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Game of Thrones’ Hannah Murray on Gilly’s Hiding Skills, Mutton Legs, and Going Off-Book

Game of Thrones’ Hannah Murray. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Spoilers concerning the most recent episode of Game of Thrones will follow. So turn back now if you have not seen this past Sunday’s “The Watchers on the Wall,” although you should totally know the drill by now.

Ygritte dying in Jon Snow’s arms was not the only romantic moment during the battle at Castle Black. Sam and Gilly, two characters who clearly care about each other, finally kiss, offering a bit of hope amid all that slaughter. By Game of Thrones standards, it was pretty chaste, but it signifies a new direction for both of them, especially since Sam has figured out a convenient loophole in the Night’s Watch vows. Hannah Murray chatted with Vulture about what Gilly did during the siege, the moment with Sam, and how to use a mutton leg as a weapon.

Here we have a huge battle scene, and once again …
[Laughs] I’m mostly hiding in a cupboard throughout all of it! It was exciting to find out that they were doing an episode that was kind of the equivalent of the “Blackwater” episode from season two, but I didn’t get to see very much action. Gilly’s a good hider, even with the risk of the baby and the noise. Hiding in Mole’s Town was one thing, because the wildlings were out for anyone they could get, but the siege at Castle Black is more serious. They’ve got bigger fish to fry, which helps keep Gilly quite safe.

And Sam has been trying to protect her, where he can. They finally kiss!
From Sam’s point of view, it was up in the air whether she was alive or not after the attack on Mole’s Town. From the audience’s point of view, we knew Ygritte didn’t kill her, but that didn’t necessarily mean she survived. But then we find out she did, and she’s very, very, very [laughs] unwilling to let Sam take any part in the battle. She’s just like [laughs], “No! You said we’d stay together, it was stupid to send me away, now we’re finally back together, and now we’re staying together, and what use would you be anyway?” [Laughs] And then Sam takes charge and it’s all very manly and romantic and lovely.

What do you and John Bradley do to bond before or to decompress after your scenes together?
John likes to read me funny tweets in the car on the way home — because I’m not on Twitter. Like pretentious actor-y things. Like when people take themselves too seriously, and they’ll say something about how wonderful they are for how serious they take it. You can tell when people think they’re a little bit special, and it’s quite fun to laugh at them, and I think it’s good to laugh at them, because then you can deflate their egos a bit.

Even though you’ve shot big scenes at Craster’s Keep, Mole’s Town, and Castle Black, Gilly doesn’t get to interact with that many other characters other than Sam …
[Showrunners] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] took me aside and they said, “We’ve written a scene for you. You’re going to have a scene with a character you never would have guessed you’d have a scene with.” And that was the scene with Ygritte! And it’s really exciting for us as actors when you’re like, I’ve gone off-book! I’m off-book! It’s like this uncharted territory where anything could happen. [Laughs] And everything for me this year was off-book. Season three was quite close, because there were scenes that I could read in the novels, and then when I saw them in the script, I understood where they had been taken from. But this time around, it was a lot of David and Dan’s own direction to take. So that’s been exciting.

You know in the Mole’s Town sequence, that was all one shot? Up until you hear the owl hooting. So that was tricky to get right for a lot of different reasons — belching a song just being one of them. I wouldn’t be able to do that, not to a tune. I think doing that on demand in general is tricky! And she had to go from a huge party scene, and then come into the thing with me, and be really quiet and intense. And that was all completely contained, the way they filmed it. Alex Graves was the one who directed that, and I think he wanted to bring a bit of West Wing to how we did it, with the long take. And that was his way of letting you know something was wrong.

I was talking with Rose Leslie about that scene, and we were lamenting that Ygritte and Gilly never got to know how they were connected. In another world, another time, they could have been going on double dates …
Yeah! I feel like we should go paintballing, or something cool! That’s kind of what’s exciting about this whole series, right? It puts people in such intense situations, and you always have that thing of, probably, under different circumstances, they would have been mates. And I think it’s amazing for Gilly to see someone like Ygritte. It’s the same kind of thing when she meets Meera Reed in season three. These girls are so powerful, and they’re in charge, and they shoot stuff and they kill stuff. And for someone like Gilly, who came from her father’s situation, which was such a patriarchy and women were treated as nothing, to see these women warriors, basically, just must be amazing for her. I feel like given how brave Gilly has been, given her limited circumstances, her limited options, you think, What if she had been a little further north of the Wall, and been a proper wildling? If she’s got that natural bravery anyway, would she have been given the opportunity for that to develop fully? So the thing I love about Gilly is that because she came from a kind of sheltered beginning, her world is just constantly expanding, with every new thing she encounters, and it’s exciting for me to think about how she would cope with that.

Do you think that’s rubbed off on her, in terms of being willing to defend herself?
She’s tough, anyway. It’s not like there were seven girls escaping from Craster’s. She’s the first one who has ever done that. So she has to have something in her that’s kind of unusual, plus her mother’s instincts. I kind of feel like if Ygritte had gone for it, Gilly would be dead, but there would have been a fight. She wouldn’t just let it go. She’s not going to just sit in the corner. I was reading about how weasels will fight off a fox, to defend their young. And I think Gilly has got that kind of animalistic defensive instinct. I think she will do anything for that baby.

Even use a mutton leg as a weapon.
It’s a weapon of sorts, from what I can find in the larder! It’s any kind of blunt instrument, isn’t it? [Laughs] It wasn’t real. It wasn’t kind of sticky. I had the geese earlier on in the season, and those were real. And smelly. But with the leg of mutton, I didn’t get to make contact with it, because I was just making a threat with it. But it could be effective if you just whacked somebody as hard as you can! Unless it was the kind of slippery, real meat one. Then, you should probably slide it on the floor and trip them up.

Game of Thrones’ Hannah Murray on Gilly