Catherine McGregor sits in on the Games of Thrones panel at Comic Con in New York, and finds out exactly what Margaery Tyrrell and Kermit the Frog’s new girlfriend have in common.
New York Comic Con doesn’t attract quite the same fan frenzy as its San Diego cousin, but the gap is closing fast. Since its first outing in 2006, the “con”, held at the Javits Center on the remote west side of Manhattan, has grown into the largest comic convention in the country – in terms of attendees, if not yet prestige.
Held over four days, Comic Con is a vast and overwhelming combination of cos-play meet-up, comic book showcase, retail exhibition, professional development conference and celebrity Q&A. I’m not a comic book fan, and as I wander around the hall I can’t shake the impression people are speaking a language I’d picked up in high school, then quickly dropped: the odd word is recognisable, but the conversation remains largely incomprehensible.
Thank goodness, then, for the universal language of celebrity. Even I can understand why Sarah-Michelle Gellar’s presence on the panel for animated show Star Wars: Rebels sends the audience into near delirium. Or why director Kevin Smith, dressed in a backwards cap and muumuu-like baseball shirt, is mobbed by fans as he wanders around the show floor.
One of the biggest panels of the first day is for Game of Thrones, currently filming its sixth season. The capacity crowd enthusiastically welcomes Finn Jones (Loras Tyrell) and New Zealand’s own Keisha Castle-Hughes (Obara Sand), but there’s a group nerdgasm at the arrival of fan favourite Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrrell). She and on-screen sibling Jones have an easy rapport, swapping stories of getting drunk with Gwendoline Christie and hanging out with George RR Martin at fan conventions (“I think he really misses being able to just walk around like he used to,” says Dormer). But Castle-Hughes, who joined the cast in season 5, still clearly feels like a Game of Thrones newcomer. She mentions this is the first time she and Dormer have met, explaining that often the cast’s interactions are limited to “crossing over in hotel lobbies”.
As is to be expected from world’s biggest – and most closely-guarded – television show, spoilers for season 6 are thin on the ground. But over the course of a lively 45 minutes the audience gets some hints for the future, discovers Loras’ fantasy one night stand, and finds out exactly what Margaery Tyrrell and Kermit the Frog’s new girlfriend have in common.
On Cersei’s walk of shame
Natalie Dormer: “Could Margaery do what Cersei did? We’re in dangerous territory for next season if I talk about that.” (Cue loud audience gasps)
On Oberyn’s death
Keisha Castle-Hughes: “I found out I had the role of Obara the same day Pedro [Pascal, who played Oberyn Martell] died in the show. I had a really intense emotional reaction to it. We were watching the show and my roommate couldn’t understand why I was so upset. I wanted to be like ‘Because he’s my dad!’ But I couldn’t, because [the casting] was a secret.”
On fantasy character meet-ups
Finn Jones: “Who do I wish my character could meet? I think Loras would probably try to turn Jon Snow gay. He’d teach him a thing or two.”
On playing Margaery Tyrell
ND: “After The Tudors, I was worried about playing another queen who’s thrown in jail. But they’re really different characters. I think of Ann Boleyn as fire and Margaery Tyrell as ice. Ann wouldn’t be able to keep her cool like Margaery. She’d have exploded and been killed straightaway.”
On the Sand Snakes’ fight scenes
KCH: “The biggest challenge is how loud the bullwhip is. Jessica Henwick (Nymeria) would stand in the corner cracking the whip over and over while we trained, until a time we wouldn’t jump.”
On Margaery’s political scheming
ND: “I genuinely don’t think she wants to be on the throne. It’s a dangerous place to be. She wants to be the power behind the throne, like Cersei.”
FJ: “My first thought when I get a script with nudity? Shit, I’d better get down the gym.”
KCH: “It’s easier said than done, but you can’t get in your head about it, like ‘My primary school teacher is going to see this.’”
On Natalie’s uncanny resemblance to Kermit’s girlfriend Denise in the new Muppets show.
ND: “There’s a scene in Game of Thrones when Margaery is walking with Sansa and I’m telling her how I was teased as a young girl for having a snubby nose. I phoned [showrunners] David and Dan and asked them to change it to a ‘piggy’ nose. Because I was bullied at school for it. I’ve got big nostrils – my whole family does. It’s a burden that we bear. And for my own demons, it’d be like sticking two fingers up at the bullies of my childhood if Margaery was joking about it.
So when I saw that Kermit’s got a new girlfriend and she looks like me, I was like perhaps I’m a bit responsible for that. I’m the one who brought up the whole pig subject in the first place.”
On how Game of Thrones will end
FJ: “My theory is there’ll be a huge battle between ice [the White Walkers] and fire [the dragons]. They’ll completely destroy themselves in this great war, as well as the whole of Westeros. They’ll dissolve the Iron Throne because they have to, because they have to use the steel. Out of the ashes will come the tree people [presumably Jones is referring to the Children of the Forest who, according to legend, lived in Westeros long before humans arrived], who will grow Westeros anew and give back power to the people. Dream of Spring, is that the last book? You know, this idea of regrowth. And, I think maybe it will be Bran, Hodor, maybe Brienne, Tyrion, just good guys that want to give peace back to the realm.”
On which character from another show they’d like to see on Game of Thrones
FJ: “I’ve just been watching Mr Robot and I’d love to see Rami Malek on Game of Thrones. I think that’d be really interesting. Maybe playing someone over The Wall.”
On which house they’d want to belong to in real life
ND: “Stark without a doubt.”
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KCH: “For a long time my Twitter handle was ‘Keisha Stark’. When I got cast I got in a lot of trouble with HBO because they thought I was giving clues. But I was genuinely sitting at home thinking about being a member of the Stark family.”
FJ: “I’m a Tyrell through and through.”
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