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‘Game of Thrones’: Hannah Murray Discusses Gilly’s Journey

Pictured: Hannah Murray--Photo: Alyssa Tieman

Game of Thrones: Hannah Murray Discusses Gilly’s Journey

During Con of Thrones, Hannah Murray, who plays Gilly, talked about her character’s journey and relationship with Sam Tarly. Audiences met Gilly in the second season of Game of Thrones when the Night’s Watch found themselves at Crastor’s Keep. Gilly was about to give birth and knew that if she bore a son, the child would be taken away from her. She ended up running away with Sam, and has stuck by his side ever since.

Murray opened her panel by talking about the audition process. The scene she was to read was the one in which Gilly asks Sam to sing her a song, which is a scene she loves. Murray said that she was planning to play the role a couple of different ways, but ended up doing it one time. As she left, Murray remembered thinking, “That either went really well or really bad.” Then a few weeks later, she was offered the part.

When preparing for the role, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss suggested she read Room. This book helped Murray get into the mindset of being trapped in a world of trauma. Gilly’s journey has taken her out of this place of horror and into the vast world, showing her that there is still good. As she’s grown, she’s discovered a sense of self, which was non-existent at Crastor’s. And now, Murray believes Gilly has become a well-rounded, fully-functioning character.

“What’s been fascinating to me…as she’s stepped gradually further and further away from that world, and her world has expanded so much, there’s been this kind of discovery of joy. And that’s been so interesting for me to play. The first couple of seasons I made a very conscious decision never to smile….And then there were gradual points where I start to bring that in. I remember doing this scene where I’m plucking geese with Sam. And I think it was the first scene I shot of Season 4, and we were rehearsing. I turned to John and I was like, ‘John, she’s so happy. She’s so happy, this is so amazing.'”

Game of Thrones/HBO

Gilly had a tough life growing up under Crastor. Even when she eventually made her way to Castle Black, she still faced ridicule. Despite all of that, she managed to keep her innocence and find some hope in her situation. She formed deep relationship with Sam, and Murray thinks that their connection, as well as with her son, is what helps Gilly maintain her sweetness.

“There’s an innocence in the relationship she has with her son and the fact that she was able to save him gives her so much hope. So there’s a belief that there’s good in people and good in Sam. If she’d had a series of babies taken away from her by Crastor, then it might’ve been very different.”

Murray and John Bradley, who plays Sam, are in almost every scene together, so the two of them have a very collaborative approach to the roles. She said that they have to because they aren’t just playing individual characters. They have to make sure that the relationship between Gilly and Sam comes off as being authentic. In addition, they also have to portray a family unit, which was new to both of them.

Game of Thrones/HBO

Murray recalled the moment in Season 6 when she finally got a costume change. Up until then, Gilly had worn this burlap dress that fellow actor Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) called, “The worst costume.” He would jokingly refer to her as “Sack.” Murray said that the original scene in which she finally wears a real dress was originally much different. She likened it to the moment in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Harry and Ron see Hermione at the Yule Ball. Murray didn’t believe that though. She said that this is the first time Gilly has ever worn something like that, so she’s bound to be awkward about it.

“It shouldn’t have felt like…this thing suddenly transforms her into this natural beauty that she always was. I was like, ‘She’s gonna be uncomfortable. She’s never worn a dress in her life.’ And the shoes they gave me were really weird. So the wobbly thing wasn’t necessarily a choice. So I wanted her to look very uncomfortable in her own skin. And I wanted it to be funny. And then I thought, when he says, ‘You’re beautiful,’ it kinda means a lot more. You know, it’s about them and what he sees in her rather than she just looks gorgeous.”

Game of Thrones/HBO

Murray couldn’t say much about her work on Season 8 (though the moderators tried), but she did reveal one interesting point. She was really excited to get to work with some of the people she shared scenes with. Near the end of the panel, Murray was asked who she would like to see on the Iron Throne, to which she responded, “I’d quite like it to be a lady.”

Game of Thrones returns for its final season in 2019.

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Alyssa has always known she was going to be a writer. She attended Texas Lutheran University and melded her love of writing with filmmaking and moved into the world of scriptwriting, directing, and editing. Alyssa is excited to be a part of Fan Fest and write about the shows that she loves to watch.