How Game of Thrones Filmed Its Dothraki Temple Fire Scene, Plus the Curse Word That Made a Khal Uncomfortable

Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Spoilers ahead.

Rather than allow herself to be consigned to a fate of professional widow (or worse), Daenerys Targaryen instead became the leader of the Dothraki by burning down a hut containing some 21 khals and bloodriders and then emerging unscathed. "It's a big turning point in the show," actor Joe Naufahu said. "It's pretty epic."

As Khal Moro, he had taken her prisoner but treated her with some respect, until she became a threat and embarrassed him in front of his peers. Naufahu, who hails from New Zealand, said that he was able to wrap his tongue around the tricky Dothraki lines because they sounded similar to the South Pacific languages of his mother (Samoan) and father (Tongan) — and sometimes, he'd sub in words from both of those languages, "and no one knew! It just sounded right!" Naufahu chatted with Vulture about the logistics of shooting a big fire scene, Dany's fire immunity, and the one Dothraki phrase that gave him trouble.

People have been debating Dany's fire immunity and the logistics of it. From what George R.R. Martin has said, Targaryens are not automatically immune, but when blood magic is involved, they can be. So was Dany only able to emerge from the hut unscathed because she killed you and the other khals?
Yes! I was the sacrifice! [Laughs] That's a cool theory, man. It's an interesting thing, how you can pull so many different strings from the show.

Walk me through how you shot the inferno in the hut. The exterior was in Spain, but the interior was on a set in Belfast?
Yeah, they set up the temple across the road from Titanic Studios in Belfast. It was a huge, huge scene. That one scene took a couple of weeks, just because of the fire hazards. The fire stuff was pretty dangerous. The whole temple was decked out with pyrotechnics and controlled flames that they could turn up or turn down, depending on the intensity they needed.

The heat was pretty crazy. You couldn't stay in the room for longer than a couple of minutes, so you'd get out while they reset. At any sign of danger, they would yell, "Cut!" and move us to the green room until they sorted it out. We were within arm's length of the fire, and we weren't in fireproof suits or anything. We just had our costumes on, so we were running through actual flames. All the beams coming down from the ceiling, that actually happened. That wasn't CGI. Only when the flames consumed our bodies was it CGI. We didn't have any actual contact with the flames, but we were close, man. And they were using a gasoline-like substance, like propane gasoline, to hold the flame, so you had to be careful not to get that on you, because they were smearing it on the things we were sitting on.

I would just worry, given how long your hair has to be in those scenes ...
I know, right? We told them to lay off the hair spray that day! We were all like, "Watch your ponytail, guys! Watch your ponytail!" And our beards! The beards were pretty long, too. That would have shut the production down for a while if our beards caught fire! "Stop, drop, and roll!" [Laughs]

We had a whole briefing on that before we started shooting, and we had a few laughs with the fire extinguisher guys in between takes. As soon as anyone got near a flame, the extinguisher guy would be ready. Luckily, we didn't have any incidents and we could stay in the moment and not worry about the flames.

We also learn some choice new Dothraki phrases in this episode.
[Laughs] I know, I know. It's like when you learn a language, what do you always learn first? The curse words. The same with Dothraki. My mom was like, "Can you teach me some of the words?" and I was like, "Um, I can't teach you any of these words." The one that I would never, ever use is the c-bomb, and I'm sure that's the one that most of the people watching were like, "Ah!" "Zhey gech yofi."

Even when I was reading my script and translating it, I was like, "Man, I don't want to say this!" [Laughs] That was the most uncomfortable thing for me to say. I would never want my mom to hear me say that! I wouldn't want any woman to hear me say that!

I think saying that was Khal Moro's fatal flaw, and he only said it when she embarrassed him in front of his men. He couldn't take it. He couldn't break from tradition, when it came to the crunch. And that was his reaction. When I read that line, I thought, "Ah, man! There's no way this guy is surviving now. Hell no. He's gone. See you later, man."