so he cant reveal the big secret about the twins (Meera and Jon). also, IF Howland Reed is really the high sparrow, that sure changes everything in KL. He then becomes a hero to me for screwing with the Lannisters.
    p.s. that is NOT a dire wolfs head! nope! no way!

  31. Geralt of Rivia,

    Considering the actor playing young Hodor says he is in episode 5 ‘The Door’, I believe the second part of the TOJ will be in episode 6 ‘Blood Of My Blood’. I don’t see them putting the reveal about what happened to Hodor and confirming R+L=J in the same episode. GOT loves to have dual meanings for their episode titles, so the big reveal in the tower would fit with ‘Blood of my Blood’.

    Jon is of Ned’s blood, but not his son. It’s also revealed that Jon shares Dany’s blood.

    So I think it all fits.

  32. Just wanna say that I totally loved his portrayal of Ned Stark, I thought it was perfect. And I just effing loved that scene. I was not expecting something like that so I was floored!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. 30% of the show is already over. Feels sick. One has not gotten used to GoT actually being back and soon half the season is already gone. And the show is almost over. People will end their lives once GoT is off the air.

    That sword duel in ep 3 was a freaking masterpiece. He actually looked capable of taking out all those who surrounded him.

  34. JP Dayne:
    Guys , tell me where I’m wrong here.
    Ned had five companions.
    Against he greatest swordsman in living history and his sidekick.
    What is more honorable?
    Risk the lives of your 5 companions to save his 1 sister or have them draw their crossbows and have 2 KG yield or just shoot bolts and arrows through their chests or throw a net on them, etc? This whole ordeal seemed so dumb and unecessarily forced overdramatic.

    Hey send your complaint to George R.R. Martin, he wrote the damned thing. And while you may have a point, it is hardly dramatic as a writer would want the reader to feel. Your way is boring as hell. I rather would see the fight and the incredible prowess of Ser Arthur Dayne, which we would never had seen had it not been for this account of him in the books.

  35. Unless Whent shows up, there’s also a continuity error as Joffrey once pointed to the Kingsguard book for Arthur Dayne’s chapter when mocking Jaime in an earlier season. And right next to it, clearly legible, is the ending of Ser Gerold Hightower, which includes his death by Ned and his companions, along with Dayne and Whent.

    Guess the budget couldn’t afford 1 more companion and 1 more guard?

  36. Direwolf Lvr,

    What percentage of the audience do you think actually took the time to zoom in on the page and read it? I would guess less than 5 percent, and likely much less.

  37. Marlana: Why release an already publicized chapter now during GoT season?

    It covers House Martell so it doesn’t really make a difference.

  38. Direwolf Lvr,

    They did there job, protecting Lyanna and presumably her baby. In the books it was mentioned that Kingsguard should be protecting Viserys in case Rhaegar was dead or presumed. They explained that they’re guarding their prince. They changed it for the show. There had to be someone with her, to help her. She can’t give a birth by her own. Fewer (after the birth possibly, not expert on this) took her or so as Ned said.

    Tyrion Pimpslap,

    It could be episode 6 and the way you explained, it fits and usually episode titles do have more meanings. Truth be told, I really like this take on it. “Blood Of My Blood”. I totally forgot about Hodor but for what is this good for? To know his origins. They’ll probably try to avoid two flashbacks in one episode but this leaves me wondering. When will Bran learn about White Walkers?

  39. The interesting question was never answered:

    Was the actor in ANOTHER scene? After all, if that was his only scene, we are probably not going to find out what happened inside the ToJ.

    That’s what I (and I’ll bet just about everyone out there) wants to know.

  40. Geralt of Rivia,

    I presume Bran will do something around episode 8-9 that, as we know from filming spoilers,

    will make him leave the cave . My guess is that he will overdo it with his powers and the Night’s King will detect his presence (as we saw in the trailer where he grabs his hand) and send wights after him.
  41. Oskaras Spalvys,

    Yorkshire accent 100% nailed close your eyes listen. You could be listening to Sean bean. Who is also from YORKSHIRE , they live 20 miles apart. Nailed the accent. Nailed the scene. Well done Aramayo.

  42. Mike:
    Oskaras Spalvys,

    Yorkshire accent 100% nailed close your eyes listen. You could be listening to Sean bean.Who is also from YORKSHIRE , they live 20 miles apart.Nailed the accent.Nailed the scene. Well done Aramayo.

    His accent seemed more extreme than Sean Bean’s.

  43. Direwolf Lvr,

    What the heck is a knight of the Kingsguard supposed to do for

    a woman in agony during childbirth, even if she is in dire circumstances? I got the impression that, except for perhaps Jaime Lannister, most men stayed the heck away from a woman once she’s taken to bed to give birth, trusting the women to care for her.
  44. Oskaras,

    I cant believe people are picking on this voice. He is a teenager in the flashback, it should be higher, different than a grown man’s voice.

  45. Salty Dornishman:
    Direwolf Lvr,

    What the heck is a knight of the Kingsguard supposed to do for

    Agreed with this statement. Most men get as far away from the name calling as possible, at least back then, I would assume. These days it is more normal for a dude to be there during the birth of their child. I don’t expect Kings Guard to be phased by a woman screaming during child birth.

  46. In the same episode Pycelle talks about Hightower so for me Eddie Eyre was playing Gerold Hightower.
    Fun fact : like Pycelle fart scene

    Maybe the big twist is that Hodor is Jon Snow’s Father

  47. I really wish I had the words to express the extent to which it does not matter whether Eyre was playing a guy named Hightower or a guy named Whent.

  48. Direwolf Lvr,

    Luke Roberts posted a picture on Twitter of himself beside another guy (not Eddie Eyre – this looked to be an older gentleman) in Targaryen armour. I took it to be a stunt man. They could have had three if they had wanted three. Maybe Ned surprises Oswell Whent on his lunch break as he enters the tower. 🙂 jk

  49. The first thing I thought when watching this scene was “wow he fights just like older Ned” – and now this interview has confirmed that he purposefully studied how Sean fought, especially against Jamie.

    So cool. Just wish they had included a quick shot of the Kingsguard removing their cloaks. I know you see them wearing them, but then immediately after the cloaks are on the rocks behind them. Would’ve been cool to see them de-cloak.

  50. Just watched his sequence again and he’s as close to perfect as you can get as young Ned. Hopefully they start casting the prequel soon so they can use him before he’s too old.

  51. Was this actor really the best they could do? I thought he was horrible frankly, and his performance was one of the main reasons why I was unable to click with D & D’s malnourished version of ToJ.

    The actor playing Ser Arthur Dayne on the other hand was pretty good .

  52. coming from yorkshire the accent was spot on. don’t know how anyone can debate that. Proper sheffielders accent.

  53. I was not crazy about this young Ned either. Although the kid tried hard and he certainly reminded us of Bean. Still, I think he tried too hard to be Bean and forgot the acting part. It’s on the director too, just shoving such an “adult” line (“now it ends”) in the throat of someone who looks only recently out of highschool. But he’ll catch up in the tower scene, hopefully.
    I couldn’t help myself to root more for Ser Arthur Dayne in that scene; and that wasn’t only because he was prettier.

  54. I just didn’t sense any weight or gravitas behind his performance, it felt like a poorly done parody to me. Oh well, what’s done is done 🙁

  55. Al Swearengen:
    I just didn’t sense any weight or gravitas behind his performance, it felt like a poorly done parody to me. Oh well, what’s done is done

    I don’t get the sense you are the barometer for what makes for good acting.

  56. Sou: I couldn’t help myself to root more for Ser Arthur Dayne in that scene; and that wasn’t only because he was prettier.

    Forgive me, but I think that was largely the point. It was supposed to turn the traditionally recited narrative on its head a bit (see: observations from Bran and Bloodraven regarding this).

  57. They made an excellent choice with the actors.
    The moment where he said “No, now it ends” gave me chills because of how aweosme this was said. Truly talented actors, all of them in that scene.

  58. GeekFurious,

    I’ve seen my fair share of television during my lifetime to know what qualifies as good acting. That actor’s performance was pretty bad IMO.

    But at the end of the day it’s all subjective. If I am in the minority then so be it, I don’t blindly follow the mob like others seem to take pleasure in doing so.

  59. In the first unedited paragraph of his interview did anyone else notice the number of times he repeats the term “sort of…” after literally every other sentence,
    I am not too fond of this casting. Maybe the eyes resembled Sean Bean a little but his face overall was much smaller(?) I can’t quite put my finger on it but my mum said that he looked like a baby chick compared to the charismatic and rugged Ned we love so much. I just didn’t buy that he was a younger version of Ned. But oh well maybe he was the best they could find in the given time.

  60. Salty Dornishman:
    Direwolf Lvr,

    What the heck is a knight of the Kingsguard supposed to do for

    Not only are they medieval men, they are highborn medieval men. They wouldn’t be anywhere near

    Lyanna giving birth. That’s midwife/serving woman stuff. Could there be a Maester there? Hmmm… Also wanted to add that “Blood of my Blood” would also refer to Lyanna lying in a blood-soaked bed with her bloody newborn. Does anyone think that we might actually get to see ASHARA DAYNE? I could die a happy woman if I could see her!
  61. sellsword_23,

    Eddie Eyre has stated on Twitter that he was playing Ser Gerald Hightower. They may have combined the two, to give Dayne more of a spotlight, or there may yet be more action inside the Tower with Whent, but I kind of doubt it.

  62. J Lee: They may have combined the two, to give Dayne more of a spotlight, or there may yet be more action inside the Tower with Whent, but I kind of doubt it.

    Well, given that none of them are characters in any meaningful sense, it really does not matter if they were called Abbott and Costello! (And even then, it really would not matter.)

    The important part is that Bran has just learned that epic legends are not historical facts. It also sets up what will probably be the really important part, when Ned comprehends how badly he misunderstood the circumstances.

  63. Ashara D,

    There probably would have been a Maester in attendance, too. Moreover, they would need a cook or two, multiple servants for cleaning, dressing, emptying chamber pots, etc., a stable boy or two.

    However, none of them would have been worth noting, save perhaps a certain wet-nurse.

    Also, I think that you are spot-on regarding the entendres of Blood.

    On a side note, supposedly “real” Thrones fans are all pissed that the “reveal” did not happen last week! I thought that the consensus here was that it needed to be in 2 parts. Well, I guess that people here do not qualify as “real” fans, then.

  64. I think he did a great job, but if only Thrones had the budget of an MCU film lol, and they had Sean play the part himself with a little CG de-aging ala RDJ in Civil War and Michael Douglas in Ant Man. 🙂

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