“Game of Thrones” Season 3 heated up on Sunday night, not just with Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons, but in the frozen forests north of The Wall.
(SPOILER ALERT! Stop reading now and come back later unless you’ve already watched Episode 304, “And Now His Watch Is Ended.”)
A freezing march back to The Wall, by way of Craster’s Keep, turned into a bloody and fiery mutiny when several members of the Night’s Watch attacked and killed not only Craster, but took down their own leader — the noble, honorable and influential Lord Commander Mormont, played by actor James Cosmo.
The sad moment for the “Old Bear” in George R.R. Martin’s book, “A Storm of Swords,” was finally brought to life in the series in Sunday’s episode as Rast (Luke Barnes) stabbed him in the back, and took the Lord Commander down for good.
In a new interview, James told AccessHollywood.com he was “flattered” the “GOT” team gave his character such a dramatic exit from the HBO series. He also shared his thoughts on why things got out of control at Craster’s Keep and what the Lord Commander’s lasting impact is on Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly.
AccessHollywood.com: In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to give some of these members of the Night’s Watch swords and knives.
James Cosmo: (Laughs) A treacherous lot it turns out. I think Lord Mormont is the best of a very bad lot.
Access: What do you think led to him losing control of that situation and it spiraling out of control?
James: I think it was the trauma that they’re going through beyond The Wall, with all these dreadful things depleting the army. And they’re really just trying to get back to warn everyone. Like, ‘Hey guys, it’s pretty nasty out here.’ So I think they’re all in survival mode and the worst traits come out in some of them. And only in some of them.
Access: Did you know from the beginning that this was going to be his arc?
James: Yeah, I knew from friends of mine that had read the books that Lord Mormont expires at the beginning of the third book and they were following the books pretty closely… So yes, I knew that it would certainly only be three seasons, which, from my perspective, was absolutely terrific. You have all the fun of creating the character and playing it and… although it’s lovely to be working on such a great show, you’re not sort of [saying], ‘Are we going for another season and another season?’ You’re in there and it’s gonna finish at 3 and that’s fine. Move on to something else.
Access: It was a big scene. You gasp when it happens, even if you know it’s coming… Did you feel the emotions and the craziness of the moment when you read the script?
James: Yeah, it was a well-written exit and I know that David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] were very keen to make the most of Lord Mormont’s death and make it as shocking as possible and it showed in the writing… It was very flattering that they thought Lord Mormont was important enough to have that — to be regarded as such.
Access: He didn’t go out with one blow.
James: Oh no, no, it would take a lot to kill that old guy.
Access: And also to get through all those furs that he’s wearing.
James: Absolutely! It’s probably only about 100 pounds in reality.
Access: I’ve heard those cloaks were difficult to work in because they are so heavy.
James: Well, you know, the younger actors, these ingenues in the business, they found it tough. But hey, listen, I’ve been wearing [heavy] leather and chainmail for 50 years. It’s nothing. So I just looked at them, and I suppose with a tinge of pity (laughs). I was doing OK.
Access: Since it came back around with Jon Snow’s lines in Episode 301 — how do you think Lord Commander, this honorable guy, justified letting all the things happen with Craster and the babies previously?
James: Yeah, it’s difficult isn’t it because Mormont is such a — intrinsically a decent person who has this utter loyalty to this band of brothers that he leads, and I think it’s probably that which clouds his moral compass. He knows that these dreadful things go on, that these dreadful things happen and he allows it to happen so that his men can survive and make it through, you know? So he’s [a] pragmatist, but I think [he] maybe sort of shuts his eyes to it most of the time, and I think that’s why it’s quite tough when Jon Snow says, ‘Do you know what’s happening?’ [in Season 2] and he does know what’s happening. It’s awful.
Access: In Season 1, he took Jon under his wing to groom him. Why?
James: I think he saw in Jon maybe what he wanted his son [Ser Jorah Mormont] to really have been and to be close to him and part of the Night’s Watch, you know, come up through the ranks and he was looking forward to Jon doing that. And basically, giving him the sword and everything else, it was a magnificent and warm gesture from the old guy.
Access: Going forward, what do you think his influence is on Jon and Sam?
James: I think as many young men remember an older role model. The traits in his character [are] something that they will hopefully try to emulate as they grow into adulthood and become leaders in their own right.
Access: Did they do anything special for you on your last day since you’ve been a part of this since the beginning?
James: (Deadpans) Well, I was waiting for the Range Rover to arrive with a ribbon around it with, ‘Thank you, James’ on it. Must have gone somewhere else. Must have got the address wrong. But no, I finished in Iceland and everyone wanted to get back to the hotel. But it was very nice because I’d actually done my death in Belfast previously and then we filmed in Iceland the first bit that you see at the very beginning of the season — you know Lord Mormont set fire to that zombie thing [that was trying to attack Samwell]. So that was the bit that I finished on, but it was nice to finish out in Iceland where we’d filmed before. It was lovely and they’ve been a lovely, lovely company to work for. Really wonderful.
Access: I’ve got an amusing question for you — they cast Iain Glenn as your son (Ser Jorah Mormont). And technically, you’re not old enough to be his dad. Did that offend you a little bit (laughs)?
James: (Deadpans) Well, I was sort of shocked when they said Iain Glenn. I thought a brother, maybe, you know, and I actually thought I was far too young to have played his father…
Access: You are too young!
James: And also, obviously in looks, he can’t really come up to the mark as far as I’m concerned… but he tries. And it’s OK. But hey, I’m an actor (laughs).
Access: What’s coming next for you? I think you’ve got a few films wrapped.
James: There’s a few things I’m looking forward to. [I’m] coming over to the states and doing some stuff and doing a couple of television shows here [in Britain] and I’m working on a couple of movies as a co-producer or a producer, so I’m keeping busy and not slowing down by any means.
“Game of Thrones” airs Sunday nights at 9 PM on HBO.
-- Jolie Lash