At what point did you learn Oberyn's fate?
I was told right off the bat. It was in the description of the character arc when I auditioned for the part. I didn't know how he died, until I met [series creators] David Benioff and Dan Weiss in Belfast. They mentioned the crushing of my head in three steps: first the teeth, then the eyes, and finally the entire melon head. My first thought was, "Hopefully I'll be able to compete for a top spot for the most gruesome death on 'Game of Thrones,' " which is saying a lot.
Have you seen the finished scene?
I haven't, but I can't imagine. [This interview took place before the episode aired.] I have to watch it in time with everyone else. I worry for my family; I really do.
As gruesome as it is, it looks authentic. Did they make a cast of your head?
They made a cast of my head from the shoulders up and dressed it with facial hair and the expression of violent agony.
Have you seen it?
Yes! They caught me staring at my head on set. We never get a chance to see ourselves three-dimensionally, and it's totally different. Maybe there was a little narcissism or just the fascination of seeing myself in 360 degrees. I was like, "Holy sh*t. I really look like my dad."
How much training did you have with the spear?
HBO and 'Game of Thrones' put me in training with a master of wushu, an acrobatic martial arts. People train their entire lives to master this skill, so in a couple of weeks Master Hu could only show me the basics.
What was the most challenging thing about it?
Everything. Mostly working with a spear that was a foot taller than me. There was sort of a helicopter-propeller move with the spear that I wanted to achieve the "woosh woosh woosh" of. I bought a curtain rod from Home Depot and practiced in my apartment because I was too shy to do it in public.
What was it like to film the combat scene? Can you explain Oberyn's decisions?
It was very challenging because there was a physical aspect of it - which was the most demanding work that I've ever done - but also Oberyn is climaxing emotionally. Those two things synchronize themselves really beautifully.
I had a fascinating conversation with Lena Headey on set where we discussed the entire arc of the character. Oberyn is desperate to hear the Mountain make his confession. Although it's a violently tragic end, he does ultimately hear the words. There is this bittersweet ecstasy in the idea of delivering oneself to one's own end. It's a very cathartic moment.
In a previous episode, Oberyn is writing a poem for his daughter. Have you thought through his life in Dorne?
I see him as an extremely contemporary, progressive and loving father. I think it's so suitable that he had nothing but daughters to raise. He doesn't shape ideas based on old conventions so his daughters are not limited by backwards, medieval morality.
He's very emotionally intelligent.
I think there's a depth in the way that Oberyn perceives the world and the way he lives in it. I think there's a lot of woman inside of Oberyn, which attributes to his strength.
Can you explain what you mean by "a lot of woman"?
Perceptiveness. Intelligence. In the world of 'Game of Thrones,' which can harshly reflect some of the darker elements of our reality, I would argue that women are often forced to be smarter and more in touch with themselves because their circumstances are so ruled by men. Women's survival skills kick in a bit earlier.
Would you say that Oberyn is a feminist?
Absolutely. Without choosing to be. It's just intrinsic and logical to him. Ellaria Sand is the love of his life because she is his equal, if not his superior, in certain ways. That's part of what makes him such a fierce man because he knows who to take his lead from.
How do you hope that fans remember Oberyn?
As a lover and a fighter. As a fun character who ushered in something new to King's Landing and stirred some sh*t up: Big in, big out.
Fans are bound to be brokenhearted.
As am I. As I have been all along.
Would you like to see Oberyn's death avenged?
If you were on trial, what would your crime be?
Oberyn would probably go a little too high up the chain in his sexual escapades. He'd probably sleep with the king's wife or the queen's husband.
You're invited to a GOT wedding. Would you accept or decline?
I accept. Any opportunity to go hand-in-hand with Ellaria, because there's always an opportunity to get laid at the wedding.
The Hound says he'd go to Braavos next. Where would you reinvent yourself?
I would stick around King's Landing. There's a nice brothel room open to the ocean.
What would you name your sword?
Sammy the Sand Snake