Winter is already here on Game of Thrones, and these days, the Starks ought to instead start saying something like, “The end is coming.” After eight years and eight seasons, the series has grown from a solid HBO fantasy drama into a global phenomenon, transforming the lives and careers of the many actors who took part in it. For some of them, like Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner, they quite literally grew up spending much of their lives filming the series. For others, like Peter Dinklage, it feels like the role he was born to play.
The saga reportedly wrapped filming back in July 2018, but it wasn’t until about February and March of this year that Game of Thrones cast members really began talking — vaguely, might I add — about their experience working on the final season.
Here’s what some of the core cast had to say about working on the show and filming the final season, including some strong evidence that one very popular character could die and how everyone’s favorite villain will meet their end.
Warning: Possible spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8 ahead.
Jaime Lannister — Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
There’s no character who’s had a more drastic arc on Game of Thrones than Jaime Lannister. He began as the show’s nastiest villain and gradually transformed into perhaps the single most unlikely antihero.
What about the ending? Harpers Bazaar reports that Coster-Waldau appears in all six episodes of Season 8, but we don’t know for sure if he survives. (Jaime could die, and Arya could wear his face to kill Cersei, for instance.)
“It was the perfect ending,” he told E! Online. “I shot in this beautiful location. Obviously, I have to be careful here — it was the most beautiful place in northern Ireland. We had this amazing scene we’d been shooting for a couple days. It ended. The sun was setting. It was really spectacular.”
Does that mean Jaime has a touching final scene? Is it surprising?
“To me, [the end] was very satisfying but also very surprising and all the things that I was hoping for,” he told Huffington Post. “It still made sense. It wasn’t like one of those where the killer is suddenly revealed in the last act and you go, ‘Oh! I didn’t see that coming.’ Here, they’ve done a really, really good job.”
Arya Stark — Maisie Williams
Arya Stark actress Maisie Williams was only 12 years old when Game of Thrones began, playing a young girl who eventually grew into a badass Faceless woman.
In a cover story with S Magazine, she reflected on her work on the final season. “This whole season was really, really emotional,” she said. “When I came to shoot my final scene, I had already watched a lot of people wrap and seen all the tears and heard all the speeches.”
“It was just a really beautiful day, and a really great final scene for me,” Williams said. “It felt like the right time to say goodbye to Arya.”
“I ended on the perfect scene,” Williams told The Guardian. “I was alone — shocker! Arya’s always bloody alone.”
“I went back into my trailer after we wrapped,” Williams told Rolling Stone. “I took a shower, ‘cause I was dirty. Arya is always dirty.” She talked of “really glorious sunshine” on “the nicest day” in northern Ireland, and the whole production wrapped right after her final scene. (Could that lightly confirm a theory about her stealing Jaime’s face?)
Sansa Stark — Sophie Turner
On April 11, Turner hinted to Entertainment Weekly that in Season 8, Sansa “risks tearing apart her family” and notes a “huge amount of fighting between Sansa and Jon,” mainly because of his relationship with Daenerys Targaryen.
“Sansa this season is very much enjoying becoming a leader in her own right and the leader of Winterfell,” she said, “and this year there are certain challenges of people who come into her life that threaten that. She has to go behind a few backs.”
In a Rolling Stone cover story focused on Turner and Maisie Williams, it was revealed the Game of Thrones showrunners’ favorite Sansa scene was her last. “I feel very satisfied with the ending of the entire show,” she said. “Every story arc came to a really good close.”
More specifically, what was her last day of filming like?
“My last day was in Spain,” Turner told GamesRadar. “We’d been shooting this really long scene for five days in the heat. And I was like, ‘Please just wrap me, so that I can be over and done with it.’ And I didn’t really feel emotional up to that point. I was like, ‘I don’t think I’m going to have a reaction. I don’t feel sad yet.’” Like many cast members, she did wind up crying.
Spain, however, is where scenes set in Dorne on Game of Thrones were filmed, which could be an indication that Sansa retreats as far south as possible at the end of Season 8. Do the Starks spread out across all of Westeros and each take control over a region?
Cersei Lannister — Lena Headey
Queen Cersei Lannister began the series as a wicked antagonist whose cutthroat aspirations increased as part of her descent into madness and evil. By Season 8, she’s a full-on villain who could outlast even the Night King.
In February, actress Lena Headey told ET Live, “I think people will be surprised at every turn this season.”
Despite playing a cold-hearted villain, Headey herself still dealt with the emotional fallout of working on the series. “I didn’t think I was going to be emotional,” she told Huffington Post. “I thought I wasn’t going to let myself get to that point because I had the last day to get through. And then when I left and I got in the car, I broke down in tears and I was … yeah, devastated.”
