Emmys: 'Game of Thrones' Star Kit Harington Reveals His Toughest Scene

8:00 AM 8/19/2016

by Anna Lisa Raya

He and seven other supporting actor contenders share what they love about their characters ("Even her narcissism can be funny") and the best advice they’ve received on set.

Emmy Split- HBO-FX-AMC-H 2016
Courtesy of HBO;FX;AMC

  • Maisie Williams

    Her toughest line

    " 'My name is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I'm going home.' This line has been such a long time coming. It was so difficult to capture the whole of Arya's journey in one sentence, but that's basically what I was asked to do. We did a roll, and I probably ended up saying the line about 20 times — different intonation, varying vulnerability, alternative speeds. I honestly couldn't tell you which read [director] Mark Mylod picked. There were only subtle differences, but I was happy with the finished scene, and I'm glad to be 'going home.' "

    Her favorite thing about Arya

    "I love Arya's honesty. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and she's possibly the most straight-talking character on the show. Although her confidence in earlier seasons stemmed from naivete and inexperience, and in more recent seasons she's learned that keeping her mouth shut is sometimes the smarter thing to do, I love that she still pipes up wherever she can and isn't afraid to question people. For example, with Jaqen H'ghar in episode six, Arya questions the Many Faced God when asked to kill Lady Crane."

    Best advice she got from someone on the show

    "It wasn't so much a piece of advice as it was a lesson. I had multiple scenes with Charles Dance [Tywin Lannister] in season two. I was pretty unaware at the time but they were crucial scenes for me, as an actor, and they were crucial scenes for Arya, in the development of her character. Charles would have his coverage shot first, at the beginning of the day. When they turned around to my coverage, they would offer him the chance to leave early — someone else would read his offscreen lines for me to react to instead. He never did. He always stayed and read his lines, which gave 13-year-old me half-a-shot at giving an honest performance. He taught me that acting in an ensemble cast like Game of Thrones is all about working as a team. It doesn't matter how experienced you are, how many roles you've landed, or how many awards you've won. If you want make a great show, you have to help others give a good performance, too. You can't be selfish."

  • Sterling K. Brown

    His toughest scene

    "It was in episode nine, when [Christopher] Darden is almost held in contempt by [Judge] Ito. Up until this point in the show, I think Darden had done a relatively decent job of keeping his emotions in check (glove notwithstanding). But at this point he feels as if the whole trial has been manipulated by [Johnnie] Cochran in the most awful way — Ito in particular — and he can't take it anymore. The first few times I shot the scene, I was so angry that the lines flew right out of my head — and that is not a regular occurrence. We tried to shoot it about three times in a row, and the same thing happened. Anthony Hemingway, our director, called "Cut!" and gave me a few minutes to compose myself. A rough beginning turned into one of my more favorite scenes in the series."

    His favorite thing about Christopher Darden

    "His integrity. He was reticent to be part of the prosecution. He had been warned by his family to stay away. He was considering walking away from the prosecutor's office and going into teaching before the trial even began, but he said yes. And even though he was goaded by members of the defense to be a lesser version of himself — even though he was called an Uncle Tom and a race traitor and a sellout by a large portion of the black community; even though he wasn't able to spend the time with his dying older brother that he would have liked to before he passed away because the trial dragged on so long — he stayed the course. He did his job, and spoke up on behalf of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. And he gave it everything he had. While I wasn't able to recognize it 20 years ago, I definitely think that's worthy of admiration. I don't think I have a least favorite thing about him. Don't get me wrong, the man is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But the things I consider to be his flaws made him that much more fascinating to portray. His passion, for example — trying on the glove without being on one accord with Marcia; blowing up at Cochran in the middle of the trial; breaking down at the press conference when he had to face the Goldmans, realizing that he had let them down. One could argue that he should have had better control of his emotions, but that wouldn't have been hardly as much fun to play."

    Best advice he got from someone on the show

    "I spoke with Courtney B. Vance a lot about family and about balancing the personal and the professional. About raising young black children in this country. About staying grounded in the things which are most vital to your being, and not allowing yourself — myself — to get caught up in sweating the small stuff. He was very much a mentor for living. And I'm proud to call him a friend."

  • Judith Light

    Her toughest scene

    "Definitely the bathtub scene [in which her character has an orgasm during foreplay with Jeffrey Tambor's character, Maura]. It was challenging because I was nervous about being that exposed and that vulnerable."

