For years, fans have mourned the death of Ned Stark in "Game of Thrones," but Season 6 has brought him back in a new way.
Bran Stark's visions with the Three-Eyed Raven have provided viewers glimpses at a young Lord Eddard, first training in the courtyard at Winterfell with his brother Benjen, while Lyanna circled them on a horse as the eventual-Hodor looked on. And recently, he was presented in the HBO show as a battle-weary young man, desperately searching for his sister outside of the Tower of Joy.
Robert Aramayo is the actor who
donned Ned's leather armor and wielded Valyrian steel in Sunday's
"Oathbreaker" episode as he faced off with Ser Arthur Dayne while on a
quest to find his sister, Lyanna. For Robert, a longtime
fan of the HBO series, playing the role has
been a privilege.
Robert Aramayo as a young Ned Stark in 'Game of Thrones,' Season 6, Episode 3 -- 'Oathbreaker' (Macall B. Polay/HBO)
"I don't think I can comprehend how lucky I am to be able to play such an iconic character, such a loved character," Robert told Access Hollywood over the phone on Monday.
"I love the show," he
said. "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."
In our new interview with the 23-year-old actor, Robert told Access Hollywood about taking on Ned Stark, a role originated by one of his acting heroes, Sean Bean, and what went in to bringing last Sunday's "Oathbreaker" fight scene to life.
AccessHollywood.com: I hear you are a 'Game of Thrones' fan. How big of a fan are you? Did you watch it with your friends?
Robert Aramayo: Well, I'm in Romania at the minute and so therefore it's been slightly difficult to sort of like watch the series, but usually it's a big thing. Me and a couple of friends watch 'Game of Thrones' very religiously as a group, and that's happened at all hours of the evening and the day. And we always watch it together. One guy, he religiously reads the books, and so he fills us in if there's anything that's mysterious to us. But I've always been an enormous, enormous fan of the show. I think it's genius writing and possesses so much depth and changes direction -- changed direction a lot during one particular episode or season. You think you're heading in one direction, all of a sudden you're heading in a completely other direction, and I think it does that on a regular basis. So, I love the show. 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.
Access: Tell me what your reaction was when Sean Bean's character was killed off in the first season. Did you know that was coming?
Robert: Oh my God! It was heartbreaking, right? It was so heartbreaking. I didn't think that they were allowed to do that, which is I think a general theme running throughout Ned Stark's death is like you shouldn't be allowed to kill that man. And right up to the point of the sword being swung, I thought he was going to get saved. And so when he was killed it was just like one of the most shocking things I think I've ever seen in my life on the TV screen, certainly, because I didn't think it was possible and I think ever since, people have been continuously mourning the absence of his character in the show.
Access: [Where you're from isn’t far from where Sean is from]. They must not have given you cues on your accent at all because your accents are so similar. ... Did you have to do anything?
Robert: No. I think one of the things that people love so much about Sean Bean as an actor is that, you know, he's very earthy. 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. And on a fundamental level, it's a guy who needs to get to another place because his sister – he needs to save his sister. That's the main drive of the scene and… I didn't want to get too hung up in sounding like Sean because I think that would've sort of got in my way if I'd have just situated all my work in that place. I watched a lot of footage of him playing Ned in the first season again, repeatedly, especially one particular fight scene that he was in and I think that was the biggest help for me when creating this version of Ned – was watching what Sean did with Ned in the first season and trying to work out what a younger man's version of that is.
Access: Have you had a chance to meet him or talk to him on the phone?
Robert: I've never met him. He's one of my heroes, man. I'm from Yorkshire, and I think that what he's been able to achieve as an actor over his life is just so inspiring to me. I have never met him, but I certainly wouldn't say no to having a conversation with him and telling him how awesome he is. I don't know (laughs).
Access: [In 'Oathbreaker,'] Bran found out that some of the stories he learned about his dad aren't actually exactly as they were told to him. Did you find some interesting stuff too -- from what we've seen so far -- that you didn't know about that character? … You have an idea of who Ned is. He's this honorable guy, and Bran was watching the fight and Ned's losing the fight and then, obviously Arthur gets stabbed in the back. I think it gives a different portrait of this character.
Access: I'm just kind of curious what you thought about those things, and if those were some of the things you also thought were interesting, like, 'Oh, I didn't realize that about that guy, and that informs how I'm going to play him'?
Robert: Yes, absolutely. It's just like, as I said to you earlier, it's like a guy who's turning up to save his sister and he'll do that by any and all means, but I think even at this sort of early stage in his life, as a young man, he still possesses a great deal of honor and understands how honor functions. I think he's scared at the beginning. He doesn't want to face Arthur Dayne. He's a legendary swordsman and Ned knows that, but he has to do what he has to do and give it everything he's got and… I think he thinks he's done when he gets disarmed and then, it's as surprising to Arthur Dayne as it is to Ned when Howland Reed shows up and stabs him in the back. … 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.
Access: That's actually a really interesting point. How much fun are you having being part of a storyline that's really unraveling a history for a lot of people… that they get to see this on-screen now? Have you gotten to see reactions? People are so excited for this storyline.
Robert: Yeah. … I think it's great. I think it's so much fun to see – to see someone who we love in another time, and I think it feels like another time and that speaks to the production that surrounded it. I feel like the way that it was shot seems to me like it was in another age and that's really exciting just from all the amazing work that the people do behind the camera. It's been kind of overwhelming. … '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.
Access: Well, so far. We're going to wait 'til we see more. I know you can't talk about it, but tell how your friends reacted, those people that you watch 'Game of Thrones' with when you're in the country -- how did they react when they found out [you were] playing Ned Stark?
Robert: Well, one of my friends wrote down everything that I mustn't forget on a piece of paper (laughs)… He's such a massive fan of the show and everyone -- I mean, come on, it's Ned! Everyone was just as flabbergasted as I was that I was going to get the opportunity to do it. It was crazy. It still is a bit crazy. I have one friend who refuses to watch it until were all back together again (laughs).
Access: He's missing out!
Robert: Yeah, he's missing out, yeah. I agree. But, yeah, I mean they're all super happy.
Access: Finally, I've got to ask you, how long did it take to film that badass fight scene? It looked like it was hard to do. It was out there on the dirt, I'm guessing it was somewhere hot.
Robert: Yeah, we were in Spain for three or four days shooting that and I have to sort of say something which is there is a team that surrounds 'Game of Thrones,' there is a family that surrounds 'Game of Thrones' and the focus is always, every time, the story. Making the story the best that it can possibly be is the main focus from everybody that surrounds 'Game of Thrones,' and so as an actor, going on to a set like that, it's just a really nice place to tell a story. And I say that because it extends to the stunt team who were just amazing. [They] worked with me and at the level that I was at and progressed me very slowly to the point that I needed to be and yes, it was [an] extremely difficult fight for me to do, but thankfully with all of that support, as a base underneath you, you feel like you can give it your all and you can get to the place that you need to get to. That was the most pleasant surprise, I think, when doing 'Thrones,' that there is this sort of like bond around everybody who's making the show that is strong and feels like a sort of net underneath you and the focus is always the story, always on telling the best version of the story, and I feel like that's why it's the most successful show, because that is the main drive of the people creating it.
"Game of Thrones" Season 6 continues Sundays at 9 PM ET/PT on HBO.
-- Jolie Lash