For the last seven years, Scottish actor Iain Glen has spent a good portion of his time filming one of the biggest shows on the planet,
, in Ireland. When he’s out and about in Belfast, he’s the steadfast Ser Jorah Mormont. But a few hours drive away down on the coast of Galway Bay, they call Glen by a different name. “I can’t really go out and walk the streets without getting a lot of attention as being Jack Taylor,” Glen told VF.com over the phone. “That’s who they think I am, in very sweet, very supportive way.”
Jack Taylor is the hard-drinking, Irish private investigator hero of the books by Ken Bruen, and the lead of a series of nine hour and a half TV crime thrillers of the same name. In Taylor—a former officer of Irish Garda Síochána and something of a ladies man—Glen gets to bring the full force of his charm out from behind the layers of repression he plays on
. In fact, through a quirk of European TV’s laissez-faire approach to scheduling, Glen actually appeared in his first
episode back in 2010, before he ever picked a sword on
. And now, all nine episodes—including the third season, which just aired in the U.K. last fall—are finally available for Glen’s American fans on Acorn TV. Talk about methadone for your
withdrawal. The actor spoke with VF.com about the lure of crime thrillers, why Jack Taylor has more success with the ladies than Jorah, and whether we’ll ever see poor Ser Mormont change out of that nasty, filthy shirt from Season 1.
I heard that you’re a life-long crime thriller fan. What about that genre appeals to you?
All that crime does is just give you a structure to your story in a very simple sense—a very strong beginning, middle, and end. Within that, you’re just telling stories. It can have romance, comedy, whatever you like. I suppose I think it’s a liberating milieu. There’s been a rich vein of Scandinavian drama,
; through those, I feel like I’ve got to know Sweden a bit and Norway a bit. You get to know the politics of the place, the people, relationships. You sort of discover a society through it.
If that’s true of Scandinavian crime, I wonder what about
There’s a great deal that is quintessentially Irish. There’s a strong obsession with religion and Catholicism within Ireland, which has done lots of good things and lots of bad things. The Irish boom and bust business—they made hay, and then it all went pear-shaped—means Jack is always deeply suspicious of business and those that are making money out of the community. Obviously you’ve got beautiful coastal Galway, but it’s a paradox in some ways—it’s a very beautiful coastline and city center, but there are problems. It’s got one of the highest suicide rates in Ireland. There’s a big youth population and quite a lot of drug culture there. There’s a dark underbelly to it.
is I do think you get to know a community. You get to know Jack, his family, his mother, his difficult relationship with his mother, the people he falls in and falls out of love with. There’s a kind of claustrophobia, which is very true of that part of Ireland. We know it. It’s very funny. When we film there, I can't really go out and walk the streets without getting a lot of attention as being Jack Taylor. That’s who they think I am in very sweet, very supportive way.
You’ve got this great, big, beautiful blue coat that’s iconic to your character. How much does slipping that on put you in the Jack Taylor mindset?
Ah, Jack Taylor and his coat. The producers were a little bit wary to begin with because it covers everything. But like a dialect, I think it certainly helps me as an actor. In a single statement, it tells you that he used to be Garda. He’s ex-police, and he’s still fucking with them, really. He’s upsetting them by wearing the coat, and they constantly want it back and they’re never going to get it.
Meanwhile, poor Jorah would probably kill for that coat—he’s been stuck in pretty much the same costume since Season 1.
They found it for me, a costume that just felt right. I don’t know. It just felt like it belonged and belonged to him.
But every year it gets dirtier and dingier and more threadbare. I’m worried that by the end, Jorah will just be wearing scraps.
I think Jorah just needs to land in a safer place, and then he’ll have time to change his clothing. Get cleaned up a little.
You’ve actually been Jack longer than you’ve been Jorah. I think it’s hard sometimes for American audiences to understand that you can shoot nine installments of a story over seven years.
It’s been a frustration, sometime, but I am entirely, or at least to some degree, responsible for the time it’s taken to put together because I need to be very available for it. Because of other commitments, that’s been quite difficult. But you try and keep a continuity thread. We hope to make six more as soon as we can, and I think somehow in that feature format, that hour and a half rather than an hour, I think you get away with more time between them somehow. But there are so many different platforms now for TV in a way that it’s been such a radical change. Now when it hits Acorn, people who never saw the first ones can watch it all at once. Hopefully, if we’ve done it right, you don’t feel the time it’s taken for us to put it together. Maybe I look ancient in the last one and I look young and youthful in the first. I have no idea.
are rooting for Ser Jorah to get the girl—any girl! Do you think they’ll be happy to see that
Yeah, it’s sweet, the fan reactions. I think that they wish Jorah well, and I think they wish he would—that he deserves physical love in return or something. I don’t know. I mean, the male fans react a little differently. But there
a certain female fan where maybe they see themselves in the story, and as long as you’re failing as Jorah, you’re maybe still more available for
in a funny way. Jack is a polar opposite in that he will get himself into terrible sexual pickles all the time, and is always doing very inappropriate things like having sex with the major suspect and that sort of stuff. He goes there without thinking and then ponders it afterwards, and Jorah ponders it too much, I think. Not that Jorah’s ever going to get it. Well, he might. Who knows?
