When we were first introduced to Locke on Game of Thrones, he was a stand-in for Vargo Hoat, the lispy mercenary aligned with Roose Bolton who orders Jaime Lannister’s sword hand to be chopped off in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series. Locke completed that dirty deed last season and then diverged wildly from Hoat’s arc from the novels, returning this season to do more of Bolton’s bidding. Last week, he turned up at the Wall, where he threw in with an oblivious Jon Snow and, secretly on a mission to find and kill Bran Stark, volunteered for the attack on Craster’s Keep. Turn back now if you haven't seen the latest episode of Game of Thrones — spoilers ahead.
So no one could have predicted just from reading the books that Locke was about to die — and die a gruesome death at the hands of a warged Hodor, controlled by Bran, no less. Going into filming season four, Noah Taylor, the actor who played Locke, says that he hadn’t known he wouldn’t be making it to season five either, but his demise wasn’t a shock to him, since no one in Westeros is ever safe, especially a bad seed given to chopping off the hands of Lannisters. Vulture chatted with Taylor about how he discovered Locke’s time had come, whether it was difficult for him to shoot his final scene, and why he likely won’t catch the episode until next year.
When did you find out you were going to die?
I just assumed I was going to die this season, so it wasn’t a big shock or disappointment to me. And I was fine with it. I kind of expected Locke to have some sort of demise, partly because of what he did to Jaime Lannister, and in my imagination, I thought Jaime would have something to do with it, possibly, to have a sort of karmic revenge at some point. But nobody knows. Nobody in the cast really knows until the scripts come out, and they are sort of guarded about that. But this scene involved prosthetics, and those were done months before, and that was when I first knew I was going to die, actually. They send you to the prosthetics factory to get fitted for a broken spinal cord, and that's always a good indication that something bad is going to happen to you. [Laughs.] There’s not much coming back from that, so I knew something was afoot. This was before I got the script, so that was my tipoff.
How do you get fitted for a broken spinal cord, anyway?
It's just a lot of time being covered in latex, with your neck bent to one side, so it's not particularly comfortable. You just have to not move and you get a stiff neck. The whole show, there's a lot of discomfort. People hitting you over the head with various things. There's a lot of room for injury in that show, but they have really excellent stunt people and you rehearse all that stuff, so it's very rare that anything happens, but you get clomped every now and again, you get in the mud, you get prosthetics, things like that. But it's all part of the job. You get used to that. That's just how it is. But it's fun to have a character who gets killed off, versus someone who moves away. Nice and final. And it's a good, grisly, dramatic death. It's always good to go out in a spectacular way.
It's a pretty involved stunt. What was it like to shoot that scene?
Really, the hardest part was just running with Isaac [Hempstead-Wright], because of course he started off as a small kid, really, but he's going through adolescence and he's sprouted up. He's basically the same height as me, and I'm getting on in the years, so that was the hardest part, running around with this person on my shoulders for a couple of hours, and the rest is a hanging rig thing. You can have the best stunts in the world and all that sort of stuff, but what makes people anxious and on the edge of their seats is that they're invested in the characters. As spectacular as the show is visually, it's the writing that drives it, you know what I mean? It's the drama of the script, and everything else enhances that to make it real to the viewers. It's the synthesis of those two elements.
Have you seen the episode yet?
No. I don't have a television, and I'm middle-aged, and I never figured out how to illegally download things. I'm a bit of a square. [Laughs.] And because the show is so complicated, I'm just going to set aside some time probably next year and get all the box sets, and do a thorough viewing, through all four seasons. So I definitely won't see my death until next year, or until the box set comes out.
They should give you a subscription to HBO Go as your parting gift when your character dies, so you don't have to wait.
[Laughs] Oh, that would be great. I mean, you do get a nice neoprene jacket or something, but that's about it. I know, it's sad, but there you go! But see, I don't know about these things, HBO Go. I'm still listening to my vinyl records and trying to live in the 20th century. I'm a bit of a Luddite.
How much of a Luddite are you?
Well, I have an iPad, so I'm not that much of a Luddite, I guess. But I'm pretty low-tech. I don't have any CDs. I don't have television. I don't drive a car, but I don't ride a horse — other than in the show! [Laughs.] I didn't get into all that stuff when it started to come out, and of course I've got gadgets, I do email, I've got a cell phone, but I've just got no interest in re-learning lots and lots of things constantly. It's not a conscious decision or a political statement. It's just a combination of laziness and stupidity, probably more than anything else. I'd probably live without all that stuff if I could, but work kind of insists you have those things, because it's easier for everybody else.
When Joffrey died, people started wondering who they should hate instead. Some people might have thought Ramsay Snow, or Locke, because of their tendencies to chop off body parts. And now?
Well, I don't see Locke as particularly a bad guy! It's a brutal world, but even within that, he was just someone trying to carve out an existence for himself. And he has kind of a dislike of the highborn aristocracy, as it were. He's kind of a revolutionary figure in a way, like that speech he gave to Jaime Lannister: "You've had it all your own way, with your daddy's power and your daddy's money." It's sort of a class thing that drives him more than anything else.
But he chopped off Jaime's hand! So you're saying that there is a political defense for that.
Yes, he does get a sadistic pleasure out of other people's suffering, but he's a mercenary, basically, and he plays on swapping power allegiances. But I don't think he's pure evil or anything like that. And Jaime Lannister had it coming, I think. [Laughs.]