Can you imagine being on set for one of the Game of Thrones series finale's most pivotal scenes? Now you can because the new Prince of Dorne — actor Toby Osmond — is breaking it down for us.
The actor's meme-worthy performance certainly caught fans' attention and now he's sharing some behind-the-scenes secrets from the moment where Bran the Broken was crowned king.
Below, he talks to TV Insider about the audition process, being on location in Spain, working with the cast and showunners, and where he thinks his character stands on Westeros' new leader.
How did casting work for your role as the new Prince of Dorne?
Toby Osmond: It was a standard auditioning process, like any other sort of film or television role I've been up for... The casting director, Kate Bone, she got in touch saying, "We'd like to see Toby for it." And it was hilarious, really, because of all the secrecy and stuff surrounding the show, especially towards the end, which is understandable. I didn't see a script, and I didn't know what the role was.
Wow, that's crazy.
I knew it was for Game of Thrones, and they said they wanted four powerful men, and one charismatic man. Now, my agent said, "I'm terribly sorry, dear boy. I hope you understand. I'm not putting you up for a powerful man."
So then I went in for the audition, and... Kate said, "OK, Toby, imagine you're in this sort of war council, and you're discussing battle tactics to defend a city." I'm like, "OK, cool, cool." She's like "You're the leader, you're the commander. You're surrounded by your sort of captains and generals, and you're sort of arguing with them about the best way to defend the city..."
And I'm like "So how do you want me to do this? Do you want me to just ad-lib it, or what?" She's like, "Yes, in a Dornish accent." That was the first I knew that the role was Dornish and some sort of leader.
Did they give you any backstory for your character ahead of filming?
Yeah, I mean, on set Dan [co-showrunner D.B. Weiss] was giving me a bit of insight into my thoughts on Bran being named king.
So it was funny, because I think it was on something like day three or something, they were doing the close-ups on me... and it was only then when Dan came up to me and he's like "OK, so, this moment's really important for Dorne. You're sort of really vested in this.".. And I was like "That is not how I've been playing it, so far." [Laughs]
I've been playing it like there's a mountain range between Dorne and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms... like our house words are "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" — we don't care. This isn't going to affect Dorne a whole lot. I'm thinking about going and rescuing Ellaria Sand after this meeting's over or something.
Were you a fan of the show before being cast? If so, what were you most excited about heading into filming?
Everything. Absolutely everything. I was really thrilled to partly be a part of the story, because it's such a fantastic sort of chronicle. It's like Star Wars or something. It was a pleasure to meet the actors and the cast as well, and the creators, Dan and David [Benioff]. It was also exciting from a career perspective. It's already sort of started to help bump me up the old acting ladder, which is lovely.
It was my father who got me into Game of Thrones, but he passed away after the first season. He got me into it, and it was the last TV series that he was into before, sadly, he passed away. And so I felt a bit like I was sort of carrying a torch for him. So that was lovely.
I had a good conversation with Tobias Menzies who plays Edmure Tully, because I'd followed his career a bit since he was on the TV show Rome. We had a good chat about theater and stuff, and it was fantastic having that opportunity to chat to people who I've sort of studied the careers of and admired their work.
You shot on location in Spain, right?
How long did it take to film that scene?
It was either eight or 10 days — that's including travel on either side. But at the very minimum we were basically filming for about a week for the one scene, which is quite a long time. But it's kind of understandable, as well, partly because of the pivotal nature of the scene. I mean, we're deciding who's going to sit on the Iron Throne!
But also, there are a lot of characters in it. So they're going to want to get all the angles, make sure they get all the cameras in place to cover absolutely everything... you want plenty of options for the editor.
Was it difficult keeping the secret about Bran being named king?
Yes, absolutely. What actually helped with that was the fact that... while we were filming, we heard this rumor about fake endings being filmed. That they were going to film multiple endings, so it would literally be impossible for spoilers to get out, which is understandable.
So while we were filming it, for a few days in, I started thinking, "Hold on. Is this a fake ending?" Now, part way through, Dan sort of just stopped by my chairs —very lovely of him — and he just said "Toby, what a scene to get in on, eh?" So then I sort of knew, like "No, there's no way. This isn't a fake ending. This is it, this is the thing." But we have non-disclosure agreements as well, so we're not actually allowed to speak about our set.
Did you know ahead of time that you'd made the cut for the finale?
No, no, no... My agent did try and find out, but he couldn't get in touch. So yeah, I didn't know. And it was actually only because it's released over in the States at about 2 a.m. U.K. time on the Monday...my phone just started buzzing.
And I just bolted up in shock. I was like, "Oh my God. Game of Thrones is on. Game of Thrones is on!" And then I just sort of frantically [asked] my friend, "Do you see my face on the screen?" And he was like, "Yeah mate!" So luckily I had some good friends who were letting me know. And then I was going to a fan screening in Belfast, Ireland for the evening show. So I was in Belfast and watching it for the first time, in a room full of fans. So that was quite exciting.
Do you have any comments about the water bottle that snuck into the scene?
Wasn't me! [Laughs]
Was it especially hot filming?
It was absolutely sweltering. I was the only member of the cast not to have what's called a cooler vest, I think. They're these sort of vests which you plug in between takes, and it pumps cold water around your torso and back. You could tell when someone plugged them on, because it looked like they had just had an injection of a major sedative or something because of the look of bliss and sort of semi-shock over their face. I didn't have one, but that's because my costume was just really easy-going.
Your character has become a bit of a meme. How does that feel?
It's hilarious! I love it. [Laughs] I had a friend who said, "Toby, I was just looking for a meme to describe how boring and useless this meeting I'm in was, and your face popped up!" It's been an absolute pleasure to be honest. It's lovely seeing all the love and stuff I'm getting from the fans.
I've been having lots of fun looking at the memes... there was a good one which was like, "When you've been on the Dornish red and you don't know what a three-eyed bird king is, but it sounds kind of legit." Yeah, very good, very good.
Where do you think the Prince of Dorne stands when it comes to Bran as king?
I mean, I think I'm a bit preoccupied with my own position because I've only just become the leader of Sunspear and Dorne. So I think I'm sort of pleased to be at the table, I guess. But also I'm thinking about eyes on the prize, like look after Dorne...
I'm assuming there's a lot of backstory and stuff between the scenes that we don't see, off camera. For instance, none of those characters have even heard of the Three-Eyed Raven before. So we're assuming that a lot had actually happened... Maybe there'll be a little Dornish uprising, take over the remains of the Seven Kingdoms, who know? Whatever.
But the Dornish are a little less about fighting and more about love, wouldn't you say?
Yes... We love love. We're definitely lovers, but we're also fighters. And poisoners.
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Too soon. [Laughs]
Lastly, what's one things fans should know about working on the Game of Thrones set?
I think it's nice for fans to know how lovely the overall cast and crew, and the showrunners Dan and David — how lovely and down-to-earth and welcoming they are. Because you get a lot of film and TV sets where there's maybe some egos or attitudes or insecurities or whatever. This was one of the loveliest sets.