We can always count on Game of Thronesto push the boundaries of television, but a Season 8 battle sequence sounds like it may have pushed the show’s cast and crew to their limits and beyond.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the Thrones team broke down their literal breakdown from the three-month shoot that will become the battle of Winterfell – the show’s most ambitious yet, known internally as “The Long Night.”
“Nothing can prepare you for how physically draining it is,” said Maisie Williams, who plays a highly-trained fighter but will make her battlefield debut this season. “It’s night after night, and again and again, and it just doesn’t stop. You can’t get sick, and you have to look out for yourself because there’s so much to do that nobody else can do…there are moments you’re just broken as a human and just want to cry.”
The episode, directed by Thrones vet Miguel Sapochnik, took 11 weeks of night shoots in freezing temperatures with only skeletal trailers and space heaters as respite (showrunner David Benioff said that seeing a night shoot crew member on a day shoot in a different episode was “like seeing Nosferatu coming in”).
“It was the most unpleasant experience I’ve had on Thrones. A real test, really miserable,” said Ser Jorah Mormont actor Iain Glen. “You have an absolute fucked bunch of actors.”
But Glen was reassuring that the misery translates well on-screen.
On one day, while shooting a non-battle scene, an actress (unnamed by EW, but a “series regular”) fainted and had to leave early. A crew member suffered an asthma attack while filming indoors because of the oils burned to create synthetic set smoke.
“If Miguel lives through this it will be the hardest thing he’s ever done,” said executive producer Bernadette Caulfield. “the hardest thing all of us have ever done.”
“Everybody prays they never have to do this again,” said Rory McCann, who plays the Hound.
“The hard work pays off on this show,” Williams added. “After one of those really tough days, you know it’s going to be part of something so iconic and it will look amazing.”
On that, the team agrees; the end product will be worth it.
“It’s been exhausting but I think it will blow everybody away,” said co-executive producer Bryan Cogman.
We can’t wait.
Game of Thrones returns April 14.