There’s not much background Mackenzie Crook can get about his character, Orell, on HBO’s Game of Thrones besides brushing up on the novels. That’s because it’s hard to investigate being a ‘skinchanger.’
“There’s a limited amount of research I can do about warging, what it’s like to do that, because obviously people can’t,” he said in an interview with Vulture. “But it’s a really interesting character to have, a really deep and thoughtful character. I’m not usually asked to play those types of guys. He’s got depth, definitely.”
Crook has become somewhat known for roles that feature his eyes—as a wooden-eyed Ragetti in the Pirates of the Caribbean films and now when Orell connects with the eagle and his eyes turn white. “That was put in post,” he admitted. “I just had to hold my eyes open, unblinking, which was kind of difficult in Iceland, because I was staring right into a blizzard. Snowflakes were landing on my eyeballs, but I wasn’t allowed to blink for the duration of that shot.”
“But then I’ve had all sorts of eye-acting experience, like in Pirates of the Caribbean, they did all manner of horrible things to my eyes, and I had to wear huge contacts in that, so I’m used to keeping my eyes open and not blinking. In Pirates, the contact lens I had for the wooden eye, there was no hole in it, so I couldn’t see through it—I was blind in one eye. And that made things difficult just because you had no depth perception. You couldn’t see how close or how far away things were. And with the sword fighting, that made things dangerous!”
Crook had to undergo some other physical acting challenges while filming this past Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, in which the wildlings climb the Wall. “I don’t want to sound like a whiny actor, but it was absolutely exhausting,” he confessed. “They made this mock-up, this wall, and I guess it was foam covered in plaster rendered to look like ice, and we were actually climbing it, with the axes. It behaved just like real ice. And we had to train beforehand, how to climb ice walls. I thought they were going to put us in position and have us pretend, but no—we climbed. So the exhaustion you see in our faces is real. And they were blowing snow and wind in our faces as well. So you felt like you were there. Obviously we were harnessed, and everything’s safe, but it was hairy.”
Game of Thrones airs on HBO on Sundays at 9 p.m.