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Game of Thrones' Rose Leslie on Ygritte's Bastard Love and Climbing the Wall

Happiness seems to be a rare commodity on Game of Thrones, but one wildling and a Night's Watch turncoat are giving it a go. In the most recent episode, Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) finally gave in to their bickering chemistry and had a rather loving (and naked) interlude in a cave...

Hanh Nguyen

Happiness seems to be a rare commodity on Game of Thrones, but one wildling and a Night's Watch turncoat are giving it a go.
In the most recent episode, Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) finally gave in to their bickering chemistry and had a rather loving (and naked) interlude in a cave. And although a romp in the sack isn't all that unusual for the HBO fantasy drama (airing Sundays at 9/8c), this tryst is particularly meaningful. Unbeknownst to Ygritte, Jon joined the wilding ranks as a double agent for the Night's Watch, and only broke his celibacy vows as part of his cover. "There never is really a carefree relationship happening in Westeros at the moment," Leslie tells TVGuide.com, "which I suppose is the nature of the show."
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As a diehard wilding, Ygritte has cautiously accepted Jon, who is the late Ned Stark's bastard son, after he killed his fellow Night's Watch brother Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong) to prove his loyalty. "She is still very skeptical of whether he truly has become a wildling," Leslie says. "But she respects him hugely. She understands the leap that he had to take by killing Qhorin Halfhand, and she would be fool to think that wouldn't be incredibly difficult. ... She knows that his only true friend in the community is herself. ... He's dependent on her."
Despite Jon's deception, Leslie nevertheless feels that their affection for each other is genuine. "I think that they are in love with one another," she says. "It is a tempestuous relationship, like all relationships. It is wonderful that they understand one another or are beginning to. They are equals, and there's a lot of passion between the two of them."
Check out what else Leslie has to say about Ygritte and Jon's big love scene, being a redhead on Game of Thrones and the upcoming epic Wall climb:
How was it when you first got the script for the cave love scene. Was it what you expected?
Rose Leslie:
It's beautiful to see them in their own little bubble. There are no influences from the outside world from Westeros. There's no kind of backstabbing going on, there's no power play, there's no corruption. It is pure love, and I thought it was very beautiful. The cave was stunning, and the art department did the most phenomenal job in making it a very romantic, cosy-looking cave with the beautiful waterfall in the background, and so you always have that constant tinkling of water, which I absolutely love. I'm a bit of a water baby myself.
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For your sakes, we hope this wasn't actually shot in Iceland where the wildling scenes are usually shot. Otherwise, it would be freezing!
They were, I think, going to use the actual cave in Iceland for the scene because there is a beautiful little pond at the bottom of the cave [where] the water was naturally boiling. It was so hot! It was all-natural and heated by the volcano several miles off. So it was just stunning, but I think being immersed in that water for too long, our skin would just peel off. So in the end, they decided to actually build the cave. Thank heavens, this was on set in Belfast, so we had some heaters very close by.
There's a phrase, "kissed by fire," from Game of Thrones referring to redheads. The wildlings think that's lucky. How is that different from what you've heard about redheads in real life?
If only I heard that when I was younger! I never thought it was lucky, so yeah, I love George R.R. Martin for putting that in. Obviously, I've been born with red hair, so I've kind of heard it all my life, especially being brought up in Scotland by a lot of gingers. "Redheads have this big temper" and, "You don't want to step on the wrong side of a redhead because you know, they'll flip their lid." But I'm not really good at being in an argument. I'm pretty terrible. Maybe if you back me into a corner.
Being kissed by fire is part of the reason wildlings respect Ygritte. They seem to value her differently from the way the rest of Westeros view their women.
On the series, we've had some incredible, impressive, strong, powerful women from Cersei to Catelyn Stark to Daenerys, but with the wildling community, I think that strength is a valued trait because living involves having such harsh surroundings and being feral. You have to be tough, you have to be strong. Ygritte embodies true grit and is ruthless. They respect their women, and the women don't have to answer to the men, which is of course differs from the women in the southern part of the world.
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This season Ygritte gets to use a bow and arrow. How was the training for that? You split an arrow?
It was my first-ever session, so I'd never held a bow and arrow before. It was for a particular scene coming later in the season. I had to get used to the feel and to pull my shoulders back so that I look authentic and realistic. ... I had let loose a couple of arrows, and they had landed on the target, but it was a total fluke. On my fourth go, and I steadied my feet, I worked out my balance and tried to lower my elbow and shoulders -- to do all of the correct things, and suddenly I just let loose, and this arrow just went straight down and split an arrow that was already in the target. I couldn't believe it! I thought, "Oh my gosh, that's the coolest thing in the world!" So I took a picture. It's on my phone.
Ygritte is one of the few people in Game of Thrones who has a well-known catchphrase, "You know nothing, Jon Snow." Were you excited to say it again this season?
[Laughs] I was very happy to get a catchphrase, but I was a little bit scared. I wanted to pull it off. ... [The showrunners] have done it beautifully in my opinion because I only said it once in Season 2, and throughout Season 3, they are peppering it in the script. They aren't making it so it becomes nagging or annoying or continuously in every scene. And sometimes Jon Snow cuts her out when she's midway through, which I think is great. That's very realistic.
We saw a giant -- a real actor with special effects -- earlier this season. Will there be other scenes you shot coming up that will be computer-generated or enhanced?
I had the most incredible time climbing the Wall. It was phenomenal. All four of us [Leslie, Harington, Mackenzie Crook and Kristofer Hivju] were sent on wall-climbing sessions and then graduated to ice wall-climbing here in London. My arms, my biceps became huge. I was ripped for the first time in my life. And then shooting the Wall sequence was phenomenal. It took about a week. We were there in Belfast, and production built a 50-foot wall made of porous polystyrene with a waxy layering because you have two sharp prongs on your feet and you've got the hooks in your arms that would chip away the wax so it would look like ice. Being up there with our harnesses with the wind and snow machines at that height was amazing. When the cameras are rolling and you're clinging on for dear life ... it's like, "Jesus Christ, I would be scared if I were really supposed to be 700 feet up in the air and climbing the actual Wall." I loved it. It's going to be pretty spectacular.
Check out this preview of Sunday's Game of Thrones episode "The Climb," airing at 9/8c on HBO: