'Game of Thrones': Grey Worm Star Shares His Season 7 War Stories

Actor and musician Jacob Anderson, currently working on his new album, tells THR all about the Casterly Rock battle and Grey Worm's first love scene.
Courtesy of HBO
'Game of Thrones'

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the third episode of Game of Thrones' seventh season, "The Queen's Justice," on HBO.]

He's not the biggest or the strongest, but he's the bravest Unsullied of the bunch — and his fearless nature is being put to the test, thanks to a battle gone horribly wrong.

For the second week in a row, Grey Worm stood front and center on HBO's Game of Thrones, this time as a fighter, not a lover. Toward the end of "The Queen's Justice," the Unsullied warrior charged into battle at Casterly Rock, the luxurious castle that the Lannisters call home. Although he survived the attack without suffering physical harm, Grey Worm and the other survivors are now left stranded at Casterly Rock, thanks to their ships being incinerated by Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) and his fleet.

Meanwhile, in reality, Jacob Anderson — the man who plays Grey Worm — is in a relatively isolated place of his own: a farm outside of Oxfordshire in England, where he's recording a follow-up to his 2016 album You're a Man Now, Boy, which was released under the alias Raleigh Ritchie.

"I want it to be better than the first one, which is completely subjective," Anderson tells The Hollywood Reporter about his current project. "Hopefully I've pushed myself a lot more than I did before. I've taken myself out of my own comfort zone. I'm having fun. Unfortunately, it means I can't give great interviews, because my brain's destroyed!"

Even with a wrecked brain, Anderson managed to articulate his thoughts on everything going on with Thrones' Grey Worm this season, from his love scene with Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and the battle scene at Casterly Rock to the character's evolution from stone-cold killer to warm-blooded hero.

What was your reaction when you learned Grey Worm would be leading the charge into battle at Casterly Rock this year?

I always get excited when I see that Grey Worm is about to get involved in some fighting. I get very excited about that. It's one of my favorite things about doing the show: I get to learn how to make myself feel like a badass.

I feel like slipping on Grey Worm's armor would be half the work right there!

I wish it was that easy. (Laughs.) You kind of learn it like a dance, really. It's all about counts. I think there were 30 or 32 moves in that fight last night. You have to know where you have to be at move No. 5, and at move No. 6 you have to be there. You feel it and feel it and feel it, and keep practicing. This year was quite good, though, fighting in that corridor. It was a good little path.

How long did it take to shoot this battle?

Oh, it took so long. The actual fight only took one day of shooting, but all of the stuff around it — going through the tunnels, and being on the boat — there were two days of boats, and some of it was shot in Spain, some of it in Belfast, some just outside of Belfast. It took maybe seven or eight days to do that whole sequence.

What was it like on the boat?

The boat was actually pretty awful. It was really, really wet. They had two boats: They had a barge where the cameras were, and I would stand on the edge of the barge and they would shoot it, and then there was the actual boat, which was just me and six of the Unsullied. There were a few times they couldn't get us back onto shore, so we just had to stand there and get rained on. It's freezing. It's really quite the surreal image. I got myself through it by dancing. I just danced on the boat and got freaked out by all of the rocking.

That sounds like a nightmare.

Yeah. My trousers ripped twice! In fact, my trousers ripped three times during this fight. I wanted to look cool. It's not fair! There's a bit where I have to jump out of the boat and into the water, and my trousers ripped wide open.

That's not going to help you feel like a badass!

I was just getting freezing water shooting up into my junk. That's what that was. (Laughs.) If you think I look cool jumping out of the boat? Well, that's what was happening in real life.

How hard is that, reconciling the physical reality of what you're doing with what your character is supposed to be going through?

