Finn Jones, the soon-to-be star of Marvel’s Iron Fist, might have been killed off as Loras Tyrell on Game of Thrones, but he’s still very much entrenched in the world of Westeros. Jones stopped in Chicago recently to play Thrones virtual-reality games ahead of the sixth season’s Blu-ray release, and he quickly discovered he’s great at dodging boulders, but lousy at archery. (“Ugh, forget it.”) When Vulture caught up with the actor soon afterward, he chatted about his theory for the show’s endgame, shooting his last scenes, what Loras might have become had he lived, and how Thrones can give people hope in a post-Trump, post-truth era.
Let’s start with the DVD commentaries, because you didn’t get a chance to do one for season six. If you had, what scene would you have picked, and what would you want people to know about it?
The scene in the Sept that was filmed over four days. That episode was directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who also directed episode nine. To prep for this scene, where I’m getting my head carved by Lancel Lannister, we did an insert. They made a template of my forehead, which was like a hardened surface with blood already in it, and they put a prosthetic on my forehead so when he cuts my forehead, the template can drip blood. It was really believable, really well-thought out. Eugene Simon [who plays Lancel] just had to make sure he got the right starting point, and carved around it. The cool thing was that he could dig his knife in and it would leave a wound, but once you took the knife out, it was almost like the prosthetic would reset itself to be like unbreakable skin. It was like it was self-healing. It’s amazing how much work goes into even just a small scene, how much goes into every detail.
But here’s the thing: So I’m on my knees, I’ve got two dudes behind me, and as we’re about to start filming this really harrowing, excruciating, violent scene where I’m getting my head carved, Miguel’s 2-year-old daughter and his wife come to set! It was like the first time that Miguel’s daughter had seen her dad at work. [Laughs.] So on the one hand, Miguel is trying to be a good dad and support his daughter, show her what a cool dad she’s got, show her his job, and then on the other hand, I’m supposed to be tortured within an inch of my life. It was quite a funny juxtaposition.
Was Will Tudor on set? When I scanned the scene, it looked like his character, Olyvar, wasn’t even present to testify against Loras. Did that mean Loras might have had a chance?
I’m not even sure Olyvar’s alive at this point. I doubt he is. A lot of people said, “Oh, Loras is weak. Why didn’t he stand up for himself? He’s supposed to be a warrior!” All this shit. The show didn’t show much of Loras’s torture, so it might be hard to find empathy with his situation, but when you get into the mindset of what it must be like to be down in those dungeons, he would have been abused. Pretty badly abused. I think a Theon-level of abuse when on down there. His spirit, his body, and his mind were broken to such a drastic extreme that he was willing to just do anything to make it stop. I believe what happened is they gave Loras a speech to read and said, “Look, you just turn up on the day, say this, and then you’ll be free.” So the way I played it, the speech that you hear me do, those weren’t my own words. I was pretty much forced against my will to deliver that speech. There’s a resistance there, because it’s humiliating for Loras to have to denounce his dead boyfriend, his family, everything. It goes against everything he is. But he had been pushed to his limit, and he saw no other way around it. He had to go through this terrible, embarrassing ordeal, but he thought at the end of it, he might be able to restore himself and go back to Highgarden. He was so brainwashed.
Olenna Tyrell is looking to avenge her grandchildren by lending her support to Daenerys …
Here’s what I think would be interesting: What would have happened to Loras if the Sept hadn’t been blown up? He would have been scarred, he would have been stripped of all of his titles, and I think he would have made a really incredible character. He would have turned into this kind of vengeful, war-torn warrior, because he’s lost everything — his love, his title, his looks. All of the things that made him this arrogant, gleaming young knight have been taken from him. It would have been really interesting to see what would have happened next, because you’ve got this really powerful warrior still inside him. I think he would have gone on a revenge path. He could have become a really serious bad ass, like what we’re seeing happen with Arya. That would have been really interesting to play, you know? But Daenerys is coming to town, and HBO needed to wipe out a bunch of characters so that they could get on with the story and finish it. [Laughs.] “Okay, we have to kill a bunch of people. Let’s just blow up the whole Sept! Alright, that’s eight down …” It was a very creative way to get rid of a bunch of us, wipe the slate, and make room for Daenerys. Otherwise, it could just go on forever and ever and ever! [Laughs.]
The books can go on for a bit longer, but the show is looking for a tighter conclusion. What do you think will happen? What do you want to happen?
I’ve had this theory for a while, but I think there needs to be a message with the end of Game of Thrones. You know? I think what needs to happen is ice and fire are going to go to war, a huge war between those two factions, and I think in that war, they will destroy themselves. There will be complete chaos, complete destruction. It’ll just be a war-torn map. And I think out of that winter carnage, spring will follow, and what we’ll see is power being given back to the individual realms. I think the Iron Throne will be dissolved, both physically and ideologically. A Small Council will be set up — not to take power, but to give power back. Hopefully, a more democratic and more progressive era will arise on Westeros. I think that’s a really nice, positive way to end the story, and I think we need that right now. The world is a really fucking weird place right now, and we need someone telling a hopeful, positive, progressive story about politics and power. Why not let it be Game of Thrones, one of the most watched shows, if not the most watched show, in the world? Have a real powerful statement that the power should not be in a throne, or in one centralized pinnacle of power. The power should be in individual democracies, in individual communities. It shouldn’t be an oligarchy, or some small group of elite. Power should be with the people and not with some politician or some heir to the throne or some madman. Fuck that. The world’s dying. We really need to take a look at ourselves and decide what’s next. Thrones would be the perfect platform to send a progressive message because right now, our politicians aren’t telling us any truths. It’s hard to find a good, meaningful message, so I think it’s up to storytellers, television shows, and films to have an impact on the world conversation. Is that not what film and television is for? And if not, what is it for?
Have you been shooting Iron Fist in the States during this whole election season?
The whole time. It’s been really eye-opening to see how it all plays out. I do feel like the media is one of the biggest problems. If you look at all these rolling news channels, they sensationalize the story, they focus on gossip, and they don’t actually tell the full story. If we had journalists on TV who actually tried to seek out the truth, then I don’t think we’d be in the situation where we are. But unfortunately over here, news is entertainment. It’s used by corporations to make money. The result is that we don’t have a clue about what’s going on, and we’re looking at news stories that aren’t even real! You know? It’s just maddening. I can’t walk around this city without seeing something from a 24-hour news channel. I’m so disgusted that they’re giving a voice to the “alt-right.” The fact that the “alt-right” even has a name now! It’s white supremacy. It’s neo-Nazi fascists.
Did you see what the Associated Press did with their style guide for the “alt-right”?
I did, and I thought that was a really good move, so that every time you use that word, you have to use it in quotation marks or give it context. That, hopefully, is the beginning of the pushback and the reformation of the media. We’re staring at such a huge problem, we can’t look away from it now. It will force people to try and make a difference. You’ve got to see optimism and hope in all of this. If there’s going to be anything good to come out of what’s happened, it’s that people will take a stand and make good choices. And I’m hoping Thrones can inspire that. George R.R. Martin stands up for a lot of really good causes, and [showrunners] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] are really good people, so it’s in good hands. I have no doubt that the show will end in a fantastic way.
This interview has been edited and condensed.