Do you have any general words of optimism or hope for Jorah fans who are quite worried about that spreading stony rash on his arm?
In all honesty, no one is more worried than me. There’s a high death rate in
and I desperately don’t want to be part of that number. We’ll have to see what unfolds.
According to prosthetics supervisor Barrie Gower, those faces were molded from Game of Thrones show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
YouTube comedian Steve Love got so much attention for his
impressions that he landed a Season 6 cameo. “I was contacted by the
, and they asked if I wanted to be on the show and I was like ‘Yes!'” he told CTV News. “I was like ‘I’ll wrestle a bear naked, I don’t care. I’ll do whatever you want me to do!’ So then I contacted them back afterwards and was like ‘I don’t know what your plan is for me, but it would really mean a lot to me if you gave me one of those trademark gruesome death scenes.'”
“They wrote me back and they basically said ‘Actually Steve that was exactly what we had in mind. You’ll bite the bullet, don’t worry.'”
Members of the metal band Mastodon—Brann Dailor, Bill Kelliher, and Brent Hinds—got to play undead Wildlings in the Season 5 episode “Hardhome.” You can see them up close here. Dailor told Pitchfork, “I watched my best friends Brent and Bill, murdered right in front of me as I myself was stabbed in the stomach and had my throat slit multiple times, and I didn't mind at all. We are more than privileged and honored to have been a part of one of the greatest stories ever told on film, and the catering wasn't bad either.”
Unlike some musicians who made cameos before them, Mastodon did not record a song for their episode of Game of Thrones. They did, however, put together a song called “White Walker” for
David Benioff’s parents appear briefly as some villagers during the Season 4 premiere “Two Swords.” Benioff’s father, Stephen Friedman, was the former head of Goldman Sachs, former Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Board, and a member of the George W. Bush administration.
Benioff wasn’t the only one to work his parents into
. Prosthetics supervisor Barrie Gower gave his mom’s face the spotlight in this Season 5 scene.
Blink and you’ll miss Lightbody as a Bolton soldier on the left side riding by on a horse in this Season 3 scene. But you can clearly hear his voice ring out as the men sing another famous Song of Ice and Fire tune: “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.”
Have you noticed a theme among the bands making cameos on
? Snow Patrol, Coldplay, Mastadon, Of Monsters and Men? Seems like it helps to be either frosty or monstrous if you want a
musical cameo. The Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men made their debut plunking out some music to accompany the Braavosi players. According to Ragnar “Raggi” Thorhallsson, the band had been begging to be extras for years but, in the end, landed a much sweeter gig getting to play actual music as part of Season 6.
Speaking of George W. Bush, HBO came under fire in Season 1 when a prosthetic version of the former president’s head found it’s way onto a pike at King’s Landing. Bush’s likeness has since been scrubbed of all defining features, but the original footage still exists out there.
The Icelandic trio Sigur Rós appeared at Joffrey’s wedding to play a dour cover of The National’s version of “The Rains of Castamere.” Though their appearance was unpopular with King Joffrey, Georg Holm of Sigur Rós said, “The meanest person in television history, King Joffrey, is played by the sweetest guy Jack Gleeson. It felt like a natural thing to make our version of ‘Rains of Castamere.’ We probably managed to create the gloomiest version so far. It is maybe not the happiest wedding song, but we think that it fit the scene very well.”
Marshall, an archery enthusiast, couldn’t resist inserting himself into the Battle of Castle Black in Season 4. He even gets a quick close-up aiming his bow at the army of wildlings and giants.
has been as important as the cue at the Red Wedding. The Frey musicians switch from some rollicking, festive tunes to, you guessed it, an ominous version of “Rains of Castamere.” That cue set off the violence that would take out so many Starks and their bannermen. Champion—a massive
fan—was there for it all blissfully banging away on his drum. Champion got to team up with
again in 2015 for the Red Nose Day musical which raised more than $21 million for a number of charities.
Joanna RobinsonJoanna Robinson is a Hollywood writer covering TV and film for VanityFair.com.
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