10 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets We Learned About Game of Thrones From The Last Watch

The Night King actor Vladimir Furdik prepares for a scene on the set of Game of Thrones
The Night King actor Vladimir Furdik prepares for a scene on the set of Game of Thrones
HBO

Game of Thrones may have sadly come to an end, but fans are still clamoring for more information and behind-the-scenes details. Despite many poor reviews and fan complaints regarding the eighth and final season, that doesn’t change the fact that the HBO series has been a part of our lives for nine years now. Which is why so many fans don't seem ready to say goodbye just yet.

So it goes without saying that fans were excited when HBO announced that Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, a documentary that took viewers behind the scenes of season 8 to give an in-depth overview of the many challenges the show's cast and crew faced in putting together the final season. Here are 10 things we learned from the two-hour special.

  1. They had to build King’s Landing in Its entirety.

As the final season of Game of Thrones showed Daenerys Targaryen burning King’s Landing to the ground, the crew had to literally build the capital city in order to then tear it down. Instead of shooting in Dubrovnik, the Croatian city that usually stands in for King's Landing, the production team built King’s Landing from the ground up on in empty backlot at Titanic Studios in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It took seven months to build the city, just to then demolish it.

  1. Kit Harington was not prepared to learn that Jon would kill Daenerys.

Unlike most of his co-stars, Kit Harington didn’t read the full season 8 script before the first full table read. So when the cast got to the scene in the final episode where Jon Snow fatally stabs Daenerys, Harington's reaction—which we got to see in the documentary—was absolutely authentic. Visibly shocked, Harington put his hands on his head and quickly shot back in his chair. Looking up at Emilia Clarke, Harington was met with a nod from his co-star.

Harington wasn’t the only actor who reacted strongly to their character’s big scene: Conleth Hill, who played Lord Varys, tossed his script when they reached his final scene, which ended with him being burned alive by Drogon.

  1. The production needed a lot of snow, which is where Del Reid, the team's "head of snow," came in.

Lots of Season 8 action took place in Winterfell, so you can imagine the amount of fake snow the production team needed. The documentary introduced fans to Del Reid, Game of Thrones's "Head of Snow," whose job was to make sure each scene had enough of the white stuff. Funnily enough, he revealed that the snow was made of just paper and water.

  1. Daenerys meeting Samwell for the first time was the first scene filmed for season 8.

The first scene shot for the final season was Daenerys’s original meeting with Samwell Tarly. In the premiere episode of season 8, “Winterfell,” the Mother of Dragons and Jorah Mormont meet Sam at the library in Winterfell, where Daenerys is forced to inform him that she executed his father and brother. (Awkward!)

  1. Vladimír Furdík was much more than just the Night King.

Vladimír Furdík as the Night King in Game of Thrones
Vladimír Furdík plays the Night King in Game of Thrones season 8
HBO

Many fans know that the man who portrayed the Night King, Vladimír Furdík, was originally a stuntman on the series. What we didn’t know was just how much behind-the-scenes work Furdík continued to do while also portraying the character.

Explaining that he has been a stunt actor for more than 30 years, Furdík recalled being asked to play the undead leader. “I didn’t hear ‘Night King,’ I just heard ‘king,’ and I said ‘I can be any king,’” he remembered. He worked with a variety of actors over the seasons, teaching them how to perfect their fight scenes, and even choreographed the highly-anticipated Cleganebowl.

  1. "Tiger toast" was a popular on-set snack.

During filming, the cast and crew often grabbed food from Leigh McCrum's coffee truck, which was located right outside set. McCrum revealed a surprising concoction that was very popular with the Game of Thrones team: “tiger toast” or, as McCrum also called it, a "fully loaded toastie." This sandwich included bacon, chicken, cheese, ham, tomatoes, onions, and tobacco onions, all on tiger bread. She explained that she used to try to get healthier options, but the cast and crew really just wanted anything that could keep them going through all the strenuous shoots.

  1. The visual effects team essentially lived on the set during season 8.

The documentary took us inside the visual effects team, specifically Barrie and Sarah Gower, a husband and wife team who own their own prosthetic makeup design company called BGFX. Sarah explained that when they first got the job on Game of Thrones, they didn’t even have a crew or workshop yet. Since then, the prosthetics makeup team has won three Emmys for the series, and for season 8, they basically lived on set.

