Game of Thrones
Creative Director of Dezynamite moonlights on Game of Thrones
No, your eyes do not deceive you. That is an image of our very own Jesse Morris sitting, in full battle armour, on the Iron Throne in Westeros.
Unfortunately though Jesse does not have a legitimate claim to the throne and was only keeping it warm (very briefly) for… well, who’s to say, you won’t find any spoilers here!
Now that the final season is hitting the airwaves our Creative Director reflects on being a part of four (yes, FOUR) seasons of what is described as the biggest TV show in history. As more than a million people around the world sat down to watch the first episode of the final Game of Thrones instalment – we just had to write a small piece on our favorite show (and favorite boss too, of course…)!
So, as much as Jesse is uncomfortable talking about these things, we decided to twist his arm and do our own little interview with him for your benefit, after all, it’s not every day you get a glimpse into these things.
So, Jesse, can you tell us how you got started on the show?
Back to the beginning? Well, around the time the first season aired I was working on BBC’s Ripper Street – and I was immediately hooked on the show. At first I did not realise the majority of the show was filmed in Ireland until one of the AD’s (Assistant Directors) said that he had just finished working on an episode for Season 2. Of course, being already a super fan, I told him I would work for free on it if I could get the chance and asked if he could let me know how to get on to it. A few days later, he gave me a contact to get in touch and I immediately rang and sent over a copy of my acting CV. A while went by, I think they had nearly finished filming the second season at that stage and I put it to the back of my mind not thinking anything of it. Roll on 6 or 7 months later and while out on a family trip to the zoo I got a call from their casting department. They said they did not have any acting roles left to fill for the upcoming season 3 – but if I was as keen as I said I was they could get me on set and maybe get me in costume as an extra. It was a no-brainer – I said yes!
And what was the part?
Initially I was put in and did a scene as an Iron Islander – I was one of the 50 hardy guys that Yara Greyjoy brings to rescue Theon, I can be seen on the ship as Yara sets sail. I always joke that she didn’t have 50 of the hardiest killers in the Iron Islanders, instead she got 49 plus me, but it worked out fairly well!
You say initially, did you get to do any other scenes that season?
Yes, although originally filmed for Season 3 as well, it was not used until Season 4 where I get to be the personal bodyguard to Lysa Arran as a Knight of the Eerie. This was a small step up in terms of responsibility and got to work more with the cast on this occasion. Basically it was a week of myself and another actor trailing Kate Dickie (Lyse Arran) and Aiden Gillen (Littlefinger) around, filming scenes in the Eerie with them. That was pretty cool and at that stage I think the Ad’s were noting how comfortable I was on camera and also with the main cast, so they started to consider me for bigger parts and I started getting longer shoot dates.
What did they consider you for next?
Next up I was fitted as a Wildling archer, dressed up to the nines in furs and rugs, which was surprisingly comfortable. At the last minute due to time restraints that scene was cancelled as they were having difficulty with the weather, so instead I went from rags to riches and was cast as a ‘Kings Landing Nobleman’. They could not have been more polar opposite in terms of costume, the Wildling looking wild and haggard but being super comfortable to looking amazing as a Noble Man and being cramped and hot in the costume!
However, this was a big jump up in terms of importance and responsibility – as the scene was the major one in Season 6 – in fact it was the finale – it was the one where Cersei blows a number of us up in a horrible explosion, also took out a number of main cast members. For this, apart from the huge focus on secrecy, we got to spend several days getting blown up, thrown about, falling down steps, shot with air cannons and then going through digital body scans so that the FX department could torture us some more – albeit in the digital world. It was great fun looking back, but at the time I do recall the long days on set being a killer and the multiple bruises, but it was worth every second.
And, a little birdy told us you were promoted to cast member… is that true?
Yes, it did indeed. As mentioned I was working previously on Ripper Street, where I was cast as a doppelgänger for Jerome Flynn on the show. Basically, the Ripper Street storyline went that his character goes awol and the other main cast started a search for him, eventually they think they have found him and confront him with the big reveal being it was my character all along and not Jerome Flynn’s.
This being mistaken for Jerome led me to being cast in Game of Thrones as his double on the show. This was again an amazing experience, though I have to admit that wearing his leather pants (along with the rest of his costume) was definitely not the high point of this. The upgrade was amazing though, I ended up getting to work shorter hours on set, having my own trailer, hair and makeup team working magic to make me look more like him from afar, getting to hang out with the cast and more. Altogether the royal treatment.
Was the work easier now that you were promoted to cast member?
Actually, being a double is quite the opposite. In my acting CV are a couple of double roles so I am no stranger to this side of acting and quite frankly I find it is an awful lot tougher. In one respect, it is easier psychologically as you are not always directly in focus or giving a read to the camera through facial expressions, and because there is less focus you can feel under less pressure. However, what makes it difficult is that you have to completely adopt to being this other person. You usually get shown the scene that was filmed previously that you need to blend in with, so you have to check your own personal mannerisms, some of which you might not be fully aware of and then study what the original actor did in quite often a very short space of time. Then, not only have you got to remember timings of actions and what they said and how they said it, you also have to note how they stood, how they composed themselves, what little movements they made and then copy it completely, without anything of your own twist or personality coming through. In a normal scene you get to bring your own body language and your own little elements, but as a double you are trying to embody what comes naturally to someone else and not necessarily to yourself, yet make it look convincingly like them.
Aside from this I also got to spend a couple of weeks as Alfie Allen’s (aka Theon Greyjoy’s) stand-in. This was much, much easier work, probably the easiest of it all. I got to spend some quality time with all the main cast, got treated really well and got to have a lot of fun on set. There was far less pressure with that and I got a front row seat as all the big players did their thing, in fact, quite a few scenes I was right behind the camera crew watching on, amazing!
So, does that mean we will get to see lots of you on screen?
Well, as much as I would love to say yes, the better I do my job as Bronn’s Double the less likely you will have a clue that it is me that you are seeing. This final season sees me don a Stark Guard’s armour as well as the bits where you won’t recognise me as Bronn’s Double and Theon’s stand-in. If you keep your eyes peeled you might spot me, but needless to say, there will be a lot going on to take your attention away from who is standing in the shadows so to speak. With everything happening, you never know, after all, with over a month filming as a Stark Guard in various scenes you never know where I might just pop up.
Altogether, a good experience?
Yes, definitely. If you have read any of the articles online about the filming of it, it is not easy work and not for the faint hearted – physically it took a huge toll and was mentally draining, but to look back and to have been a part of something this huge and to have had a front row seat is something that will last me a lifetime. I have plenty of stories to tell from it all – but you won’t find me telling them here – you did say no spoilers after all! Come back to me after it’s over and maybe I’ll give you a story or two, I might even tell you about the day George Lucas visited us on set – now THAT is a funny story.
Oh, do tell!
I am afraid that will have to wait until after the show has aired, lol.
Game of Thrones Season 8 is available to watch now on Sky Atlantic.
Jesse’s IMDB page is available HERE.