HBO’s Game of Thrones has killed off fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, the one truly good man in Westeros, direwolves, and even a dragon. Even so, the death of Shireen Baratheon, the scarred but kindhearted princess of Stannis Baratheon’s family, was a jaw-dropper. In the ninth episode of the fifth season, Stannis, lost, defeated, and desperately grasping for an easy out, made a decision. At the Red Woman’s behest, he burned his only daughter to death as a sacrifice to the Red God to save his army from cold and starvation. Obviously, it didn’t work out. His men abandoned him, his name was tarnished, and fans caused a firestorm on social media. “I think she’s very understanding, but I don’t think it’s something she’d forgive him for,” actress Kerry Ingram, now 19, tells EW of Shireen. “I think that may cross the line. She’s definitely passive, but I think some things are just bit over the mark.”
As we look back on some of the biggest moments in Game of Thrones history in the lead-up to the final season, Ingram tells the story behind that scene.
KERRY INGRAM: I was told from the beginning of season 5 that my character was going to die, but I wasn’t told how or when, which was weird because that left my mind open to all the possibilities of how it could happen. And then about halfway through shooting, I’d just finished all of my scenes that weren’t in the actual episode, and then I got a phone call from [showrunners] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] just explaining what’s gonna happen and how it goes down. And just after that call, I got the script.
It was weird. It didn’t really hit me I was gone from the show until the next summer when they started filming again and I wasn’t going to Belfast. It just felt like I had finished another season and we’d all be back next year. It didn’t really hit me until June or July, when I saw all my friends going back out to Belfast and I wasn’t, so that was strange. It was mixed emotions. I thought it was gonna be great, it was gonna big opportunity. It’s not every day you get to film stuff like that, with so much emotions. So I was excited but at the same time a bit sad, kind of a bit of everything really.…
[The scene] was filmed over three days, in which I was needed for two of them and not the third one. We started with all these bits around it, like the walk, the dialogue, and then we did everyone else’s shots, and the last thing we did was my shot at the end of the day.… It was very nerve-racking. There were a lot of extras, and it was almost like I had a big audience. So we filmed it in chronological order. It was very cold because we were in a quarry. I remember being wrapped up in a lot of layers. I remember the fire getting a little bit too close at one point for my liking. I remember they did a close-up at one point and were like, “That was really good.” I was like, “That was real!” It was fine. All the safety precautions were there, but from my angle it looked like it was getting a lot closer than I wanted it to. And I was like, “Uh, you guys! I want to continue acting and not make this real.”
The thing I was most nervous about was the screaming because it’s not something that I can just practice in my room. I was gonna get the police called on me. It’s a different kind of scream, it’s not just like screaming in a playground. It’s a certain kind of scream that I wanted to nail. I brought this up to production: “I don’t really know what to do. Is there anyway I could get a soundproof room or something like that just so that I can prepare for it?” So what they did is they took me out to an empty car park in the middle of Belfast and had a vocal coach scream with me. It was very funny to the people passing by. That was the only preparation that I did.
I was on for two full days and originally the third, but then they realized at the end of the second that they got all the shots that they needed me for. So the third day I wasn’t needed for. Obviously because I was under 16 at the time, they couldn’t keep me on set for too long so the day was very split up, but they did most of my shots at the end of the day because obviously the makeup takes a long time as well. They scheduled it in a way that I didn’t have to come in super-super-early. I could still get my makeup done within enough time so it wasn’t rushed and I just had time to prepare and relax before they did my close-ups.
They had a vocal coach come show me how to support it right, how to open my ribs and stuff like that, really weird exercises to do, and then a lot of honey and stuff to keep my voice relaxed. Actually only one of the shots required an actual scream. They asked me if I wanted to do it or I wanted to mime it and then we’ll do the screams in post-production. I just felt like when you scream, really, you can see the difference in your face and your throat. You can tell if anyone is actually making sound and I wanted to get that feel for it. But I think that there were only two shots over the two days that actually needed my actual screams. I did lose [my voice] for a bit, maybe like a day or two after. When I got back to school, everyone was like, “You sound a bit odd.” And I couldn’t tell them why. I was like, “Oh I’m sick.”
We do the fake snow blowing, there were these huge fans. Unfortunately, because of that, you could hear it in the background. So quite a lot of the dialogue had to be done in ADR, and that was including the screams. It was weird then because I wasn’t on set and I wasn’t in the character. I was just in a room. It felt different doing the screams in there because I didn’t have to struggle, I didn’t have people grabbing me, which helps you get into that mindset. So what they did was they had my acting coach come up behind me and wrap her arms around me so I had that initial shock instead of just going into the screams. It felt a bit more real.…
It was mental because [the episode] aired in the States before it aired here [in the U.K.], so I woke up to an explosion on my phone. Yeah, it was a lot of “No! How dare they?!” It was weird because I’d known about it for like a year, so I was so prepared for it. Just seeing those comments, if anything, it was humbling. It was really nice to hear stuff because that means I did my job right. It was really rewarding. It was heartbreaking to see the reaction, but at the same time it was really nice to see all the lovely comments coming through.
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