By James Hibberd on Apr 13, 2014
Warning: The following contains major spoilers from Sunday night’s Game of Thrones episode “The Lion and the Rose.”
Below Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss take you behind the scenes of Sunday’s royal wedding shocker as they say goodbye to one of the best TV villains ever. Here’s how Jack Gleeson was cast, their thoughts on his performance as King Joffrey, and plenty of discussion about the unique audacity of the latest twist in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy saga.
It’s all part of EW’s Purple Wedding coverage, which also includes an exclusive interview with Thrones author George R.R. Martin on why he killed Joffrey, an exclusive interview with actor Jack Gleeson and, of course, our recap of the best wedding ever (links below).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In some ways, Joffrey dying is the most tragic death for us as an audience because as the main villain on the show, he was so entertaining and was an antagonist to so many other characters. What are your feelings about his passing?
Dan Weiss: Jack has done such an amazing job of bringing this sociopathic yet completely understandable — I don’t want to say “relatable” because hopefully people don’t actually relate to Joffrey — but understandable. You can understand where he’s coming from. He’s the person people love to hate cliche. We were at Comic-Con and [director] Michelle MacLaren brought Samuel L Jackson over to us. And to hear Samuel L Jackson explain to you for five minutes why Joffrey absolutely positively had to die and all his reasons for wanting Joffrey dead…he’s just somebody that people really, really want to die. We’ve been denying them for a long time.
David Benioff: Which is why Samuel L Jackson is guest starring in season 4 as the assassin.
Weiss: He’s a center of gravity in a way that somehow personifies the worst that this world has to offer. It will be sad to see him go. And with Jack leaving, we have nobody to explain [the philosopher] Wittgenstein to us.
Martin gives us so many shades-of-grey characters, but he only gives us a few — and Joffrey is by far the most central — who are utterly reprehensible. He really doesn’t have anything in the way of redeeming qualities.
Benioff: No. The thing about Joffrey is that typically your villain is such an alpha. You think of Darth Vader — he’s so terrifying because he’s so powerful. But Joffrey is actually this scared little kid. If somebody stands up to him, he backs down in typical bully fashion. So what makes him so scary is he’s the ultimate spoiled boy who’s got unlimited power. So unlike a typical kid who might throw a tantrum when he doesn’t get what he wants, Joffrey has people decapitated when he doesn’t get what he wants. But part of what makes him so loathsome is there is something recognizable about him. Whenever you see some horrible spoiled brat doing something and you think, “Why didn’t the parents raise that kid differently?” Joffrey is the apotheosis of that.
Weiss: To George’s credit, that’s what makes him real. Far more often than an evil alpha male out to do evil for the sake of evil, bad things often come from people who are unfit to occupy positions of power, who find themselves in positions of power they are not suited for. They don’t have the moral fiber or leadership skills, but for some reason they find themselves sitting on the throne, and that’s where things go horribly wrong. For anybody who’s read history books or read the newspaper, that feels true.