Game Of Thrones SE 06 (Finale at Olympus by Invite Only): Samwell Tarly & Gilly

Q: Set the scene for Sam and Gilly as we begin Season Six.

JB: Well you join Sam, and I suppose Gilly as well by proxy, in one of the most positive spaces he’s ever been in, in terms of his narrative in the show – he’s manipulated his way over the course of quite a few seasons to achieve his life’s ambition which is to become a Maester. He played a part in getting Jon Snow elected as Lord Commander because he knows that was the best chance of getting there and getting Gilly and the baby out of Castle Black into somewhere that he believes is safer for them. So becoming a Maester is a culmination of a lot of hard work, not only ambition, not only everything he’s wanted to do (because it’s an extension of what he did when he was a child to entertain himself) but it’s now something that’s essential in his life and essential to the greater good as well. Because he thinks he can go in to the Citadel, the seat of higher learning in Oldtown, and actually make a difference – he thinks that he can learn things that will help people, so you find him for the first time feeling that he’s going to be in a position where he’s not only happy but he’s going to be in a position to change things for the better as well. He’s beaming.

Q: And how about for Gilly, who I assume is heading to Oldtown with Sam for his Maester training?

HM: She’s really excited about the travel!

JB: It’s Gilly’s gap year!

HM: You know, I think she started life in the most limited circumstances you can imagine. She didn’t leave Craster’s Keep until Sam came along – which was not the most ideal place to be. I think being at Castle Black is absolutely mind blowing for her. Her world is constantly expanding in these incredible ways but I think the idea of going that far south and not just that far south but to the Citadel, which she’s heard about – it’s got the biggest library in the world – is beyond her wildest dreams. I mean she gets to go on a boat for the first time and that’s like, pretty incredible! That’s what I love about playing this character – it’s getting to really appreciate things again that we all take for granted, things that a lot of characters in the show maybe take for granted.

When you look at the world through Gilly's eyes you're forced to really examine how incredible a lot of very small things are. The very concept of the sea is incredible for her. The idea of a book is incredible to her. The idea of a library is even more incredible to her. The idea of a library that's that vast is beyond imagining. It's amazing because the show itself is so vast and varied and shows this giant world that's so complicated - Gilly's only seen tiny bits of it yet she's constantly making you remember how amazing even those tiny bits are.

When you look at the world through Gilly’s eyes you’re forced to really examine how incredible a lot of very small things are. The very concept of the sea is incredible for her. The idea of a book is incredible to her. The idea of a library is even more incredible to her. The idea of a library that’s that vast is beyond imagining. It’s amazing because the show itself is so vast and varied and shows this giant world that’s so complicated – Gilly’s only seen tiny bits of it yet she’s constantly making you remember how amazing even those tiny bits are.

Q: How does Sam think that being a Maester is going to help people because this is a world where martial valour, not intellect, tends to win the day?

JB: Well he probably believed that for a long time. He’s seen it and he’s told by his father that’s the only way to be, that everything he does is just folly and it’s useless and it’s never going to help anybody. But I think of course the moment that he kills the White Walker with the dragonglass blade is something because it was Sam’s first or maybe second encounter with the supernatural; when he realised that there are bigger threats than threats you can just chop in half with a sword. So it was when that happened that he thought, ‘this needs investigating.’

Q: Just to be clear, what is a Maester?

JB: They’re kind of super academics. You get university professors here who live a very academic life; it’s like that but Maesters don’t specialise.

HM: Are they a bit like doctors as well?

JB: Yeah a bit like doctors, so they don’t necessarily specialise they just lead their lives in academia learning as much as they can. They are like doctors yeah, that’s a good way of looking at it. They’re a fountain of all knowledge so they spend their lives absorbing knowledge and then applying it if it needs to be applied.

Q: Is the crux of their relationship shared experience or is it just that they really love each other?

HM: I think they are very happy together but it’s a complicated relationship. John has described it as, “like two deeply damaged people, two deeply insecure people, smashing together.” Alik Sakharov, who directed a lot of our stuff in season three and also who directed the thimble scene in season two, said something that I thought was really beautiful about these characters that’s always kind of stuck with me: “You’re two birds with broken wings and now that you’ve come together for the first time you have the possibility of flying.” If Sam had had a really healthy relationship with his father and Gilly had a relationship with hers they would be different people, and I don’t know what would have happened. But there’s a real love there – initially where it came from was just they were the first people either of them had ever talked to…

JB: …or ever got any affection from really. I mean it starts from that and of course it was a big decision for Sam; it came out of his low self-esteem that he instantly met her and fell in love and then he wanted to protect her from day one. But I think now that he’s done that; now that he’s achieved so much and he’s got her to a place of relative safety, I think that now they do genuinely enjoy their time together,

Q: And of course they have the baby. Have you been carrying a real or fake baby around all season?

HM: It’s been a combination of things. The fake ones they have are really, really creepy. There’s one that’s like Chucky, with the eyes. We always used to have about four babies for any one day of filming and they were all about say six to eight months old, completely interchangeable. This year we’ve had one set of twins for the whole season and they turned one while we were filming. We really got to bond with them properly and they actually got to know us. It was the first time I felt I could really act with them in the same way that I would with anyone else and some of the stuff we’ve got is absolutely incredible. So that was one of the best things for me about this year.

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