What was her actual last scene?
“My last day on set was really, weirdly tedious, because I just had to shoot going up and down these stairs,” she told Variety in January during Sundance. She echoed the same sentiment to The Wrap, saying, “I can’t tell you anything apart from I descend some stairs and ascend some stairs.” This one’s a bit confusing, but it’s possible Headey filmed her last scene out of chronological order. We sincerely doubt Cersei’s actual last scene in Game of Thrones is that mundane.
Tyrion Lannister — Peter Dinklage
Even a small person can cast a big shadow, and this kind of imagery follows Tyrion Lannister in both the books and the HBO series. A drunken lecher eventually became one of Westeros’ greatest political minds. What’s in store for the end of his story?
In an October 2018 conversation with Vulture, Tyrion actor Peter Dinklage remarked on how odd it is that scenes are often filmed out of order, so sometimes the last scene an actor films on a production is nothing more than a simple transition sequence.
“It’s always anticlimactic for the character’s last day,” he said. “Nothing is shot chronologically, so you don’t get some big mountaintop scene or anything. It’s just, ‘That’s a wrap on Peter Dinklage.’” Dinklage called his last day on set “beautifully bittersweet.”
“I feel very, very — I’m trying to find the right word,” Dinklage said. “I think he was given a very good conclusion. No matter what that is — death can be a great way out.”
Wait … does Tyrion die!?
“I had all these ideas in my head and a version of one of them is how it ends up [for Tyrion],” Dinklage told Entertainment Weekly days before the Season 8 premiere. “David and Dan have a brilliant version of what I had. If I use any adjectives it will give it away. But I love how it ended up. And how it ends up for everybody. They had a beautiful gentle touch with some and a hard touch with others.”
Daenerys Targaryen — Emilia Clarke
Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have compared the show’s ending to that of The Sopranos in terms of a controversial finale. Based on Emilia Clarke’s comments about her characters role in the story, it seems like Daenerys might have a central part to play in making the end so divisive.
Speaking to Press Association, Emilia Clarke admitted to walking around London for “three hours aimlessly” after she was handed the scripts for Season 8. “It might as well have been raining and I would’ve just walked in it not knowing what to do,” she said, adding that when she filmed her final scenes for the show, there were “loads of tears.”
What of Dany’s final scene? It doesn’t sound good.
In a May 2018 cover story with Vanity Fair, Clarke hinted that Dany’s final actions might prove controversial. “It fucked me up,” she said. “Knowing that is going to be a lasting flavor in someone’s mouth of what Daenerys is …” Whatever happens in the last scene featuring Daenerys Targaryen, it will leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth about the Dragon Queen.
Dany burning Randyll and Dickon Tarly alive in Season 7 might be just the beginning. Maybe they defeat the Night King early in Season 8 and the rest of the season follows Dany’s descent into insanity until we have a bonafide Mad Queen on our hands?
Jon Snow — Kit Harington
Jon Snow began the series as the frustrated bastard of Ned Stark, but these days, he’s the King in the North and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, son to Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.
In a March appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, he described the experience of learning how Game of Thrones Season 8 ended:
“We had a table read-through, and I was the only one who hadn’t read the episode. I think I told everyone I didn’t want to know what happened, but really it was just laziness. The writers used me as a litmus test to see my reaction to things as the events unfolded, and they got some pretty good reactions.”
One key detail from this experience is frightening: “At the very end I was very shocked and surprised at certain events, and then I blubbed my eyes out. I cried.”
Like many Game of Thrones actors, the last scene Harington filmed doesn’t seem like his last in chronological order.
“I think I got my final day changed about 18 times, to the point where I didn’t know when it was,” he said to InStyle. “I was like, ‘Just don’t tell me.’ Then it came, and I had that final scene, which was very average. I was just walking somewhere with [Davos Seaworth] and [Grey Worm]. It couldn’t have been more of a wet fart of a scene. But I completely broke down after it. I’d seen Peter Dinklage do his last scene earlier in the day, and he broke down.”
As for the ending of the entire series, Harington suspects that not even he knows what actually happens. “I still don’t trust that the ending that was written down is the actual ending,” he told InStyle. “I think they kept it from all of us. The secrecy this year was just huge. No one I’ve spoken to has guessed the actual ending. No one has got it right yet.”
Will everyone die? Will nobody die? Time will tell.
Game of Thrones Season 8 begins Thursday, April 14 at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.