[SPOILERS! The following contains information from Game of Thrones' "The Rains of Castamere" episode. Read at your own risk!]
Having a tough time coping with Game of Thrones' literal and emotional ambush? You're not alone.
On a call with reporters, star Richard Madden said that he "cried the whole way" home on the plane after he shot the final scene from Sunday's devastating episode. In it, his character Robb Stark, Robb's mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), his pregnant wife Talisa (Oona Chaplin) and a host of Stark bannermen are betrayed and killed while visiting the seat of House Frey for a wedding.
"It was horrific [to witness] these characters that you've loved get slaughtered," Madden said. "It made me think of my dad when he read all the books. When he got to the Red Wedding ... he put the books down and didn't get back to it for a couple months. He ties Robb Stark in so closely in with me."
A message to Game of Thrones haters
Yes, this massacre — revenge for Robb breaking off a marriage pact with House Frey — is lovingly known as the Red Wedding by fans of author George R.R. Martin's books, on which Game of Thrones is based. It's the biggest secret that book fans have had to keep since Ned Stark's (Sean Bean) beheading in Season 1. These deaths, however, are even more heartbreaking than Ned's because Catelyn must watch her son die before she gets her own throat cut.
"That's when Catelyn's soul goes flying right out of her," Fairley tells TVGuide.com in a separate interview. "Her grief is so tangible because at this point, she has nothing to live for. As far as she knows, all of her children are dead. She takes the knife up in revenge, which is of course signing her own death warrant by slicing Walder Frey's wife's throat, and therefore inviting her own death."
Fairley marked the end of her time playing Catelyn in her own way. "The wonderful Kevin Alexander, the hair designer, said he'd cut my hair for me afterwards," she says of her last day of shooting. "It's not short, but it's a form of transformation when you end a relationship. But you've still going to have to go through that grieving process."
Check out the rest of the Red Wedding postmortem interviews with Madden and Fairley:
How early in joining this show did you know about the Red Wedding?
Richard Madden: As soon as I got the job, people spoiled it for me. People would be like, "Oh my God, your death, that was so terrible." You're like, "What?"
Michelle Fairley: I knew Catelyn's fate from the word go actually. But it's a wonderful thing [to discuss it] because for so long you can't mention it, but of course that's the one thing that everybody asks you in interviews, but you don't want to spoil it for everyone.
Game of Thrones Smackdown: House Stark vs. House Lannister
George R.R. Martin says he wants viewers to hate him after watching this episode. How do you hope fans will react?
Madden: I just hope people really just enjoy the surprise of it. I hope a lot of people were not as stupid as I was and Googled before the time came.
Fairley: It's dramatically meant to be a shock [to viewers] and a shock to the characters in being completely duped. It's a massive scene. In the world that [executive producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss] have created, it is a cruel, vicious world. The Red Wedding highlights just how cheap life is and the extent people will go to to achieve their own personal revenge. You're emotionally attached.
This took a week to shoot. Were you able to film it all in sequence so you can build up the proper emotions?
Fairley: Yes, we were very fortunate in that respect. I think that's something that [director] David Nutter and the writers insisted on, for it to be shot in sequence so we could go through that whole process.
Madden: [Michelle and I have] developed the best relationship over the course of a few years and we went into the scene with a heavy heart. The whole episode was so operatic almost in how the writers had placed little details throughout the whole sequence of events. We shot the scene, and it took a few days because it's huge. There's actually a moment in the scene where we look at each other, and it's Robb Stark essentially saying goodbye to his mother and giving up. Rather than it being something really bad, there's a moment of some tragedy and utter relief actually because these two characters have fought and fought ... and it's finally over.
Talisa's counterpart character in the books isn't present at the wedding and therefore survives. Why do you think it was important for the show's Talisa to die?
Madden: I think it was important for her to die because it's just a kind of full stop to that train of the story of that army. I think it's more tragedy that there's nothing leftover from it, that there's no possibility that Talisa is in hiding and is going to have a baby, and one day that baby will take over as King in the North. I think there's something tragic about it, just all being cut short instantly.
Game of Thrones: The trouble with Joffrey
How was it working with Oona Chaplin, who plays Talisa?
Madden: I had such a great relationship with Oona on set. I think she's did something very clever with the part. It was honest and kind but had a strength to her, deep inside her. And I think that resonates a lot with Catelyn's character ... in a sense, there's a few parallels there in that quiet strength ... that really powers things through and makes it all the more tragic when those characters get killed, [who are] the least deserving of being slaughtered in such a way.
Actually having Catelyn's throat get cut in front of our eyes was pretty shocking. It also seems tricky. Can you discuss the process for your prosthetics?
Fairley: These prosthetic guys come in and take a cast of you, which goes from just above your jawline and then all of your neck to your shoulder. From the cast, they make this prosthetic, which they then glue onto your body and your skin. And of course they've got to get the pump for the blood where you're going to get your throat cut and get that mechanism attached to you and come up through you. ... It's a very painstaking, precise procedure.
The so-called wedding band begins to play "The Rains of Castamere" — the song about Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) obliterating two Houses — as a signal to begin the slaughter. How familiar are you with that song now?
Fairley: [Laughs] Very familiar, with our version actually. It was fantastic because when we were doing that scene, we had musicians there who were playing it, and it's not a tune that you would play at a wedding. They also played the new version of it, an amazing version. In it there's a key change that sends shivers through you. It sent shivers through me, and it was just exactly what was required.
After helping to create Robb, is there any bitterness with the way he died? Did you want a more heroic death?
Madden: There isn't any bitterness to it because I think Robb Stark dying there, in that way, is one of the best things HBO does so beautifully and Game of Thrones does so beautifully, which is just rip these characters' hearts out in front of you. It would have been better for Robb to have died gloriously on the battlefield or something else like that, but ... the way that I've tried to build Robb Stark up and the way that the writers have done, there's no other way they could have killed him because he is great in a battlefield. I feel like [this ambush] is best because he's been outsmarted ,and it all comes from his good heart and his trust that people will do the right thing and not just destroy each other like we do.
Game of Thrones could last seven seasons
How long did the emotion of this experience stay with you after filming? When were you able to shake it off?
Madden: It won't shake off until I see the episode. So it's still there. And once I see the episode, that will be difficult to watch because I think it will dredge up a lot of emotions and stuff that have been maybe pushed aside for awhile. ... But once I do I'm sure I'll be able to send it down the river.
Fairley: I had to do a little ADR [automated dialogue replacement] after the scene, and I was really dreading it because I just don't think I'll be able to watch that scene yet. I don't think I'm ready for it. ... I hate watching myself, but sometimes you have to do it. I'll watch it quietly on my own someday.
How do you hope that Robb will be remembered by fans?
Madden: I suppose much like [his father] Ned. ... I hope he's remembered as a good man, and I think the man who would have been the best person to lead the Seven Kingdoms. At the time he is killed because I think he is the best leader of all the candidates available at the moment.
Why do you think the Starks haven't had the best of luck staying alive?
Fairley: [Laughs] In some ways, the Starks are too good for this world. The older Stark members are too honorable, they're too trusting and they don't think tactically or manipulatively. But [daughter] Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) for example, she's out in the world on her own and she's learned how to survive in this world. Her goal is revenge. It's that wonderful thing that will be my oxygen, my blood, my food and my fuel, to have revenge. You have to change your mindset. The evolution of those older characters wasn't fast enough, but the younger ones who are surviving, they would have to learn to change quickly and think more like their opponents and be smarter than them.
Are you shocked, angry or sad that Robb and Catelyn died? What do you want to see in the finale?
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.