The Night King was a terrifying figure. He could raise the dead. He had strange, devilish horns on his head. But a lot of the fear he inspired came simply from what we didn’t know about him.
He didn’t speak, save in the form of horrific corpse-art installations that were rather hard to decipher. Only very late in the “Game of Thrones” arc did we finally learn that his purpose was to bring about an endless night and to erase humanity’s biggest memory download, the Three-Eyed Raven.
Still, he took his sweet time in approaching Bran Stark in Sunday’s episode, making some fans wonder why. Vladimir Furdik, the Slovakian actor and stuntman who played the Night King, called from Budapest to share what it was like shooting the Battle of Winterfell. Following are edited excerpts from that conversation.
Q: What did you think when you finally got to see the finished versions of your pivotal scenes? The Night King’s confrontation with Dany, with Arya …
A: I was actually on set all day, every day. I did every part of the battle because I was helping choreograph the fights from beginning to end, every kill. I wasn’t just Night King, you know? Everything that happens in this episode, I was close behind the camera or the sound man to help them. And then when you see someone in the monitor, you can say to the director, “[Miguel Sapochnik], have them put their head down!”
When I saw it on the TV, I said, “Wow, this is amazing.” Especially the end, with the music and the slow motion — it took my heart, you know? I was like, I feel cold.
Q: Have you seen any of the fan reaction?
A: No, no, no, no, no. I would like to.
Q: There are a lot of fun ones out there. For instance, Jimmy Kimmel did a bit about how he thought the Night King and Bran had some very interesting romantic chemistry.
Q: There was a long moment where the Night King and Bran gaze at each other. People were wondering what was going on between them.
A: Ah! That moment, that was very different because [Isaac Hempstead Wright] and I are very good friends. And we were joking many times, you know? And I remember a couple times when they said, “Action!” he gave me a look, and he smiled! He smiled through his eyes! And I tried to hold it back. I said to myself, “Don’t smile, don’t smile.” And then I said to Isaac, “Please don’t smile because then I’ll smile!” And mess up on camera! We were worried about laughing!
I remember there was rain, and so a couple of times I held my umbrella over him. And he said, “Somebody should take a picture of you holding the umbrella.”
Q: He posted that on Instagram: “Here’s a still taken from the alternate Episode 3 ending in which the Night King becomes Bran’s carer and they both live happily ever after.”
Q: So what was it like shooting your death scene?
A: Every time they killed me — it will be in my brain forever, you know? This was a very hard shooting day, I remember. It really wasn’t easy for me and for [Maisie Williams] to just sell the moment, you know? And it was cold. It was raining. She was on the wire, in a harness, and she did the jump many times. She was so tired. When I turn to grab her, this was also difficult for me to grab her at exactly the moment she’s jumping.
When I hold her under the jaw, and we look at each other, I could feel she was full of emotion. I can tell you, it was a strong moment between me and her. Not just because we did it so many times. But there was something on the set, when they said, “Action!” and I grab her and we look at each other. It was so strong. I cannot tell you how strong.
Q: Was there ever anything about the Night King that confused you? Or that you wanted more information about?
A: I think that what [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] did was very clear, so I completely understood what they wanted. I think maybe at the beginning of the season, they might have thought he would fight more with his sword, but everything from David and Dan was clear.
Q: I mean more of the Night King mythology or story? Like, where did he leave the baby White Walkers during the battle? What was it like to raise them? Did you ever imagine more about his life?
A: No, not really. I wasn’t thinking about this. I think if somebody would like to tell a story about what happened — what happened after he changed the babies to be White Walkers — we can shoot another episode about this stuff!