They are not permitted to speak to the media, nor do they get the same limelight as the show’s bigger stars do. Yet, these anonymous background heroes are integral to Game of Thrones and have incredibly difficult and important jobs.
Many of the show’s extras have been working on it for years, sometimes playing soldiers, sometimes tradesmen and sometimes, residents of Westeros. Some of the actors even have tattoos commemorating their roles. They are among the first to arrive on set and the last to leave it, while earning roughly $100 a day.
"Obviously, they're called extras so there's not a whole lot of money or respect that comes with that job," Entertainment Weekly quoted show runner David Benioff as saying. "But the extras in Northern Ireland were spectacular in terms of their enthusiasm and the realism they brought to the show. They work so hard with these insane hours. You think back on so many of our scenes where the extras have played such a major part."
Benioff continued, "Many of these guys kept long hair and beards purely for the show and they even came up with character names and back-stories for themselves, their childhood traumas and what House they owed allegiance to, even though those details are not in the show. It really adds to the believability of so many shots, whether they're standing behind Jon Snow at Castle Black or at Winterfell or wherever…these dudes really take this seriously and have passion for it."
Benioff’s fellow show runner Dan Weiss also added some words of wisdom, speaking from his own experience of working on Game of Thrones. "Extras can either make a scene or they can destroy a scene if you don't give what they do the respect and attention they deserve."
During the filming of The Battle of the Bastards episode back in season six, for instance, various extras were separately trained for each army taking place in the battle to develop a group's sense of camaraderie, coordination and teamwork. Some had the rather gruelling job of serving in a 20-feet-high body pile, spending all day intermingled with gory mock corpses.
Interestingly, many celebrities have also been background performers on Game of Thrones. The show has seen many a star cameo, such as how Gary Lightbody from British rock band Snow Patrol played a soldier in season three. Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men were a Braavosi band in season six. Metal band Mastodon appeared in season five and Coldplay drummer Will Champion was a drummer at the infamous Red Wedding back in season three.
The super hit HBO fantasy drama series is unfortunately coming to an end later this year, with season eight hitting the screens on April 14. But at least a whole bunch of extras will go home with a whole lot of fond memories attached to it!
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