There may be a sequence where one person sees another person, and I’ll have the actor say something that’s not scripted that might be more akin to the emotional state the character is in. That can sometimes surprise the other actor.
What’s an example of that?
One I thought worked very well was in Sunday’s episode. I told Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau] that when Jaime is telling Brienne about how everything he’s done, he’s done for Cersei. And as he was saying his lines, we went into Brienne’s close-up, Gwendoline Christie’s close-up, and there was a moment where she is just watching him, at the very end. And I walked over to Nikolaj and I said, “The last thing I want you to tell her is that you don’t love her anymore.” And of course, he was essentially saying this to her anyway, in some respect, but she didn’t expect to hear it directly. Gwendoline didn’t expect that moment, and she just lost it. It was something very special. Sometimes surprising an actor in a good way like that can actually create a response you’re not expecting. And with those two, they’re very close as well, so I knew something like that would affect her character as well.
What about the final moments between Tyrion and Cersei, when he’s trying to appeal to her better nature?
I think there’s a moment where Tyrion is trying to touch Cersei’s sense of being a mother, her real love for her family and her children. That really affects her, in a very strong way. There was a sequence we shot with Lena Headey and Pilou Asbaek where he basically leaves her alone in the room, and all I said to Lena was, “He leaves you, and we’re just going to hang on to you for a long time, and I want you to have a chance to, in a sense, validate what you just did, and be disgusted by what you just did.” And it was a shot used in one of the trailers from the episode. It was one of the longest shots in the sequence, where you saw the door close, and you saw her go through this range of emotions in about three seconds, which I thought was quite exceptionally powerful and really special.
That’s when Euron Greyjoy discovers Cersei’s pregnant with what he presumes is his child. There is a very subtle moment when Tyrion is talking to Cersei and he mentions that pregnancy, and Euron gives Cersei a look like, “How on earth would he know about this?”
Right! The acting is so incredible that the thing about directing is really just to give them the space to do their thing, and create a setting where they can use their own natural instincts. And also so very much of what I do as a director is handled by the amazing editing on the show. They’re master magicians at knowing where exactly to hit the note, and how to play it beautifully.