'Game of Thrones' Breakout Star on Her Brutal Battle of Winterfell Moment: "I Was Very Pleased"

Bella Ramsey speaks with The Hollywood Reporter about her scene-stealing turn as Lyanna Mormont.
HBO

[This story contains major spoilers for season eight, episode three of HBO's Game of Thrones, "The Long Night."]

Heed the words of Lyanna Mormont, the Lady of Bear Island played by Bella Ramsey, first introduced in Game of Thrones' sixth season: "We are not a large house, but we are a proud one — and every man from Bear Island fights with the strength of ten mainlanders."

The Mormonts more than lived up to Lyanna's billing in "The Long Night," the 82-minute end to the White Walker war, as directed by "Hardhome" and "Battle of the Bastards" helmer Miguel Sapochnik. Not only did Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) give up his life while suffering a half-dozen stab wounds from skeletal wights, Lady Lyanna also sacrificed everything in the fight against the dead. Indeed, outside of the Night King himself, no one experienced a more memorable death scene than the young Bear Islander, killed at the literal hands of an undead giant.

Lyanna's brutal final moments occur once the White Walkers' forces begin invading Winterfell proper. Wights are pouring over the walls, and soon, a zombified giant, bursting into the castle in a moment that echoes the late Wun-Wun's own entrance in "Battle of the Bastards." In its first gruesome act, the monster smashes Lyanna across the courtyard with a casual wave of the hand. Bloodied and beaten, Lyanna hops onto her feet, screams a war cry, and rushes toward the giant. It scoops her up, tightens its grip on Lyanna's already damaged body, and brings her in close like a midnight snack — its final, fatal mistake, as the dying Lyanna sticks a dragonglass dagger into the giant's eye, ensuring their mutually assured destructions.

"Lyanna Mormont was supposed to be a one-scene character, and then we met Bella Ramsey and we realized we would not be doing our jobs if we kept her as a one-scene character," co-creator Dan Weiss revealed in this week's "Inside the Episode" feature on HBO. "We knew that we can't give a big death to everybody who dies in this battle because it would've been too much, but also if she were to die, there's no way to not make a moment of it. So that's where the zombie giant comes in. It just added a whole level of complexity to that moment that I'm sure a lot of people would've been okay with not having there if we had demanded to cut it, but I think that they also understood why we needed to give one of the strongest smaller people in the show a chance to go out taking down one of the strongest larger things we've ever seen on the show."

Ahead, one of the strongest smaller people in the show speaks out on dying against one of the strongest larger things ever featured on Game of Thrones: Bella Ramsey herself, speaking with The Hollywood Reporter about the life and death of the late, great Lyanna Mormont.

How are you, Bella?

I'm okay, thanks! How are you?

Much better now that I'm speaking with you. It's good to know you're safe and sound, far away from undead giants.

Yes. I am still with us. I am still here.

I understand you stayed up until two in the morning to watch the episode. 

Yes, I did. (Laughs.) We had to, didn't we? It was amazing. There was a lot of work that went into it. Lots and lots of going backwards and forward, backwards and forwards to Belfast for that moment. It was really nice to see it completely done. 

When did you find out that this would be how your story ended?

When I first got the scripts. It was probably about two years ago. I just remember reading that bit. I did a mini-battle cry, I think. (Laughs.) I was so excited. I was so grateful to be given such a great death.

Did [creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss] give you any kind of head's up to expect Lyanna's death?

No. I had heard a rumor that if you died, they rang you up and told you before you got the scripts. But that never happened. I got the scripts, read it and that was the first time I knew it was going to happen.

Did it feel like a fitting end for Lyanna?

Oh, yes. Definitely. If you're going to die on Game of Thrones, you have to die well, haven't you? I was very pleased. She's the littlest fighter taking out the biggest wight. It did feel fitting. She's always been sticking up for what's right, especially in a room filled with grown men and women. Here, she's doing the same thing, just extended a bit. It was very fitting that little Lyanna came up against a giant and killed him.

What was involved in creating the scene?

Lots and lots of fake blood. (Laughs.) It was actually quite nice. It was kind of sweet!

Like a jam?

It was basically colored sugar water. There was lots of that that I had to have in my mouth, which I then had to dribble out and spit out. It was lovely. (Laughs.) I was in a giant claw machine. I had to have a body cast so they could make a perfectly fitted seat for me. I was sitting on what was like a bicycle seat with [a harness] around my waist, in a giant claw machine that shook me around for hours. It made it seem like I was being shaken in the hand of a giant, [twenty feet in the air]. There was a massive staircase that had to keep moving backwards and forwards, before and after the shot, to give me more fake blood.

How do you stay in the zone for something like that? It sounds exhausting, but was it exhilarating as well?

It was both! In the moment, it was exhilarating. Well, the first two times we did it, anyway. (Laughs.) But it was a satisfying exhaustion. It had been a great day, really. I got back to the hotel and was like, "Whew!" I was a bit knackered. It was draining, but it was such a great experience. I really loved it. I would do it all again.

At the end of the episode, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) kills the Night King. In a way, it almost echoes Lyanna killing the giant — these two young women who are certainly underestimated by others in Westeros are responsible for killing the two biggest threats on the battlefield. What do you think that conveys?

I think it proves that women can fight just as well as men, and young people can fight just as well as experienced warriors. There's a theme of defying the odds, and proving how powerful these people are. I didn't have the full script; I just had the pages for the bits I was in. I didn't really know the full extent of what was happening until I saw it yesterday. It's empowering, really. It's inspiring and empowering.

What do you remember about your final days on set?

I wrapped about five times. They kept finding new bits they had to pick up. The main time they called it a wrap was with me and a bunch of other main cast, so it wasn't just a single person there. It was really nice. Dan and David gave me a storyboard picture of the moment where I attack the giant. I didn't expect that at all. I didn't really think I was a main character. I was very shocked when they gave me that. That's my final memory; it was a very nice one.

From the moment you appeared in season six, the audience has been very taken with Lyanna. Has that been surprising to you? As you said, you didn't think of yourself as a main character, but there are countless people around the world grieving Lyanna's death.

It really feels surreal. I didn't know how people were going to respond to Lyanna, even in season six. I still watch those scenes back and I hate what I did.

You're a harsh critic!

I'm very grateful for the way people received it, and for all the support I've been given. I keep having these moments of realization, of the scale of it, and what it is I've been a part of. It's incredible. It's been a privilege. 

What will you miss about her the most?

Her confidence, definitely. Her sheer, brutal confidence. I'll miss that. She has all her Mormont men beside her, and they're such great guys. I'll miss them as well.

Game of Thrones ends for everyone in three weeks. Who do you want to see on the Iron Throne? Do you have to support the King in the North?

Well, I don't know, because he's betrayed Lyanna now for Daenerys, so I don't know. I think me, and Lyanna if she were still alive, would be rooting for Arya. She killed the Night King, and that's what the whole eight seasons has been leading up to. She's amazing. She has the right motives and everything. She would make a great ruler. I'm hoping she ends up on the throne. I don't know how likely it is, but it would be fun!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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