Warning: This post contains spoilers from Sunday’s Game of Thrones…
She lived by the arrow and died by the arrow: Ygritte (Rose Leslie) met her demise on Sunday’s Game of Thrones after once again being unable to bring herself to kill her former lover, Jon Snow (Kit Harington). During the Battle of Castle Black, the touched-by-fire Wildling had Jon dead in her sights, but couldn’t let that arrow fly — so she was quickly brought down by Jon’s young protegee whose family she killed in an earlier episode. Ygritte died in Jon’s arms as the battle raged around them.
“It was really emotional,” says showrunner David Benioff. “With Rose you think back to when we first met her in [casting director] Nina Gold’s office and she came in and read and she was so fantastic, then you flash forward to shooting that scene and it’s hard to believe only been with her for three years and yet she’s one of our favorite people. It’s fitting that her dying shots is one of my favorite shots we’ve ever had on the show. Rose and Kit’s performances are beautiful.” Adds showrunner Dan Weiss: “She’s so fantastic and such a powerful presence on screen and such an amazing person off screen. She brought such a believably strength and fierceness to her character that’s so at odds of the lovely person she is in real life.”
Co-star Harington said working with Leslie has been “a dream” over the last few years. “She’s a consummate professional and the most wonderfully generous lovely person. We got on so very very well. It was a really sad moment. Luckily for us her last scene was the scene where she was shot — I’ve never seen a crew respond to a character’s death that way. It’s a testament to how popular she was.”
Now let’s turn to Leslie, who gives us some behind-the-scenes insight on her departure from the show, and reveals her touching parting gift from the Thrones team.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What were the fighting scenes like to shoot?
Rose Leslie: It was phenomenal. Were all ridiculously tired at 4 a.m. but we’re all making each other laugh. It was night shoots and pouring down rain on several evenings. [Director] Neil Marshall is a genius. Castle Black is huge, it’s one of the biggest sets I’ve ever been to. There’s no imagination required. The detail that goes into these sets is mind-blowing.
When I visited the set I kept thinking how awesome it would be to sneak in with friends and have the world’s most epic paintball fight.
Yes! There’s so many nooks and crannies, that’s a great idea. They would need to clean all the paint off though, which would be painful.
So what killed Ygritte?
She finally looks at him and can’t bring herself to do it. She hesitates. It’s that hesitation that’s the ruin of her, really.
What was that like for you on the set?
It was emotional from my perspective. I’m saying goodbye to a character after three years. You don’t enter this without knowing the act of your character so I was well aware this was coming. But it was beautifully shot. It was a lovely thing on Thrones to be able to say goodbye with a bang. It’s lovely she’s in Jon Snow’s arms.
So what’s next for you?
I’m shooting an ITV miniseries about the great fire of London. It’s called The Great Fire and I play Sarah Farriner.
Is there any chance of going back to Downton Abbey after this?
I had such a phenomenal time on season one. But no, I think Gwen is very happy now that she’s married so I think she’s living her life with her husband and I think we should leave that be.
What was saying goodbye to the Thrones cast and crew like?
It was really lovely. I know that everybody mentions this but we are very much a close-knit unit on set. They did a wonderful send-offs for their actors. After my final take I was given my bow and arrow. They replaced the handle on the bow, replacing the grubby Wildling wrap with white leather. One one side of the handle is an emblem of a red rose, on the other was a silver placard that read, “Kissed by Fire.” Everybody huddled around. I felt very privileged. It was absolutely beautiful.