All ‘Game of Thrones’ cast members read the script with trepidation and think, ‘Please God, keep me alive,’ admits Scottish actor Iain Glen.
Known to fans of the blockbuster series as Ser Jorah Mormont, Glen is currently back in Galway for 12 weeks to film the next instalments of the popular ‘Jack Taylor’ detective series. It’s a change from filming the sprawling Game of Thrones – the sixth series of which returns in April – but one that Glen enjoys.
“Game of Thrones as a spectacle is so epic and vast but it’s a juggernaut, it’s very slow to turn over and move… [Jack Taylor] is very fleet of foot, you’re doing ducking, diving, guerrilla filming, a lot of hand held [camera work], moving very quickly, shooting 5 or 6 pages a day, but to be honest I prefer that, it’s lovely to be occupied as an actor and it’s a very demanding schedule, but one I thrive on,” he says.
Beginning with ‘Jack Taylor: The Guards’ in 2010, it’s now Glen’s fifth time back to film here, with production currently underway on the next three feature-length instalments of the series, which is based on Galway writer Ken Bruen’s crime novels.
“When I first read Ken’s novels, the nature of his crime really appealed to me, it seems to me to be very quintessentially Irish and he writes great characters and great plotlines,” says Glen, explaining that he is now involved in script development and all aspects of the production, which he thoroughly enjoys.
He also enjoys playing the hard-boiled private investigator. “Jack’s a very troubled, tortured soul but I always think he’s fundamentally a moral and a good man and he’s willing to take the fight against the powerful and put himself in a line in a way that very few people would or could and I admire his qualities, no matter how messed up he is,” says Glen.
“I love the role, I’m very fond of Galway and Galway’s always been incredibly accommodating,” he says, explaining that the public allow the crew to film unhindered in public places. “It’s unusual – if you’re filming in London, you get a lot of cantankerous reaction because people are very busy and in a hurry and they don’t want to stop for filming, but in Galway, the rhythm of life, it suits.
“It’s unusual to be able to film in a place like this, which offers so many different contrasts with the coast, the nature of the town, the history of Galway, and we can sort of duck and dive and film all over it.”
The actor has gotten to know Galway very well during his time here, describing it as a ‘walking city’, much like his native Edinburgh. “My favourite walk is starting from Eyre Square walking all along the coast past Salthill and as far as my legs can carry me and then turning around and coming back. It’s a beautiful walk.”
And Glen is likely to return to Galway again, as more ‘Jack Taylor’ instalments are planned. The crime series has developed a loyal fanbase around the world, with the next instalment being first screened in Germany in October, in Ireland after Christmas, and, significantly, also being made available on Netflix.
Glen’s Game of Thrones character Jorah has also become a fan favourite and, given the high body count of the show’s five previous seasons, fans, including those Glen meets in Galway, always want to know if he will be alright. “Unfortunately I don’t even know!” he says. “Even if I did I wouldn’t tell them!”
He adds that it’s nice to play one of the few loyal characters in the series. “There’s a huge swathe of different sorts of characters in Game of Thrones but he’s one of the handful of good souls in it and I think people have been caught by the frustrated love within the man for the lady who he’s passionate for and has a great belief in [‘Mother of Dragons’ Daenerys]. That’s sort of stayed alive and the writers do respond to the feel that audiences are liking about it and they’ve brought Ser Jorah’s story a little more to the fore than in the novels and I’ve been grateful for that.”
He adds, “You’re very lucky as an actor if you just happen to land one of these gigs that turns into that global mass hit like ‘Game of Thrones’. I think it’s officially the most successful TV show of all time. That’s not to do with any single actor in it at all, it’s to do with a fantastic company like HBO having the confidence and the belief to fund an almost impossible to film story and taking a punt on it and backing it.”
“It’s a treat to be involved in and we all just pray we stay alive, and read the script with trepidation and think, ‘Please God, keep me alive.’”
When it comes to the upcoming series, Glen only says, “Jorah’s not in a happy place currently, so we’ll just have to see what happens to him.”