Sunday’s “Game of Thrones” featured the long-awaited confrontation between The Red Viper, Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) and Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson), and the fight was every bit as bloody as we’ve come to expect from the HBO drama.
The two ostensibly faced off to determine the fate of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) in a Trial by Combat — but as Oberyn admitted (in his best Inigo Montoya impersonation), he was really seeking vengeance after The Mountain raped and killed his sister and murdered her children. The stakes were high for both Oberyn and Tyrion, which was why (SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched) the result was so tragic; after dealing The Mountain what seemed like a fatal blow, Oberyn made the mistake of pausing to revel in his victory, allowing Gregor to sweep him off his feet, knock out most of his teeth and crush his skull into pieces.
Still, Oberyn might have accomplished his goal despite his defeat — moments after literally blowing his opponent’s mind, Gregor collapsed beside Oberyn’s corpse, felled by the Viper’s wound. Sadly, that didn’t help Tyrion much; his father, Tywin (Charles Dance), seemed only too pleased to pronounce Tyrion guilty of murdering King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and sentence him to death.
Though Oberyn was dispatched in spectacularly gruesome fashion, the character quickly became a fan favorite this season, and Pascal took to Reddit for an AMA session last week to share some memories from his time on “Game of Thrones.”
Pascal admitted that Oberyn’s distinct Dornish accent was instinct on his part — and inspired by his father — writing, “I could tell even though I hadn’t read the books, I was up to date on the show, when I read the audition sights for the character, and I felt like they were ushering in a very new element with Oberyn Martell, and it seemed like it would be interesting if he sounded different than everyone in King’s Landing so that there was a very foreign element. He looks different, he dresses different, and I thought it was important that he sound different. He also behaves differently than the rest of the characters, the way he goes up against some of the most dangerous characters with fearlessness is very unique, so I thought it would be very unique to have his sound fall in line, and be sort of unique from others.”
In preparation for his showstopping fight with Björnsson, Pascal revealed that the production had him participate in pre-training before he flew to Europe to begin filming: “I was put into some classes with a master of Wushu, an acrobatic martial art … his name is Master Hu, and he has a studio in Los Angeles where he sort of basically showed me the basics and taught me how to fight with a spear and twist my body around and move in ways I never thought possible. And this was a guy who actually did Shaolin movies with Jet Li very early in Jet Li’s career, and fought alongside him as his sidekick, so he was the real deal. Then once I got to Europe and started shooting, there were really intensive fight rehearsals with me and the stunt team that was headed by C.C. Smiff, and other actors, and we did a lot of fight choreography and rehearsals. The Oberyn style of fighting is inspired by Wushu.”
While Pascal described Oberyn’s last scene with The Mountain as “one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done,” the first scene he shot on “Game of Thrones” was the Viper’s visit to Tyrion’s prison cell. “It’s a beautifully written scene but it was really important to me to get it right. And I was really nervous. And it turned out not to be a difficult scene to shoot because Peter was so amazing to work with and he’s such a generous actor. And our director Alik Sakharov, he was the director of that episode, and he’s one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with, so that and the amazing writing turned it into (to this day) one of the best workdays I’ve ever had,” the actor shared.
No show is quite as unabashed in its depictions of sex and nudity as “Game of Thrones,” and Pascal admitted that Oberyn’s bisexuality was one of the most integral parts of the character for him: “I think that he gives no explanation and makes no apologies for the way he lives his life, and I think that was very exciting and important to portray, that he has no hangups around the experience of pleasure, and he will take any opportunity to experience something beautiful, and I think he finds that in lovemaking. He doesn’t see the sense in limiting oneself of experience and pleasure, and I think that is very cool.”
As well as revealing that Sophie Turner (who plays Sansa Stark) was the cast member who made him laugh the most on set, Pascal was effusive in his praise for the rest of the show’s sprawling ensemble: “Everybody was a joy to work with. It’s just this huge family and the great thing about the way that David Benioff and Dan Weiss have adapted the character of Oberyn is that they have him interact with even MORE characters, and getting to be in the trial, and at the wedding, I got to meet so many of the actors, and being an actor from the US, I was staying in the hotel that all the other actors were coming in and out of. I got to meet and hang out with so many of the other actors that I didn’t have scenes with. There was another new addition to the cast, which is Ellaria Sand played by Indira Varma, and she and I got along really really well which is very important because she is a character who is Oberyn’s equal and the love of his life. And she’s just as fierce as he is, and that is why they are together, so we got to do a lot of fun stuff together. But I got to love working with so many of them, Peter Dinklage and working with him was a career highlight.”
Pascal also reminisced about one of his first acting roles — a guest spot on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” He recounted, “My name was Eddie, and it was the first episode of season 4 of Buffy, and I am kind of her first friend in college, or she finally meets a nice person that’s in the same boat as her. And unfortunately I am turned into a vampire by the head campus vampire, and Buffy is forced to kill her first college friend. Or her first new college friend … Sarah Michelle Gellar was very very nice, and it was one of my first jobs, I was really excited about it, and she was very nice to me, she even brought me ice cream from her trailer.”
As for Oberyn’s brutal departure, Pascal recently told TV Guide that he knew about the character’s demise before landing the role, but admitted it still stung: “It was something I was prepared for all along, but still it is such a brutal twist in the story. There’s a part of me that as a fan and watcher of this show that was never really able to get over it. There was an ever-present ache for Oberyn in my heart in the doing of it.”
Read Pascal’s AMA in its entirety here.