One scene showed Sarah getting emotional because she hadn’t seen their daughter for a couple of months, which made it all the more heartfelt when their daughter was able to visit the set and even got to play a wildling in the final episode.

  1. getting Emilia Clarke’s hair just right was a laborious process.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones.
Helen Sloan/HBO

Daenerys is obviously known for her long, flowing, white-silverish hair. And even when Clarke dyed her hair nearly the same color, her hair and makeup routine didn’t change much for the final season. The actress still had to arrive in the early hours of the morning to have a cap put on her head before Dany's wig was added, as absolutely no roots could be showing. The documentary took us inside Clarke’s last day putting on the now-iconic wig. "Is there any part of you that's a bit relieved?" she asks her hair person. "Do you know what I mean? Not in a 'Ah! Thank f*** that's over,' but as in ... like a, 'Ahh, right. That's one thing I don't need to panic about anymore. ... There's definitely an exhale of breath. ... It's kind of exciting to think, 'Oh! Who am I without this?' I wonder." She had previously shared that putting on the Daenerys wig made her feel so powerful, still much different from how she felt when she dyed her hair blonde in real life.

  1. The cast and crew got festive.

Among the many Thrones posters, T-shirts, coffee cups, and more on set, the cast and crew even had a Christmas tree in theme with the show. Their ornaments included a naked Barbie doll imitating Cersei Lannister’s Walk of Atonement, a ball with an illustration of a “Sansa Clause” on it, and other funny takes on the show’s characters.

  1. The show went to great lengths to ensure secrecy.

We were expecting the final season of Game of Thrones to be the most secretive yet, and although leaks of the episodes still got out eventually, the cast and crew really did go all in as far as throwing fans off the scent while shooting. The documentary revealed that Tom Wlaschiha, who played Jaqen H'ghar; Faye Marsay, who played the Waif; and even Vladimír Furdík, who played the Night King, were all asked to come out to Spain while they were filming the Dragon Pit scene, just to confuse people.

Additionally, extras did not find out what they were filming until the day of for the final season, and episodes had alternate names. For example, “The Last of the Starks” was called “The Faith of Angels.” And as you would expect, physical copies of the scripts were quickly shredded after table reads (although director David Nutter—who directed half the season—had paper scripts while shooting).

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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The Surprising Characters on Friends Who Were Originally the Show's Main Couple

Everyone was enthralled by Ross and Rachel's romantic drama—but how would you feel about Monica and Joey's?
Everyone was enthralled by Ross and Rachel's romantic drama—but how would you feel about Monica and Joey's?
Getty Images

When you think of Friends, your mind probably goes to all the hilarious one-liners, such as Joey's "How you doin'?", or all the romantic relationships in the show, most importantly Ross and Rachel's. We watched the pair's love story blossom since their first kiss back in season two, and the couple is widely regarded as one of the best in TV history.

Well, there was another couple planned that didn't make the cut. Just as Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc wanted their characters Phoebe and Joey to get together, showrunners planned for Monica and Joey to be an item. And they weren't just going to be a fling—the two were originally the Ross and Rachel of the show.

Vulture reports that Friends creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman initially had Monica and Joey coupling up, explaining:

"It would’ve unfolded like this: Joey, a 'perpetual horndog,' would’ve eventually been lured and 'tamed' by Monica as he continued to climb up in the world of acting. Crane, however, found himself 'bored' by this version of Joey; he retooled Joey to be a funnier and warmer character within the friend group, and dropped the romance with Monica altogether."

Would've been weird, right? According to Entertainment Weekly, it wasn't just Crane who didn't like the idea. LeBlanc himself, who played Joey, wasn't into his character trying to pursue Monica, not wanting to play someone who was perceived as creepy and hit on everyone.

It seems Joey went through some serious revisions before Friends became what it is today, and it's probably for the best. He doesn't end up married in the end, but at least Monica gets her happily ever after moment with Chandler.

[h/t Vulture]