    Her favorite thing about Shelly

    "Her wanting and trying so hard to connect to her entire family. There is nothing about Shelly that I don't like. Even her narcissism can be funny."

    Best advice she got from someone on the show

    "Two pieces of advice: From Jill Soloway, 'Go deeper and simpler.' From Jeffrey Tambor, just watching him is an inspiration, and the guidance he demonstrates is to be present in every moment."

  • Matt Walsh

    His toughest scene

    "I loved the scene where Mike finds out at the podium his Chinese adoption will not happen. He has to keep some sort of public professionalism but obviously he is personally crushed."

    His favorite thing about Mike

    "I like the range of idiotic behavior Mike [press secretary to President Selina Meyer] has, and it always seems believable — whether he is asking Siri, 'Why does God allow suffering?' or dropping terrible NHL or golf metaphors in his press briefing because he thinks he's landed a great job there. He's even pitched jokes to an empty chair, thinking Selina was still in it. Somehow he's able to get away with tremendous buffoonery. I also like that he has a moral compass and isn't blinded by ambition. He loves his wife and expanded family but is so clueless, which is so much fun to play."

    Best advice he got from someone on the show

    "Two nuggets of wisdom that stick out to me came from Julia [Louis-Dreyfus] during our early seasons. One was about our rehearsals, where we workshop scenes and script moments that aren't quite perfect yet. I was stressed about performing for the writers in the room, basically worried I wouldn't be funny. Julia said, 'Don't be afraid to fail, because getting through that is where we might discover something useful.' The other advice Julia gave me was an empowering piece of wisdom that made me more comfortable to speak up in the room, 'Remember you are responsible for your character.' She is the best person to be a team on and a great voice of wisdom."

  • Louie Anderson

    His toughest scene

    "The first scene in the pilot, the debut of Christine Baskets [mother of Zach Galifianakis' character, Chip]. I knew I had to get it right: the voice, the tone and me believing I was a mother. I had to make Louie Anderson disappear on that screen."

    His favorite thing about Christine

    "She loves being in charge, and she is just waiting for someone to count on her. Just say you need her, and she'll get right on it. I love that nothing's too big to overcome for her."

    His least favorite thing about Christine

    "She can be a little mean, which even in acting can seem hurtful."

    Best advice he got from someone on the show

    "To not overthink the part, just be real."

  • Kit Harington

    His toughest scene

    "The long one-shot battle scene in 'Battle of the Bastards.' Oh God, we rehearsed that for days and days because it was one continuous shot with a couple of cuts. Most of those horses are real. It was such a delicate dance, and it was a dangerous one because you have real horses galloping back and forth — and a lot of the time my back is to them. You had to be very, very precise about each of those beats. We rehearsed all of the fights — I just went through it and through it and through it. It is a dance; if you liken it to a dance, that makes it more manageable. Director Miguel Sapochnik put together a preview of the whole battle and showed us all what we were planning, and we all went, 'OK, that's going to be really hard.' But I loved how it turned out."

  • Bokeem Woodbine

    His toughest line of dialogue

    "The scene in episode three where Patrick Wilson's character says, 'We're a very friendly people,' to [my character] Mike [Milligan], a hit man [for a Kansas City crime syndicate]. To which Mike responds with: 'No, that's not it. Pretty unfriendly, actually, but it's the way you're unfriendly. How you're so polite about it, like you're doing me a favor.' I've often felt the way Mike felt in that moment: ostracized, prejudged or looked upon with scorn for no apparent reason. Trying to simultaneously separate and integrate my feelings from and with Mike Milligan proved to be no small task."

    His favorite thing about Mike

    "The best thing about him was his ambition. It reminded me of how I felt when I was 19 and I first started working in the business."

    Best advice he got from someone on the show

    "'Have fun!' from Noah Hawley."

  • Olivia Colman

    Her toughest scene

    "The speech about [children being killed by sarin gas at] a school picnic and why Angela hated Roper [the ruthless arms dealer she feels is responsible, played by Hugh Laurie]. I struggled to keep it together because the thought of children being hurt is awful."

    Her favorite thing about Angela

    "I loved Angela Burr because she's hard as nails and bright and witty and noble. I loved everything about her — what's not to love?"

    Best advice she got from someone on the show

    "Name your child so they wouldn't look out of place addressing the U.N. or selling out at the roundhouse!"