‘Game Of Thrones’ Q&A: Liam Cunningham On The ‘Battle Of The Bastards’

“Game of Thrones” went big and bold with its
“Battle of the Bastards” on Sunday night, as
Jon Snow’s forces took on Ramsay Bolton’s.

(Spoiler alert! This story contains major plot details
from “Game of Thrones” Season 6, Episode 9.)

The episode was undeniably epic in scope, and thrilling,
nail-biting television, as the two forces met outside of Winterfell. Ramsay
Bolton baited Jon Snow into battle, by having his little brother, Rickon, run
for his life, before taking aim at him with arrows. Jon heroically galloped
across the field, but sadly, he couldn’t save Rickon (as Sansa predicted). Instead, he
found himself in grave danger, as Ramsay’s archers rained arrows down upon him. 

‘Game Of Thrones’ Q&A: Liam Cunningham On The ‘Battle Of The Bastards’ (Helen Sloan/HBO)

PHOTOS: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 6, Episode 9: Scenes From ‘Battle Of The Bastards’

Jon charged forward, and his forces followed, despite an
earlier warning from Liam Cunningham’s character, Davos Seaworth, who during
the planning stages of the battle said, “It’s crucial that we let them
charge at us. They’ve got the numbers, we need the patience.”

It was a bad tactical move, as Jon’s men ended up surrounded
by Ramsay’s, being picked off one by one, until a last minute save from The
Vale. Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish arrived with The Vale’s army and
saved Jon and his men, allowing Jon and company to retake Winterfell.

PHOTOS: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Characters Who Have Died On The Show

On Monday morning, Liam spoke with Access Hollywood about
filming the battle, a certain toy horse Davos found in the snow next to what
remained of a pyre, and one of the long-running “Game of Thrones”
mysteries – where is Gendry?

AccessHollywood.com: Here we go. Liam Cunningham, in all
of your career, in all the roles you have played on the big screen and the
television screen, have you ever done anything with that big of a scope?
Liam Cunningham
: Absolutely not. … I have one criticism of the show – that
I had to watch it on my TV with 5.1 sound this morning and I wanted to see it — when I was looking
at it — I wanted to see it on IMAX because it is one of the most magnificent,
cinematic pieces of television I have ever seen in my life! The TV could not
contain this show, it was so fabulous. I just thought it’s just an
extraordinary piece of television. It was remarkable, absolutely remarkable.

Access: Not only seeing it, but tell me what it was like
filming it. Did it blow your mind actually being there when it happened? I
watched some of the stuff online that HBO posted, and it certainly looked epic just
filming it.
Yeah, it was unbelievable. When you consider that we take whatever it
is, two-and-a-half, three weeks to shoot an
episode, and when these guys have given almost a complete month over to just
shooting the battle scene – I mean, that ain’t cheap, especially when you’ve
got 600 extras and whatever it was – 50 or 70 horses and horsemen from Europe
and [Britain], you know what I mean? The guys at HBO and Mr. Benioff and Mr.
Weiss could’ve easily sat on their a** and said, ‘Okay, we’ve got a really
popular show, it’s really successful, let’s just sit back and drive our very
expensive cars around and relax,’ and they didn’t. They’ve made it incredibly
difficult for themselves. They’ve given themselves a tougher job to do,
stretched themselves further and it just shows on the screen. It just shows
that these guys just really, really, really care about this story and when you’ve got
that from the top, I mean, that filters down to us mere mortals and everybody wants to
give 100 percent, 110 percent! I mean, it was a really tough shoot. We had a
couple of days of rain, and we were really, really lucky on the weather, but
because of where you saw the vista at the beginning, outside Winterfell –
people have been referring to it as ‘Bastard Bowl.’ And it’s funny because we
shot that thing in kind of a valley. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of water
drainage off this location, so the water kind of hung around and they brought in
tons of gravel just to make sure the horses wouldn’t slip, the actors wouldn’t
fall over and break legs. It looked like a military campaign, and it was a
military campaign, we had huge military advisors and historic military advisors
on it – that’s just the organization of it. But I will be very, very, very
surprised if Mr. Kit Harington is not — at the very least — nominated for an Emmy
for this, and should most definitely pick one up. His commitment to the battle
and to the entire story… and you can see it. And it wasn’t easy for him. As an actor, he had the
toughest job there — by far. He was most featured. I mean, you could see his
movements. They were long days, long days and tough days, but if it’s a tough
shoot and it ends up on the screen, it looks fantastic. And I think it did. It
looked amazing, absolutely amazing.

Kit Harington as Jon Snow in ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6, Episode 9
Kit Harington as Jon Snow in ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6, Episode 9 (HBO)

Access: Davos had the best plan and it turns out Ramsay was the one who was actually able to use that. I’m kind of curious how you think your character felt, just watching Jon charge into battle with no patience and not listening to either your character, or Sansa. Both of you guys had great ideas.
Liam: Well, exactly. That’s the whole thing. At the beginning, we have this — for the eagle-eyed, you can see when I run up, having jumped off the horse, and run up and have the sword out ready to fight, there’s a little look between the two of us, which basically says, ‘You’ve f***ed us here,’ and Miguel [Sapochnik, the episode’s director] threw that look in, which wasn’t kind of scripted. But we kind of knew as we were shooting along that there’s obvious kind of things that happen, and you know, it’s the same with Sansa telling him stuff. But he’s young and he’s not battle hardened. He’s fought, but he’s not an organizer of battle. He’s a reactor, and Jon Snow being a young man, he takes the bait. Ramsay played him and scuppered us and nearly got us all killed, and all that. Thank heavens for Sansa, and thank heavens — for once — for Littlefinger. So, we were saved when victory was grabbed from the jaws of defeat, as they say.

READ: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Q&A: Tom Wlaschiha On Jaqen’s Reaction To Arya’s Departure

Access: [Do you think Davos] made the connection right
away… [that] there was no question in his mind that the ashes and the little
toy [he found in the snow] meant that Shireen had been taken by fire, by the
Red Woman?
Well he obviously he knows — from the end of [episode] 5, he knows she’s dead,
and I mean, he most definitely found the stag and he carved it, so he knows
it’s his, and sees the pyre, and you know, I think he can put two and two
together. … For the entire season, the audience [has] been wondering
‘What’s he going to do?’ especially the irony — again, beautiful writing —
the irony of Davos walking in at the beginning of Season 6 and saying, ‘Is
everything all right with you?’ [to Melisandre]. He’s actually showing concern
for this woman who has no concern for him. And for the audience to know what
this woman has done to Shireen and therefore to him, it’s been a great thing
for the audience to know and it was one of those things that was kind of
simmering in the background. So it’s going to come to a head, it has to come
to a head and that’s one of the things about the show — this beautiful
writing, where this huge drama’s in the background and one of the character’s is completely unaware of it, so you’re waiting for this pot to boil over. … So that’ll be interesting. We shall see where that goes.

Access: So last question… I’m going to ask you probably
the most ridiculous question that you’re going to get today. So you’re actually
part of one of the biggest mysteries that remains on ‘Game of Thrones’ — you
have a connection to it. People want to know where Gendry is. I’m curious if
you have any — if you can give us any clues since you were the one who sent him
off on the boat?
I do have one clue, I saw a [tweet] from the lovely Joe [Dempsie, who
plays Gendry] about six months ago, and he wrote the following, ‘still rowing.’
So that’s the only indication that I have that Gendry is still hopping around
between Essos and Westeros and whatever, so he may well still be in the boat
eating raw fish.

Access: Would you like to see him come back at some point?
 Of course I would. Mr. Joe Dempsie — fantastic actor, fabulous guy. But I have no idea. I’d also like to see Ned Stark coming back and Stannis, but I’m not sure that’s not going to happen.

The “Game of Thrones” Season 6 finale airs Sunday at 9 PM ET/PT on HBO.

Jolie Lash

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