Entertainment Weekly has a huge Game of Thrones cover story in this week’s issue. Writer James Hibberd spent 10 days on three different sets during the filming of season 5, and he’s here to talk about it. Among the stories he shares is a snippet from Sid on the set of Dorne in Seville, Spain.
Spain’s frenzied fandom is not a terrible problem to have. An arena battle sequence shot in Osuna benefited from more than 500 extras who delivered plenty of passion on cue. Even more critical, the production was given permission to shut down half of the city’s largest tourist attraction, the Alcázar of Seville, a royal palace that will serve as the home of House Martell. Suddenly Hill’s line about “closing Croatia” for Thrones seems like less of a joke.
At the palace, crew members near the gates are asked by tourists to join them in photos just for wearing their production lanyard. (This year’s badge image: the grim face of the Night’s King.) Once past the gate, you see the sprawling palace, a mammoth mash-up of Arabic and Spanish influences. It’s surrounded by lushly manicured, palm-dotted grounds that will serve as Dorne’s famous gardens. Peacocks stroll authoritatively. Exotic bugs hover. Amid rows of plants, the actresses playing Myrcella and Oberyn’s lethal daughters the Sand Snakes slowly contort into poses as they enjoy an impromptu yoga class before filming begins.
From a balcony perch, British actor Alexander Siddig (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) peers down and marvels: “This is wonderful—I’m not staring at greenscreen, we’re in a 14th-century palace!” Siddig plays Prince Doran Martell, Oberyn’s wheelchair-bound brother. (The character “Doran” is not to be confused with his kingdom, “Dorne.”Thrones doesn’t make it easy, does it?) Today Doran is getting berated by his late brother’s mourning lover Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), who has pushed onto Doran’s veranda overlooking his gardens.
“Everywhere women tear their hair and men cry out in rage, the same question on every tongue: What will Doran DO!?” Ellaria yells. “What will the prince do to avenge his murdered brother?” Ellaria wears a gold serpent bracelet that coils around her forearm to her wrist. After the scene, you shake Varma’s hand and her serpent’s near-invisible needle tongue stabs you, drawing blood—bitten by a Sand’s snake. You’re torn between admiring the intricate costume detail and nursing your finger.
Siddig, a new member of the cast, offers a fresh perspective. “There’s a confidence that comes with this show,” he observes. “When you’ve got one of the top shows in the world, very possibly even the top show in the world, everybody walks with a swagger.”