This July, winter came to the sweltering heat of Nashville, Tennessee, for the third annual Con of Thrones. Or at least, crowds of fans dressed for winter did, as cosplayers in full plate armor and enough furs to stay warm beyond the Wall braved temperature highs of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit to make it to the air-conditioned sanctuary of the Music City Center.
There were giants, wolves, and practically every iteration of Sansa Stark seasons one through eight. There were also a surprising number of Weirwood trees, one Season 2 red comet, and several bona fide stars, including newly-announced Emmy nominee Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jerome Flynn, Hannah Murray, and Season 1 fan-favorite Miltos Yerolemou, as well as behind-the-scenes MVP Kieran Belshaw, one of the show’s concept artists.
Over the course of various one-on-one Q&As and a great big cast panel, the guests of honor shed some new light on the making of Game of Thrones and shared some other fun factoids. We’ve gathered eight of the best for you below.
The Throne Room Doubled as Storage Space
Belshaw brought along a slideshow full of art and rare behind-the-scenes glimpses to supplement his enlightening Q&A session with Kim Renfro, and one of the most unexpected images featured was a BTS shot of a giant pile of fake corpses next to the Iron Throne — a test run done during the production of Season 6 in the lead-up to the epic Jon Snow vs. Ramsay Bolton showdown also known as Battle of the Bastards.
“They set up this test body pile in the throne room, and so I walked in there a few times and took lots of reference pictures,” Belshaw explained. “And I thought it would be a funny thing to show you guys.” When asked about why they would use the throne room of all places, he simply answered, “You’ve got the space, you may as well use it.” He elaborated that when not being used for filming, it was quite common for the throne room to be used for storage and other miscellaneous purposes.
Harry Lloyd was the MVP of the first Game of Thrones Table Read
We got a few glimpses of the first-ever Game of Thrones table read in the documentary The Last Watch and it was A+ nostalgic content, brief as it may have been, but during his one-on-one spotlight Q&A session, Coster-Waldau shared a whole lot more behind-the-scenes info with Joanna Robinson about that fateful day. “I remember Harry Lloyd,” the actor responded immediately when asked what he remembered about that first read-through. As he recalled, there were a couple of actors who weren’t present for the table read, and Lloyd, who played Daenerys’ short-lived petulant older brother Viserys, volunteered to stand in for them.
“You know, it’s a table read and you’re a little intimidated — like, it’s so fresh, you don’t want to commit too much because you don’t want to hit a false note,” Coster-Waldau said of his own feelings at the time, concluding that this inspired him to play things safe, an approach shared by almost all the rest of the cast with one notable outlier. “Except for Harry Lloyd. He was so fucking good at every character he did. And you just sit there going, ‘Who’s this fucking asshole?’”
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Appreciates Cosplayers (Even When He Doesn’t Get the Reference)
At Saturday’s big all cast member panel, the one and only Jaime Lannister took a moment to shout out a gold-painted cosplayer who came done up like the golden harpy that tops the Great Pyramid of Meereen — complete with 11-foot wingspan — even though he didn’t realize that the “angel” was a Game of Thrones thing until moderator Mallory Rubin made a joke that sparked a lightbulb moment. “Oh, it’s from Game of Thrones.”
Cue one of the biggest laughs of the panel: “I’ve got to watch that show,” Coster-Waldau quipped.
That Scene Where Bronn Grabs Podrick’s Balls Was Improvised
When talking about favorite scenes and filming moments, Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, Lord Paramount of the Reach and Master of Coin — also known as Jerome Flynn — took a bit more of a comedic approach than his colleagues, expressing his fond memories of “that scene where I spontaneously grabbed Podrick’s balls, for the look on his face.”
Coster-Waldau interrupted to disagree with the notion that the move was spontaneous, but Flynn continued on. “I decided to grab his balls and he had no idea that was coming. And that’s the shot they used.” Flynn also recommended looking the scene up on YouTube to appreciate Daniel Portman’s genuine reaction of surprise, so here you go:
Your Syrio Forel Fan Theories are Definitely Not Canon
When asked if there’s any chance any of those fan theories about Syrio’s miraculous escape from the Red Keep — and possible Faceless status –might actually be true, Syrio Forel actor Miltos Yerolemou quickly shot the idea down, confirming that Arya’s “dancing” instructor is “very dead.”
“I remember Pat, George R. R. Martin’s wife, said to me, ‘I will never forgive George for killing you off,’” he elaborated. Sorry, Reddit.
Charles Dance Calls Everybody “Darling” (For A Very Specific Reason)
Recalling his experience working with Tywin Lannister actor Charles Dance, Coster-Waldau recounted a drive home the two shared after a long day of filming — one of their first days working together, in fact — and noted that Dance “calls everybody ‘darling’” because it means he doesn’t have to remember names (a move which, let’s be honest here, has some serious Tywin Lannister energy). It’s an expert level life-hack: sleek, stylish, and even gender-neutral so it’s truly one-size-fits-all. Some legends really do earn their status.
The Great Council Almost Took Place in the Throne Room
“Fairly early on, the producers, like Bernie Caulfield and Chris Newman, they had the idea of having that big meeting in the throne room, up close to everything that happened,” Belshaw explained as he showed the audience early “proof of concept” art depicting the election of King Bran taking place beside the melted ruins of the Iron Throne, adding that he also thought it seemed like a cool idea. “But then it was shown to David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] and they were like, ‘No.’”
Why the showrunners were adamant about putting the great council in the Dragon Pit, however, will most likely remain a mystery for the ages because, as Belshaw put it, “They call the shots,” and one of the perks of being the top bosses is that you don’t need to justify your reasoning when delivering a verdict. However, the artist also added that, ultimately, considering the great council scene takes place so shortly after Daenerys’ death in the throne room, he felt having the council set in the same location would have ended up being a little jarring for viewers.
Arya Raced Across the Roofs of Winterfell to Get to the Godswood
The somewhat warped notion of space and time that pervaded the Battle of Winterfell was a major subject of debate after “The Long Night” aired, and one particular point of controversy regarded Arya’s path from inside the keep to the Godswood. As (not) seen on HBO, Arya’s offscreen journey to her big moment allowed various fan theories to flourish, including one claiming that when Jon Snow decided to stand out in the open and scream at wight-Viserion, it was because he saw Arya trying to get past, and decided to heroically sacrifice himself as a distraction (and that he’s shouting “GO!” to encourage her).
However, Belshaw’s concept art of a shot depicting Arya making her way across the rooftops of Winterfell with the zombie dragon in the distance that ultimately didn’t make the cut — “It was in the outline,” he said, “but they ended up taking a lot out because they had to cut [the episode] down quite a bit” — downvotes that theory. It’s official: Jon was screaming “AHH!” at an undead flying fire monster because he’s got the impulse control of a toddler who fails the marshmallow test, end of discussion.