Warning: This article contains major SPOILERS. If you have not watched this week's Game of Thrones, stop reading now and come back later.
And another one bites the dust. Or so the story frequently goes, if you are an actor on HBO's ensemble hit drama Game of Thrones. Sunday's episode, "The Watchers on the Wall," mostly revolved around the titular Wall and, as has come to be expected of the intense and violent series, was full of drama and death.
In the first few minutes of the episode, Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan) tells Sam (John Bradley), "Love is the death of duty." But for us loyal fans, it seems that when it comes to love in Thrones, it's not death of duty, but rather just plain death.
The most prominent loss in Sunday's episode was wildling warrior/Jon Snow love Ygritte, played by Rose Leslie. Ygritte fought alongside the wildlings in the bloody battle for Castle Black, and had her former flame Jon in her sights, bow drawn back. But just then, she was killed by an arrow from young Olly's bow and died in Jon's arms, telling him one last time: "You know nothing, Jon Snow."
Yahoo TV spoke to Leslie recently about her emotional Thrones exit via telephone from New Orleans, where she is currently filming the independent film Sticky Notes.
Read on to find out why Leslie "cried like a little baby girl" afterward, which other character's death this season traumatized her, and what parting gift she received from showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
What was your reaction when you read that final script?
All those years ago, when I found out that I was going to play the part of Ygritte, I was a geek and I just straight away read the books. So I was well aware of my character's fate before I started shooting Season 2. So I knew that it was coming, and then finally when we were all sent the episodes for Season 4, I read the script and once again, David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] are brilliant. They were very loyal to the books, and it was wonderful: She finally gets the last word, and of course it's going to be her favorite catchphrase. And I thought it was a lovely ending and comes full circle for those two characters.
What was that final day on set like, shooting that final scene? Were there more people on set to see you off? Was the weather nice for your last day?
We were up in Belfast; it wasn't particularly nice weather. But the production was very lovely, very thoughtful, and the scene that I die in Jon Snow's arms was my final scene, so after that was done, I was wrapped for good, as it were. So already it was quite an emotional day, and it was a night shoot, and there were loads of people there on set. David and Dan were there as well, and after we finally wrapped, they presented me with Ygritte's bow. They had wrapped it for me and the crew and everyone kind of surrounded me and stuff, and then it was done and I cried. I mean, I cried profusely, like a little baby girl. They were wonderful; it was very, very magical. I was very touched.
How long was the shoot? Did it feel different at all?
It was just like any other scene; we did several takes, and Kit and I, actually, we had discussed it a couple of days before and neither of us really wanted to rehearse it together. Because both of us felt that there was no real need to; that it was hopefully going to be organic as possible on that actual day, so neither of us knew what we were going to do to one another. It's kind of straightforward in the script, and there was that as well, the excitement of not quite knowing how it was going, how it was going to turn out. And then we did a couple of takes, and then that was it — we were done.
So after the tears, how did you come down after finishing? Did you watch a comedy? Take a bubble bath?
[Laughs.] There was a lot of champagne, a celebration back at the hotel — because in Belfast, we're lucky us cast members to all stay within the same hotel. So we all piled back into the cars and people went back to the hotel and we all sat up drinking, which is a lovely way to say goodbye to the show for me, because I had such a blast being a part of it. That night was very special to me. So yeah, that was kind of the way to end it, and I think it was a lovely full-stop.
What do you like most about what Ygritte brought out in Jon?
Even though I'm biased, I think that even though she was a woman scorned, I feel that she still allowed him to think in not such a narrow-minded way and to appreciate other people's points of views. And to make him aware and make him realize that it doesn't have to be so black and white, and to raise questions in his head as to why he's so dutiful: for what cause and for whom. But I really like how she truly appreciated just how dutiful Jon Snow is, and just how honorable a character he is, because they are lovely traits to have as a man and that's all what drew her to him in the first place.
Do you feel that it is a fitting end for the character? Would you have wanted anything else?
No, I feel that it is a very fitting end for the character. I do. I think that the relationship she has with Jon Snow needed to have its arc; it needed that, for Ygritte to be out of his life, for Jon to then move on and continue in the direction that he's going and to become his own man. And I have to say that I think that it's a really fitting end they both needed.
I'm always envious of actors when you get to acquire a skill for your roles, especially with the fight scenes and the bow and arrow. Is there one thing you are happy you got to learn and take away?
Yeah, I think it was definitely archery for me. I'd never picked up a bow and arrow before in my life, and the production was brilliant in realizing that for Ygritte to be provable, for audiences to believe that she is a ruthless killer, she has to be very good with what she does. She is a warrior. So they put me through archery training, and I absolutely loved it. I'm not nearly as good as the character is made out to be, but I do feel it is something I've taken away with me. So I certainly want to keep that going and keep that up in my future life.
Has there been another character's departure this season that has affected you?
I was aware of Joffrey's death, obviously, because I read the books. So that got me. I loved to hate him. So there's a part of me that loved watching Jack Gleeson onscreen, even though I don't want him to die at all. But then of course Joffrey is such a little sh--, you've got to get rid of him. So that was quite traumatic for me. And also the Viper. Oh, I swear, [Pedro] Pascal was phenomenally wiped out. I've enjoyed hugely watching him; he's been brilliant.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.