When we last saw Sam (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) in the season 5 finale of Game of Thrones, they were leaving Castle Black so Sam could enroll in the Westeros college to become a maester. Sam received the blessing of then-Lord Commander Jon Snow (Kit Harington) to leave the Night’s Watch, but more than taking off for a life in academia, Sam was also dedicating himself to Gilly and her baby. In an interview with EW, Bradley and Murray reminisce on standout moments from Sam and Gilly’s relationship, reflect on the death of Jon as it relates — or doesn’t — to their characters, and look ahead to what’s in store for the pair in season 6 (Gilly is getting a long-awaited change of costume!).
ON THE MOMENT THEY FELT MOST CONNECTED TO SAM AND GILLY, PARTICULARLY THEIR RELATIONSHIP
JOHN BRADLEY: The moment toward the end of season 2 where Sam is really starting to let Gilly into his heart. Having experienced that a limited number of times, it’s a sense of how much positive feelings for somebody can really overwhelm you — and the contrast between how he was at the start of that season, and in the season previously being a broken man who’s been forced to leave home, and now he’s living with these people who despise him and physically want to harm him all the time. To find this person he can devote his life to, and have somebody you can project all of your positivity onto, I found that to be really nice.
The thing about love is it makes the bad things good and the good things better, and I think that’s how Sam feels about Gilly toward the end of the day. He feels overwhelmed by how he feels about her, and to play that from a guy who has such a dark cavity within him where love should be, the fact that he’s met this woman who’s now lighting up these dark corners of his soul, I found it to be really good for the character. It fleshes out a lot of him because he’s just concentrating so much on how inadequate he feels. But it’s about the power one person can have over you. It’s a universal theme in drama, but it’s always nice to explore.
HANNAH MURRAY: I have a very favorite line, which we’ve talked about a lot because I know you like it too, which is in season 3. It’s right before the White Walker attack and they’re kind of… settling down for the night, gathering wood to make a fire and Sam says, “I could gather the wood if you’d rather,” and Gilly just goes, “You’re not good at it.” It’s not like she’s saying, “I’m better than you;” she’s just saying, “You’re not good at it.” I love the bluntness of that character.
It’s really delightful; she just tells it like it is. I also think that was when we started to find a really nice dynamic between the two of them. They’re starting to get familiar and being honest with each other. I really like this kind of weird, old-married couple comedy that we started to find in season 3. That was a really interesting contrast to the peril that they were in, and they could also get at each other in a very funny way.
BRADLEY: I really like that because it undercuts any feeling that Sam may have about being her end-all be-all. I may have saved you, but don’t think that you’re ruling this… now. I like that, and also the fact that through that season, they began to become a part of it. They saved each other. He saved Gilly physically from a lot of the hardship that she had. She saved Sam spiritually. He thought that he’d have this unusable heart for the rest of his life, so she saved such a large part of the positive side of him.
MURRAY: It’s such a beautiful love story between those two. We could be at risk of getting quite saccharine if we weren’t careful about it, and I think the humor and the dryness and some of the lines that she throws at him really helps to take the edge off and keep it really grounded and real, rather than sweet, in a way that would stop it from being believable.
ON THE FUTURE OF SAM AND GILLY’S RELATIONSHIP, AND REACTION TO THE DEATH OF JON
BRADLEY: They don’t know about Jon’s death. That’s quite a pivotal point in the relationship between Sam and Jon. Jon let Sam go when he still needed him. The fact is Sam doesn’t feel that he needs Jon anymore in the way that he used to. Jon healed Sam very quickly, in terms of protecting him physically from all the hardships at Castle Black. But as soon as Sam met Gilly, it was like Jon had fulfilled his purpose. Now I’m ready to go on and save somebody. I’d like to make Gilly feel the way that Jon made Sam feel. I think Jon knows that he, in a strange way, needs Sam more than the other way around, so he’s letting him go. It’s a moment of huge self sacrifice with Jon because he senses that his work is done. The only two people that matter to Sam now are Gilly and Baby Sam, so he’s ready to devote his life to them.
What I found about that whole sequence of the attempted rape of Gilly, the assault on Sam, and then their love scene was that last moment where Sam thinks to himself, pardon my French, “F— these guys! They’ve never liked me from the second I got here. I’m following these stupid rules that tell me I can’t be with the girl that I love. I bring her back here, and they try to rape her, and then they beat me up. I refuse to give you guys any respect that you don’t deserve. My priorities have been narrowed down to two people and they’re all I need. I don’t need the Night’s Watch as a crutch to hold myself up. I’m not loyal to you anymore. You’ve never been loyal to me. We’re not a band of brothers. You just tried to cave my head in.” That was the moment that he felt he can finally break free, and he breaks free from Jon. He knows what his priorities are and he knows it’s just two people and everything else doesn’t matter anymore.
MURRAY: I think it’s interesting about them not knowing about Jon’s death because it’s all been a bubble this year to a certain extent, but actually what it really shows is that these two characters, they’ve broken out on their own, they’ve broken away from Castle Black. There have been moments in the series where Sam is a supporting character in Jon’s storyline and there have been moments in the series where Sam is the lead of his own story. It proves how separate we are from the Jon storyline in season 6. They don’t even know what’s happened, and there’s no turning back for them. They really are setting out on their own path and not looking back.
ON A LONG-AWAITED CHANGE OF COSTUME
MURRAY: When we were at the premiere in San Francisco last year, Dan Weiss came up to me and said, ‘Two words, new costume,’ and I’ve never been so excited in my life. I had one costume the whole way through the show. I had the worst costume, categorically the worst. I was having adjustments done or something on set and Kit looks at me and he’s like, ‘You’re costume is so awful, so awful.’ It’s like a variety of sacks layered over each other. In season 4, I got really excited because they gave me an apron. I was so jealous of those King’s Landing girls, different outfit every f—ing scene. I can’t say anymore about what it might be, but it was a real treat. It was so much fun.