Becky got to chat with him about the release of Season 1 on DVD and Blu-ray which is our to buy now.
Did you expect it to be such a big hit?
I didn’t, I was naive when it came to film work and TV and obviously I’d watched loads but when the actual process came along, it was a long process to it coming out – from the pilot to it coming out and I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it was going to appeal to a certain group of people and to some extent it broke out of that group and keeps doing so. It was a shock for me but a really nice one and continues to be.
Do you get people shouting ‘bastard’ at you in the street?!
Not as much as I thought. You do get people shouting ‘bastard’ at then you go ‘oh, thanks’ but it’s always done with a sense that they’re enjoying the show so that again is always a nice thing. I think playing a character like that is interesting. He’s got that chip on his shoulder, that thing, that name that’s attached to him like Tyrion has ‘The imp’ he has ‘The bastard’ and I think that was one of the things appealed to me when I got the script through the door. He’s got an albino wolf, he’s a bastard and he’s separated, what does that make him? That’s the first point of call when you go to creating a character – that’s the thing he has that rides on him the whole time.
In this world that we create, a bastard child, an illegitimate child is a real shame on the family. But it’s never a shame on the man that’s done the disloyalty, all of the guilt rides on the child which is one of the hugely unfair things about this world. It’s a rule in these Kingdoms that the second name of a bastard child is ‘Snow’ if he’s of the North ‘River’ if he’s born of the River land, ‘Flower’ if he’s born of the Southern Lands and ‘Stone’ if he’s born of the Dragon’s Den’ and I quite like those names, it’s where you’re from. But essentially what it’s saying is you’re not of a family, you’re of a place, you are a nobody and so Jon Snow, every time he says ‘I’m Jon Snow’ people instantly say ‘oh, you’re a bastard then’.
Did you watch Season 1?
I did, I watched it once. I don’t like to delve into it too much and re-watch it because I dont think that’s helpful acting-wise. It’s important to know the whole story and see how everything’s done so you know how your part fits in even though you kind of know anyway. I think it’s important to watch it once so you can see what your character arc and character development looks like throughout the first series moving into the second. I go back every now and again for the second season to watch bits to re-jig my mind about what I’m doing so I dont go off path of the character for season 2 and create a different character.
For season 2, I didn’t read anyone elses bits of the story. I’ve read the books so I know what happens but, i didn’t read the other bits of the series because I;m so isolated from it, it doesn’t affect me at all. And I wanted to watch season 2 as you would, as a viewer would to enjoy it more because I dont want to know what happens so it’s a shock to me too.
As a character you’re very isolated Jon Snow?
I think Jon from early on you can see that he wanted to go to the Night’s Watch. That’s the only place as a bastard that he can prove himself. If he stayed at the castle, he’s going to become a dogsbody for the family and always be seen as an outsider. At the Night’s Watch everyone’s equal and that’s where his uncle was and that’s where he can prove himself. What he finds when he gets there is very different to what he expects. His family are all separated, his father dies and as he goes on, it’s a more and more lonely place than he thought it would be. In an ideal world, he thought he’s be going home every three years, see the family and then go back again.
What are the differences between Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings?
I think there are similarities to be made. The big difference between the two fantasies are that in LOTR, you have the All Seeing Eye, the dark, the evil, the bad side and then you have Gandalf, the White Wizard, the good people and good has to win over evil. The main difference in GoT is that there is no ultimate evil and there is no ultimate good, everyone is flawed. Jon Snow is probably one of he more sympathetic characters but he still does bad things throughout the series so it is much more blurred than good and bad.
What was the training like and working with animals?
I had to do a lot of physical work. If I dont do weights work i get kind of kind of skinny and Jon has grown up in a training yard his whole life and wielded a sword, these people are heavy set people so I wanted to get physically bigger. These long days of wielding a sword, and running about, you had to be quite fit so I got into shape for it and bulked up a bit. We did a lot of sword training but not as much as I’d have liked because of time but I had some experience from drama school. I love the physical stuff and the fighting because you can immerse yourself in it.
Working with the dogs could be….. tricky! Animals are not always easy to work with. That saying ‘never work with children and animals’ – the children were brilliant, I’ve never worked with more professional people. The animals just want the piece of food in your hard. They were too adorable, that was the problem. They were the cutest dogs and I fell in love with my dog ‘Cooper’. I rang up and told HBO and said I want as much time with the dog as possible to create a bond with it but that was me being naive as a young actor as they need to be with the trainer the whole time or it wont do what it’s told. In the end they cut it well and the dogs did what they were told but I’m glad that they’re CGI in this season. I’ve seen the CGI wolves and they look incredible – they’re bigger. In the first season they were puppies really, in the second season they’re full grown and there’s a big difference and they’re really impressive.
Who’s performance do you most admire in the first series?
Peter Dinklage does a fantastic job. I’ve done an American accent for a film and doing an accent that isn’t your own, especially on a scale of thing this size is really difficult because you’re really aware of it. Peter handled it brilliantly, and he’s got a great English accent and on top of that, he brought that character to life perfectly. If you read the books, that is exactly how he is. And I got to work with Sean (Bean) , I’ve grown up watching Sean and I got scenes with him, for my first TV job, that insane for me.
Do you feel tied into Game of Thrones now?
People say to me, ‘are you signed for many seasons? ‘ I say ‘yeah, i signed for six’ and they’re be like ‘oooo, you’re tied in’ and I’ll reply with ‘yeah, I’m tied into an HBO TV show that is luckily being a success and I’m an actor and I’m working’, I’m really really lucky. It has changed my career trajectory phenomenally but if this is it for me, this is pretty good I think.
It’s good to be a bastard!