Spoilers ahead for the season-six finale of Game of Thrones.
It’s fitting that Lancel Lannister was the one to discover his cousin Cersei’s wildfire treason and plot, since he was the one to alight upon her plans during the Battle of Blackwater. As he told Tyrion at the time, “She’s making wildfire. The alchemist guild has been commissioned. They have thousands of pots, already stored in their vaults.” Eugene Simon, who plays Lancel, chatted with Vulture about Cersei the Mad Queen, carving duties, and his guano-crawl.
The scene in the Sept is amazing, especially with the music used. What was it like being there, shooting Loras’s trial? You had that symbol carved in your forehead in season five, and this time, you carve it into his …
The music gave it such a sense of dread. The shooting of it, the interior that we have of the Sept of Baelor, is as large as it looks onscreen. There’s no roof to it. It was the closest I’d felt to being onstage for a very long time. We were surrounded by a huge amount of extras watching myself, Jonathan Pryce, Natalie Dormer, and Finn Jones all do our respective bits. The way we do the carving, Finn has this prosthetic put on his forehead, and I get a knife that has a slit in it, and I insert it into an opening in his skin, and basically push a button and the blood pops out of the knife at just the right time. It can be a little tricky, technically, and we had to do it a few times, so Finn’s head was repeatedly covered in blood. It was a pretty gory sight to have right in front of you, inches from my face, while at the same time having to hold a very stoic, dark, rather indifferent expression. [Laughs.] I was certainly reminded of my own experience, which was nail-breaking, shall we say. The prosthetic has a metal patch behind it, which makes sure the knife doesn’t touch your skin.
Loras just straight-up confessed. He didn’t even really want a trial.
Well, he was held in the cells beneath the Sept for the entirety of this season, and during that time, he’s had very little time to refortify himself. One of the things the Faith Militant is very good at is breaking people psychologically. That’s at the center of its ritual of conversion, the breaking of your old self, your sense of individuality. And Loras Tyrell was accused of a “crime” that is completely natural, and is treated as if it’s sinful, which is homosexuality. Does it have to be that way? No.
They didn’t break Cersei, though — they just made her more ruthless. And now she has the throne, right when the realm is in economic ruin, winter has come, they don’t have nearly enough provisions, and two armies are about to invade.
She has positioned herself perfectly to be royally screwed! But that’s Cersei, and Cersei is a very broken woman, in a lot of ways. In many ways, she’s more insane than the Mad King. He could plead insanity, but Cersei doesn’t really have that. She’s aware of herself. She knows what she is, and continues to indulge. She won’t be broken. She won’t go willingly. And the Faith were the last thing that had a chance to break her, as they’ve broken so many people.
Do you have any theories about season seven? There were some ambiguous looks happening between Cersei and Jaime at the end …
I have a feeling that Jaime’s relationship with Cersei will be strained next season because she’s gone off on her own route without him, and they were supposed to be in it together. I’m not sure if Jaime agrees with her course of action, and a lot of their family died. A lot of people were murdered. The odds have shifted in favor of the Starks, the Targaryens, and the Greyjoys. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling that Daenerys is going to die. There’s just something about the nature of the storytelling that leads me to believe she’s up for grabs. I think she’s a fantastic conqueror, but we’ll have to see how good of a ruler she is.
Most of the wildfire was visual effects, but for your scene in the corridor, it was a practical effect. You were down on the ground with some fluorescent green substance, so we could see what it looked like in liquid form …
The actual wildfire substance glows that color in real life — the color you see on camera is the color we see on set, in natural light. So that’s not CGI. And when the fire goes off in front of Lancel, that wasn’t CGI either. There was a very large pyrotechnics team brought in, and my face was a foot and a half away from the bare flame, which we did by pouring a flammable liquid on top of the glowing goo that was fake wildfire. So when the time came, we illuminated it with a little device, and the whole thing went off right in front of me. The CGI that was then used was just to color the wildfire effect green in Lancel’s eyes, and have the bomb fully go off.
What was it like crawling through the corridor?
The thing about the whole scene was that for the last two years, we’ve seen Lancel be this stoic, disciplined, focused individual, with a rather limited demonstration of much emotion. But when the worst happens to him, and he finds himself staring death in the face, he tries to do his utmost to solve it. He doesn’t give up. He doesn’t cry. But he is, for the first time we’ve seen in a while, really brave. He wants to make sure everything he’s worked for doesn’t go up in flames. And having just suddenly been paralyzed, and being on his own, with no one around him, he would probably bleed to death anyway if he didn’t get the candles out in time. And yet, he still does his best. I found that to be rather emotional, because for all of his bad choices, all the bad things that have happened to him, he still tries his very hardest to do what he believes to be right. And that made him vulnerable again. I could have played that entire reaction very robotically, the way he’s been. But instead, I let him cry out in pain and didn’t deprive him of his humanity. He was still human. He was scared. He didn’t want to die. But I am glad that my character has died the way he has. It was quite a cathartic experience for me.
And it must have been exhausting to shoot …
I can tell you, by the end of that day, my upper body was absolutely ripped because I had been dragging my full body weight across the floor all day long, with just my arms. Plus, I was covered in mud, I was covered in blood, I was covered in sweat, both my own and fake, and I was also covered in bat shit! The castle where we filmed in Belfast, that corridor actually does go on for as long as it looks. It’s about a 300-meter-long corridor — and it’s actually the same corridor where Ned Stark was made Hand of the King, in the crypts of Winterfell. But at the end of it is a very large bat colony, and they were hanging out along with some very large spiders. So the bat shit was all over the floor because the castle had been uninhabited for a very long time. That was the cherry on top of a filthy but fun day. So that was my last day on Game of Thrones! Covered in mud, blood, sweat, and bat shit!
This interview has been edited and condensed.