Shifting to “Game of Thrones” Season 4, episode 8, “The Mountain and the Viper,” you are directing a pivotal episode. What was it like working with the Red Viper and some of these new storylines and characters?
Graves: Akin to what I was talking about earlier, I had the Red Viper and I had an important part of the storyline so I looked into him. And, of course, when you learn the bigger picture about the Red Viper you learn a lot about things people don't know about.
He's a very intriguing character and he's going to have a very large footprint on the show, ultimately, and then Pedro Pascal was cast to play him and Pedro is without equal. Pedro is this very lovely man who is an extraordinary talent who would come in and play with such ease, and nuance, this hedonistic, screwed up guy that's very much not like Pedro. Then we would go to spear practice and I've never had an actor grab a weapon and get into a stunt fight sequence that quickly with that level of ease and he was just mind blowing and everybody was just crazy about him.
Of course, you have Indira Varma at his side was just icing on the cake. Anybody who knows actors or quality is always trying to get Indira because she is just one of the best.
Can you name your favorite “Game of Thrones” storyline or character?
Graves: I don't have a favorite character, it would be impossible out of the blind, mad love that I have the actor. I don't even mean it politically, I love all of them and I love some of the small characters as much as the large characters and the actors too.
Storylines, you know, my favorite storylines are almost all of them because they are all one storyline but you don't know it yet. That's my favorite storyline is the final storyline, you know, where it's come from and where it's going and I obviously don't know it all.
Just as an example, Jaime and Brienne. Jaime is a sociopathic, male knight pyschopathic killer and Brienne is a loyal woman knight and they couldn't have less in common. So, all of a sudden, I'm in a bathtub in Belfast filming a guy and a girl arguing, naked, about all these complex things and they're in love and they don't know it.
And he's expressing the most traumatizing event in his quasi-childhood and realizing, to some degree, that he is traumatized through expressing it to this person he has no interest in speaking to but he is compelled to because they have one thing in common, and it's the most important thing to both of them that they can't share with anybody, and it's that they are knights. At the end of the day, they're both knights and they're also in love and they are not sophisticated to know it or possibly ever know it. When do you get to do a scene like that? You're suddenly working this stuff out and you go, “Wow, this is incredible.”
Speaking of the larger storyline being your favorite. In the “Inside the Episode” clip for “Mockingbird,” David and Dan talk about how Lysa and Littlefinger, despite having so little screen time compared to some other characters, are actually responsible for the whole show as Littlefinger convinces Lysa to poison her husband. That kind of shows the level of nuance within “Game of Thrones.”
Graves: The thing about the material, and the taste level of the writers, I mean David and Dan excel at this, they are the steak dinner or best bottle of wine you've ever had as writers, the big moments are only good on the show if they are about the smallest moments in them. The smaller scenes usually have the biggest content in them, whether you know it or not.
Let's talk a bit about “The Mountain and the Viper.” This is the pivotal moment for Tyrion and what can we expect from the episode? How was the fight between the Red Viper and the Mountain shot?
Graves: Two things probably influenced me the most in that fight. Because of who Oberyn, the Red Viper is, and as portrayed by so perfectly by Pedro, he has a real level of style and finesse that, obviously, nobody on “Game of Thrones” has in wielding weapons. I mean, it's usually, “Cut, rip, kill,” and you got the Hound, you bump into the Hound at the grocery store and it's like, “You're dead.” So, I thought it should have a very elegant, slick style, especially because of the way it ends it would set up a contrast.
The other thing was, it's a story about Oberyn and talking to David and Dan about it, and the more I learned about Oberyn and what that scene is about. That scene is two people skimming the surface of one of the single most important events in the mythology of the show and it is the night of the murder of Elia Martell. It was the night the Kingslayer was born, it was the night King's Landing was sacked by Tywin Lannister and it was the night several other things happened. It serves several purposes which is; one, it is really bringing to the forefront to the audience these names and this content and yet you're really not quite pulling it all in, and you will as the show goes on, but you'll know about it through this fight scene.
Two other important scenes will feature a possible Wildling attack on Mole's Town and fallout from Littlefinger's actions.
Graves: You won't see Ygritte, she is busy doing other thing, basically, the honeymoon is over we're at the first note of the battle and let's share a drink and try to stay alive.
One of my favorite scenes, actually, and Sophie (Turner) really came into her own and is so wonderful in it, is the scene with Littlefinger, it's the “Trial of Littlefinger” as we called it. That scene is brilliant and she's incredible, they all are, but that's the beginning of a big storyline and especially with Sophie pulling off the shell game of the trial.
first episode of GOT I'm genuinely excited for this season since the last few episodes have been legit good