This one was actually okay, because I had my helmet on this time, and I could hide behind that a little bit. But in the past, I've received notes from directors, and from [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] that would tell me not to let my face do too much when I'm fighting. Grey Worm is meant to be so adept at his spear skills. It's not much of an effort for him. Even though my face wants to screw up and I want to pretend that I'm an Avenger or whatever, they're like, "No, you have to be much more badass than that. You have to show no emotion. Killing is what you were bred to do." It's a horrible way to get there and it's a horrible thing to be bred to do, but that's the reality for that character. That's often the hardest thing — not so much in this fight, but in the past, just keeping a straight face more or less throughout a fight. That's been the hardest thing for me to do, generally. When I was talking to Dan Weiss about the character when I first started, I asked if he had any pointers or anything about him. He said: "You have to think about yourself as a robot. You think about someone who has been traumatized so much they can no longer bare to feel anything about what they do. You just have to play someone who is almost not human anymore." It was interesting.

Has it been rewarding, or challenging even, to pull those layers back? We're seeing a much more human side of Grey Worm this year.

Yeah, it's definitely been challenging. Too many people go through horrible trauma, but not many people that I know — and certainly myself — have this level of an experience of feeling nothing, and then sort of starting to become human. Becoming a human is quite a difficult thing to work out in your head. Sometimes, I would go too far, and I would have to pull it back a little bit, and not be too musical in speech. It's hard to describe. It's not something too many people would ever have to understand. At least I hope not. 

How do the technical challenges involved in filming a battle scene compare to what you encountered filming the love scene with Missandei? 

It was the most difficult scene I've ever had to do in my life, for so many different reasons. There's the part where it's uncomfortable because Nathalie and I are friends. You don't want to have to do that kind of thing. It's a really vulnerable position to be in with a friend. Also, you have 20 people watching you naked. In some ways, it's good, because you can give each other a look: "Are you okay?" "I'm okay. Are you okay?" "I don't know." You know what I mean? You can have each other's backs. That element of it makes you feel very vulnerable, but actually, probably, in a good way. I think that fed into the scene for both of us, because the characters are more vulnerable than they have ever been. I think it helped with the scene, particularly the conversation they had at the beginning. Also, it's the most that Grey Worm has ever really talked about anything that isn't having to do with duty or strategy. It was very difficult to work that out. How does Grey Worm talk about his feelings? It's a beautifully written scene. Bryan Cogman did an amazing job. I take no credit for that at all. But even in terms of ... you don't want to be too vulnerable, but if it's not the most vulnerable that character has ever been, it doesn't really do anything. It's the same with everything, playing this part, finding the exact right balance between being completely stoic and nothing, and being somebody who is trying to work out how to be a human.

There were conversations after the episode about the show's decision not to show Grey Worm in his entirety. What do you think about the choice to withhold that from the audience?

I kind of feel like it's not the point. It's exactly the kind of thing that would get set off on the internet, but in terms of the story, it's not the point. The point is, whatever is going on, that moment of [Missandei] accepting him and him realizing that she accepts him is the more important thing. We know that he's a eunuch. To what degree? It's up for debate. It's a scene about acceptance and physical acceptance. There's a lot of masculinity on our show, and I think Grey Worm is an interesting one [in that space]. He can fight, he can defend himself, and all of the things that people traditionally associate with masculinity. I think it calls up a lot of interesting questions. The point for me isn't about what he's got or hasn't got. Whatever he's got, she accepts it. That means everything to him, I think. I think it's the one thing that's held him back in the past.

Grey Worm told Missandei that he didn't know fear until he met her. This episode ends with Grey Worm stranded at Casterly Rock. How much fear is he feeling now, and how much fear should we feel for Grey Worm?

Well, I think everybody should be afraid for every character at this point in the show.

That's not comforting!

There's no comfort in the world of this show! Nobody should feel comfortable with where Grey Worm is at this moment, at least not Grey Worm. But actually, I think the point of that scene was that his only real fear is can he get back to Missandei? And also doing his duty. If he died in that battle, during the actual fight, I think it would have been kind of in a weird way his honor. But where he's left at the moment, it's more about: "Right. How do I get back now?" He's a bit stuck. I'm not sure it's so much that he's afraid. He's a pretty brave dude. I don't think he's afraid of being stranded. He's just afraid of not seeing this person that he loves again. 

Watch the video below for the Game of Thrones cast's preview of season seven's battles.

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