Sunday's long-awaited season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones may not have been as action-packed as some fans were hoping for, but it did not disappoint—especially in terms of its many anticipated reunions and major plot reveals. At the top of that list of highly guarded secrets finally coming to light was Jon Snow learning his true parentage, and realizing that not only is he the true heir to the Iron Throne, but that the love of his life also happens to be a blood relation.
Though we assumed that particular bombshell would be dropped later in the season, Jon's best friend, Samwell Tarly, was given the unfortunate task of sharing this information with Jon ... and delivered it not long after being informed by Daenerys Targaryen that she had killed both his father and brother for refusing to bend the knee.
Sam has certainly stepped up his game since his earliest days on Game of Thrones; we've seen him rescue Gilly and her son, stand up to his hard-nosed father, become a Maester, expand his knowledge of the history of Westeros, and even kill some White Walkers. Still, having to tell Jon Snow the truth about his parentage—and what Daenerys is capable of—was no easy task for Sam, or for John Bradley (the actor who portrays him).
In an interview with Variety, Bradley shared how he and Kit Harington rehearsed their lines over and over again to get the scene just right, and that he had to split it into two parts in his mind. The first part of the scene would be the sweet reunion between friends and Sam telling Jon that his father and brother were killed by Daenerys. “He just understandably needs to get that off his chest,” Bradley said. The second part was the ultimate revelation that the actor referred to as “the most important piece of information in the entire show.”
“From a performance point of view it was very delicate, because I know I had to get all of the emotions into the first half of the scene, and in the second half abandon them,” Bradley said. “Sam has to calm himself down and explain the situation to Jon very calmly and in terms which are easy to understand. He knows Jon is going to be angry, he knows any blasphemy against the sainted figure of Ned Stark is going to rile Jon up. Sam needs to be as calm as possible to throw a cold blanket on that, to make Jon listen to what he has got to say.”
The scene was obviously an intense one, but Bradley promised that the final season will have some moments of levity, too.
“It’s an ending that we’re really satisfied with,” the 30-year-old actor said. “We’re not afraid to talk about it, we’re not dreading people seeing it or how they’re going to react. Quite a few shows have been great and then missed on the finale, and that’s tarnished people’s relationship with the show, but we’re not going to do that. Ever since I first read that last page of script, the last page of season 8, episode 6, I have been desperate for people to see it. I’m gonna feel that way the second before it starts in five weeks' time. It’s gonna give the fans and the show itself the ending they deserve.”