Game of Gaslight Thrones
Game of Thrones 2.0 wasn’t what producer Paul Elliott originally had in mind when he cast his production of Gaslight, playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre from January 17 through February 28. But with two of his three leading actors coming from that wildly popular HBO series, you can be forgiven for thinking it looks a bit like Westeros has come to the GTA.
“I always set out to find the best actors for the roles and I knew Owen (Teale) would be wonderful as Mr. Manningham. Then when I was casting Inspector Rough, I kept seeing Ian (McElhinney) and thinking how much he’d loved Toronto when he directed Stones
In His Pockets here. So I picked them both and then somebody said to me, ‘Bloody clever, mate! They’re both in the most popular series on the telly.’”
(SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN SEASON FIVE OF GAME OF THRONES)
Actually, they’re no longer both on the series, because McElhinney’s much-wronged Barristan Selmy was slain at the end of Season 5. However Teale’s Alliser Thorne will very much be alive when Season 6 arrives on the air in April.
Still the two men are likely to see a lot more of each other during the run of Gaslight than they did during five seasons of Game of Thrones because of the way the sprawling series is shot.
“Interestingly enough, Owen and I never crossed paths,” laughs McElhinney. “He’s up in Castle Black and I’m swanning around somewhere warm. Our schedules never crossed over. I didn’t really know his and he didn’t know mine.”
In a way, all of that makes perfect sense. The series of fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin that spawned the television show are called A Song of Ice and Fire, so roughly half the action takes place in cold climes and the rest where the sun bakes down on everyone.
“It’s a very well-oiled machine,” observes McElhinney of the complex shooting schedule. “We ran roughly from July through mid-December and I’d estimate that about 70% of it is shot in Northern Ireland, but I was lucky and did lots of exterior shoots in Croatia or Morocco or lovely places like that.”
Teale, on the other hand, had no such good fortune when geographical assignments were being handed out.
“All my scenes are at Castle Black,” he mock growls in annoyance. “It’s intense. It’s bleak. We film in a disused quarry in the middle of nowhere. A huge part of my character is just looking at the rock all around me and the rain and the isolation and the cursed feeling that I have taken this job on life.”
He hastens to add that he’s referring to how his character feels, not himself.
“I love working on this piece myself. It goes back to the roots of storytelling, with sagas that have been reimagined and beautifully scripted. I agree with what some people have said that it’s so huge it’s a challenge to get into it, but once you do get into it, it’s so huge that you could never get bored.”
Bored, never, but other things can happen to a man playing the Game of Thrones. Ask McElhinney.
“My own death last season was a bit of a surprise to me,” he admits. “I had read the books and, well, I should still be alive. But when I got a schedule and saw that I was doing less when I should have been doing more, I sensed what was happening.
“I went to the producers and said ‘I have a suspicion I’m being written out.’ And they had to concede I was right.” He’s quiet for a moment. “I should have just bided my time. I might have gotten to stay on a bit longer.”
But that isn’t how it goes and history is written by the survivors, so Teale gets to have the last words on the show.
“Although the panoply of it is based in modern fantasy, it really comes from the visceral gut of medieval times. A handful of characters working for the greater good. I think the writing is wonderful.”
Still, it’s an incredibly violent and bloody work to have grabbed the world’s imagination so strongly, but Teale has a theory on that.
“It’s like the game of football (soccer) versus the game of rugby. Football crowds are known for their hooliganism and almost tribal behavior. That doesn’t happen at rugby. Why? Because rugby itself is so much more bloody. The crowds watching it are calmer because they’ve seen so much blood already. With football, they’re all wound up and screaming for blood because they haven’t drunk their fill yet.”
That’s why audiences love Game of Thrones. And, hopefully, Gaslight.