Actress Ellie Kendrick tells Hypable about the highs and lows of filming Game of Thrones, hints at Meera’s future, and shares trade secrets from the set.
Kendrick plays Meera Reed on Game of Thrones, a fierce Crannogwoman who has been dragged to the ends of the earth and back by supernatural forces. Meera has also done her share of dragging on the show; after the tragic death of Hodor last season, she is solely responsible for Bran’s transportation through a violent northern landscape.
Speaking to Hypable, Kendrick reminisced about her experiences on set, and teased a bit of what’s to come in Game of Thrones season 7.
Interview with Ellie Kendrick
How does it feel to have taken Meera through such a long ordeal? Everyone on Game of Thrones has experienced tragedy, but–
She’s really had it bad, hasn’t she? And I feel like we never really acknowledge how bad Meera’s had it. Because she’s so stoic, you know? So she’s left her home, she had to follow her brother’s prophesy to take her somewhere in the middle of the woods, met this woman who hated her, with this little kid, and she was fighting with the woman — you know, she was fighting with Osha — and then, so that happened!
And then they have to go through the wildernesses, then her brother dies, then she gets stuck and she has to fight all of those wights, nearly dies, goes and gets stuck in a cave with only Hodor for company, whilst Bran —
For a full season!
Yeah, and then, yeah! For a full season! And then there’s that whole awful “Hold the door” section. She’s seriously, she’s got to be seriously traumatized, but there’s no letting up in the Game of Thrones world. There’s no time for indulging that, she’s just gotta go on. And she’s like a proper warrior, you know? She just has to keep pushing forward, because everything is resting on her, you know? In terms of Bran’s survival, if she doesn’t bring it then they both are gonna die. They’re just stuck out in the middle of nowhere.
So it’s cool to play a character where the stakes are so high, just in terms of like, physically! Death is imminent at so many moments, but also she’s got this, you know, there’s a whole emotional wave of awful stuff that she just has never been able to deal with, what’s going on. So it’s an interesting one to play.
And what’s it like for you to now take over Bran-hauling duties, now that Hodor has died heroically?
Yeah, well! It’s certainly a workout, because I am actually dragging him. But luckily I have a very strong back for someone my size! But also, occasionally when they do wide shots, I’m going to let you into a little secret. They have a perfectly rendered model Bran. So they cast his whole body, and it’s like this, I don’t really know what, it’s like silicone or something, and it’s painted. It’s got eyebrows and eyelashes and the costume and everything, but it’s like an Isaac (Hempstead-Wright) dummy. It’s like a doll.
Yeah! And you prod it, and it like, gives like real skin! It’s mad. So occasionally when they’re doing a wide shot, I’m not actually dragging him. It’s the Isaac doll, who we obviously all had a lot of fun with.
Anytime it’s closer, and in a lot of the shots, I actually am dragging him for real. Because I do think, as an actor, it’s important when you can to go through the experience you’re supposed to be going through in the scene. Because we’ve got to see the physical effort of it. And the effort is big, because [Isaac is] a lot taller than me now! Every season when he’s grown, I’m like, “Oh no! It’s going to be even harder.”
So now Kristian Nairn’s burden has passed on to you!
Yeah, yeah, yeah! He looked at me when I was dragging him, and was like, “Now you know what I’ve been going through!”
So in the books, Howland Reed, Meera’s father–
He’s a big source of mystery. Do you think we might see him in Game of Thrones season 7, or maybe 8?
I can’t tell you anything, but I would love to see him because I am so fascinated by what’s going on there!
He knows everything!
Yeah! He’s such a key character. I really hope, I mean, I’ve been told nothing so I have no idea, but I hope that we see him because it’d be really exciting to see if he could divulge some kind of secrets. And I’d love to see where the Reeds come from. Like, in the books, it’s this kind of, they’re Cranogmen and they come from this kind of swamp and they have a moving castle which is so cool! So I’d love for us to go there… just personally, I’d be really excited to see that.
Game of Thrones is famously twisty and shocking. Do the writers tell you much in advance?
I don’t know anything about where we’re actually going to go. It’s always a surprise, both for an actor and for the viewer. We never know where we’re going to get taken next.
Without spoiling anything, do you have any hopes for Meera in Game of Thrones season 7?
Well, I hope that she gets a good rest! Apart from anything else, a good rest, and a good meal, and a nice warm fire, I think is all Meera needs right now. Because boy, she’s gone through hell, hasn’t she? So I think, just a moment for Meera, for her intense effort to be acknowledged would be lovely. And then I’d love to find out more about where she comes from. That for me, as we were saying, that’s the exciting part.
And looking back at season 6, what was it like to return to set after a year offscreen?
Yeah, it was just really nice to like, have everyone back together again. It’s so sad, because now Kristian isn’t with us anymore, which is really sad. But yeah, we’re a tight little group, and the nicest thing about it, almost, was just coming back to the season and seeing those guys again. We always go out for little meals, and hang out whilst we’re filming.
And Kristian, I’m really sad that he’s gone because he’s got a hilarious sense of humor. He’s very unlike his character, he’s very eloquent and he’s really mischievous and a lot of fun. He was always great comic relief when we were filming those intense scenes [when] we were stuck on tents on mountains with the wind and rain lashing at us, and he always had a hilarious comment or a great story to tell us to lighten the mood. Now he’s gone, it’s very sad.
Well, you never know. It is Game of Thrones!
Who knows? I would never rule it out. You can’t predict anything on this show.
Can you give us any hints about how Meera will deal with returning to the semi-civilization of the Wall?
That’s a good question. It would be a big shock, wouldn’t it?… We’ll have to wait and see what the series holds in store, but it’s going to be exciting!
Finally, what do you take from Meera into your everyday life?
Oh, great question! Well, it puts my own problems into a lot of perspective, doesn’t it? When you’re kind of annoyed that you’ve missed your train and you’re feeling a little bit down about it, compare it to Meera and you’re pretty golden! So that’s definitely something I’ve taken.
Also, you know, it was really fun in season… what was it, season 4, learning the really — I actually did all of the fight sequence when she’s fighting the wights, I did all that myself, so I learned some pretty killer moves with an axe. So if I’m ever needed to shoot a bow and and arrow, skin a rabbit, or do some axe fighting, those are all fantastic, everyday life skills that I’ve learned from Meera!
The Game of Thrones season 7 premiere, “Dragonstone,” airs Sunday, July 16 at 9:00 p.m. on HBO.