HBO’s epic masterpiece Game of Thrones is back for Season 3, with bigger battles, devastating betrayals and more deaths, as everyone fights for control of the Iron Throne. Now that magic is growing stronger and the dragons have been let loose, there’s no telling who might be in jeopardy or in power next.
At the show’s press day, co-stars Michelle Fairley (“Catelyn Stark”), Maisie Williams (“Arya Stark”) and Isaac Hempstead Wright (“Bran Stark”) talked about bonding during the first season, how hard it is for Catelyn to be separated from her family, how the Reeds will add to the dynamic of the group, how much they know of their characters from the books, what it’s like to see the fans react to all of the show’s surprises, how different it is to do the show now, experiencing the fandom in America, who they’d like to have scenes with, and whether or not they’ve ever tried sitting on the Iron Throne. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
MICHELLE FAIRLEY: Yeah, a lot. We had such fun. Even though we don’t work together, our schedules overlap, so we do see each other in Belfast. We’ll see each other in the hotel, or maybe they’ll be shooting in one studio and we’re in another one, so we do see each other. Unfortunately, we just don’t work together. A lot of the stuff is in studio in the north of Ireland, and also on location around the north, as well. Then, they go to Iceland, Croatia and Morocco.
MAISIE WILLIAMS: Cross-over would be nice.
FAIRLEY: But, it’s incredible just watching them grow up.
How do you think Catelyn has changed since the war began? Is she making decisions that she never thought she’d make?
FAIRLEY: Yeah, very much so. Also, I do think that sometimes you get yourself into a situation that you really don’t want to be in and you’re terrified of it, so you want to run away from it because the fear is too much. It’s the survival instinct. You want to get away. But, she’s actually still growing. She was protected from a lot of that stuff through Ned. She ran a castle. She entertained. Her life has been turned upside down. She’s a widow now, and she’s also the mother of a king. She’s living in isolation from her family and her children. That’s her heartbeat. That’s what she wants. She wants her family back together again. It’s the layering of all these different things, like the loss of the kids and watching the one son that you have left, who is the manifestation of your family. She’s very clever, but she’s had a life of that. She’s from a noble family, and she had Ned. That’s the one thing that she hopes will be installed in the children. Even though they have to do things, in order to survive, they’re coming from a core of goodness and honor. They’re not nasty. They’ve not been brought up to deceive without conscience.
How hard is it for Catelyn to have Robb not turn his back on her, even though he’s so upset with her and there’s this rift?
FAIRLEY: Well, you start off Season 3 with the rift still there. The tectonic plates have shifted, yet again, and she’s feeling more and more isolated, basically. That’s another progression for her, with the further isolation. Not only is she grieving for her family, and she doesn’t know where her children are or if they’re alive, but she has the manifestation of her son in front of her and there’s no communication. It just rips her apart, actually.
What can you say about the introduction of the Reeds?
FAIRLEY: The Reeds definitely add a very interesting dynamic to the group. It’s nice to have some fresh faces in the group. It’s been all the same people for two seasons, so it’s nice to have some completely new people who completely change the whole dynamic of the group. In previous seasons, Bran hasn’t really been striving towards something. He hasn’t really had a goal. He’s just been hanging around in Winterfell, doing what others have told him to do. Now, he’s doing his own thing. He knows what he wants, and that’s what he’s doing.
Are the Reeds helpful to Bran?
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT: Yeah, without giving too much away, they are very crucial in Bran trying to understand the visions he’s been having.
Maisie, have you started training for any future fight scenes?
WILLIAMS: I haven’t been told to, but I’m independently preparing myself, just in case something else gets thrown in there. Between Seasons 1 and 2, I did a lot of fencing to try to look more natural with a sword, even though it turned out that I didn’t actually do very much of that in Season 2. You’ll have to wait and see what happens in Season 3, but I definitely want to make sure I’m ready, just in case I pick up a script and Arya has a big fight scene. I want to make sure I’m ready for that, so I independently train myself.
Catelyn is in such a male world. What was it like to add Brienne to that, and get to have that dynamic with that character?
FAIRLEY: Oh, it’s fantastic, actually. It’s lovely to have two women together, as well. Also, that character came in, in Season 2, so you take the mantle on when you’ve been there since Season 2, in order to make the person feel relaxed and comfortable. That’s part of your job, as well, to be welcoming and available. Gwen is just wonderful, so it’s very easy to do that. It’s lovely to have scenes opposite women because the women in this are so strong. Even in the one scene that I had with Lena in Season 1, there was so much unsaid. You have to honor that she is the queen, but at the same time, you despise everything that they stand for.
WILLIAMS: I haven’t read the books. My parents have read the books, and they tell me what’s going on. In Season 2, I was looking forward to weasel soup and things like that, and it didn’t happen, so I know that I can’t get my hopes up for certain things. And then, all of a sudden, I have scenes with Tywin that were never there. So, different things get switched in and out. I’ve got a rough idea of what’s going on, but I know it’s changed a lot, so you never really know what’s going to happen.
HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT: I haven’t read the books, but like Maisie, my parents have read them and I’ve talked to people that have read them and I’ve looked on the internet, so I pretty much know what happens to Bran. In some ways, it’s quite nice to know what happens because it can affect, in a positive way, how you play your character.
Are you allowed to watch all the episodes when they air?
WILLIAMS: I am. I do.
HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT: I am, but when it started, I was only about 10, so it was a bit of a process. The violence was debunked because you’re just hanging around with severed heads on set, but my mom felt compelled to give me embarrassing talks about all the sex.
FAIRLEY: I read per season. The guys are writing a drama. The experience of actually reading a novel and watching a television show are quite different. You can’t let your audience get ahead of you, and you have to keep the energy and the pace and the drama up. They’re very different things, so they create other things. But, the books are amazing for an appendix because George [R.R. Martin] writes the internal thoughts of a character. If they happen to lift the scene and put it in the television series, you can go and reference it, read between the lines, and use it, if you wish. It might not be appropriate to the scene that they’ve written, but it’s a good base to have. But, you always work with the script. You don’t ever forget that.
Has Season 3 gotten more fantasy-oriented for your characters?
WILLIAMS: Yeah. Not necessarily with creatures, but more things are happening.
FAIRLEY: You’re naughty. So naughty.
WILLIAMS: It was interesting to see how some of the other things were done. It was exciting, being on set, because Arya has never really come across things like that before. It’s exciting to see how all these different things are done, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks all finished up and polished.
What is it like to know the surprises that are coming and watch how the fans react to them?
FAIRLEY: It’s extraordinary, actually. It really is extraordinary. Friends that I have, who I would never have put down as watching that sort of television, text message and email me. After Episode 9 in Season 1, I got, “OMG, he really isn’t dead, is he?!,” from people that I would never have assumed would actually get hooked. I think George is such a brilliant writer. You kill off your main character – your pinnacle of goodness – but by killing him off, you open up a massive world of deceit, greed, lust, envy and power, which just starts spreading its tentacles into the rest of the world. It’s basically the entwining of ivy around good people who have to adapt to survive.
WILLIAMS: There’s more pressure to keep the secrets and to top last season. I’ve been really happy with the scripts, and other people’s storylines are really exciting.
FAIRLEY: What’s interesting is that, when Season 1 started, there was almost a resurgence of people reading the books. A lot of people got so hooked on the books that their knowledge is greater now and they think they know what is coming and what to expect. It’s not like they’re just watching a television series unfold, in front of their eyes and they have no idea what it’s about, but they have the books so they think they know what’s coming.
WILLIAMS: In Season 1, everyone keeping the whole Ned thing quiet. I was just like, “Don’t say it! Don’t say it! Don’t say it!” As the show is getting bigger, people are asking questions, and you have to make sure that you don’t give anything away by accident. But, it’s fun. It’s a little challenge.
Are you surprised by how big of a phenomenon the show is in America?
HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT: Back in Britain, it’s nowhere near as massive as it is here. If you walk around here, literally on every street, you’ll see a Game of Thrones poster. Whereas in Britain, you’d be lucky to see one.
FAIRLEY: It’s extraordinary, actually. It’s worldwide. It’s not just a continent. It’s quite humbling.
Which characters would each of you like to have scenes with?
WILLIAMS: Well, I never did anything with Emilia [Clarke] or Harry Lloyd. He’s gone now, but I got on really well with him, and it would’ve been cool to do scenes. I miss everyone in Winterfell. It would be nice to go back to the family. But, it would be cool to work with people that we’ve never worked with before, or even met, as characters.
HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT: I’d like to see Robb again. Ever since Robb left in Season 2, Bran has had to make decisions for Winterfell. I think it would take a bit of weight off Bran’s shoulders, if he met Robb again.
FAIRLEY: I’d love a scene with Cersei. I’d love for Catelyn Stark and Cersei to have a confrontation. I love Lena [Headey] anyway, so I’d love that.
Maisie, have you met a lot of Arya fans?
WILLIAMS: Yeah. I use Twitter a lot. That’s how I communicate with international fans. Everyone’s always really, really nice. It’s a lot of pressure sometimes, being such a popular character in the book and trying to do her justice. There’s so much that you don’t see of Arya, that’s going on behind all of that. People say, “Oh, she should kill Joffrey.” That’s cool, but she’s 12. People see her as this quite violent child, but there are decisions being made behind all of that. There’s a lot with Arya that you don’t get to see. There’s always stuff going on behind her big front. It’s hard to try to show that sometimes, with such crammed episodes and limited things you can do.
Maisie and Isaac, because you’re still young, are you ever envious of people who have more traditional lives than actors do?
WILLIAMS: I love it! I wouldn’t change it. Sometimes you miss friends, and it’s hard for them, as well, when you’re just gone for a long time. I can’t just go and see them any time I want because when I’m free, they may not be free, but I definitely wouldn’t change it, ever. But, when you find really great friends, that doesn’t matter, and I’m lucky to have some people who really, really look after me and look out for me. I definitely wouldn’t ever change it. It’s just nice to have people there.
HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT: I just treat it as an experience because whenever this starts becoming the normality, then there’s definitely something wrong. It’s good to have the best of both worlds. Here, you experience adult things and have very adult experiences, interacting with adults rather than people of your own age, but then you can go back to school and be a kid.
Have any of you ever tried sitting on the Iron Throne?
HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT: Yeah!
FAIRLEY: Oh, yeah! I have, to my shame. It’s really uncomfortable.
WILLIAMS: I’ve never sat on the one that we shoot with.
Game of Thrones returns for Season 3 on HBO on March 31st.