Seeing Ross for the first time catches you by surprise, firstly because he looks a bit similar to Ed Kowalczyk from the band “Live”, and secondly because given how long the London Film and Comic Con weekend is, he still seems remarkably to have plenty of energy left! Not sure what they’re feeding him, but sign me up ta! Having played the role of the nightmare inducing Dr Who character “The Silence”, as well as the chilling “Pemphredo” in Clash of the Titans he seemed a very obvious choice in bringing the White Walker to life in Game of Thrones (GoT).
The end result is a jaw dropping character who’s appearance had GoT fans going bonkers on the internet (not in a bad way!), and even though the character spells certain death for George RR Martin’s characters, we can’t wait to see him on screen again!
We briefly chatted to Ross about his roles.
How is London Film and Comic Con going for you so far?
This is my second con in London, and I’m loving it! It’s really wonderful. It’s a very big vast space. The lighting could be a little bit brighter, I’m having that feeling, you know when it feels like it’s been dusk for nine hours! But everybody seems to be having a good time, it’s not too slow, there’s been a steady flow, not too fast, and I had a nice lunch. Got to meet some really cool actors, somebody from The Walking Dead, so it’s been really cool for me.
Sounds like you’re having as much fun as all of the other attendees here!
I am indeed! This is the reason why I do them, but I like sitting down! People can come to me, it’s a long day!
What has been the best or most challenging character you’ve played so far?
I would say the most challenging of all of these creatures that I have done would probably be one that’s actually not on this table, it would be Clash of the Titans. My original creature that I did, playing one of the witches was 40lbs of prosthetics, so it was very very heavy. I was completely blind, I was overheating on set, it was very challenging and I thought “I never want to do this again!”. And so after I finished that job I was a bit like “ok, that’s done”. Connor Sullivan who did the make up on it then phoned me a couple of years later and said, would you like to come down and talk to me about the White Walker. He said that the White Walker would make up for everything that the Witch was. You’ll be able to see, it’ll be much lighter, and you’re going to be working in the snow. So I was like “ok, I’m cool”.
Yeah, exactly! So Clash of the Titans was the benchmark. It was really hard. Since then though it’s been very easy.
With all of the make-up, I’m guessing it took a long time to do?
It depends. The White Walker took 5 hours.
Yeah, it’s a long process, but worth it, but very easy to wear. My characters in Dr Who, although it doesn’t take very long to get into them, I can’t wear them for very long. I can only wear them for about 30 minutes and then I start to overheat, and then sort of have breathing problems, especially with the “Silence”. So I can only work with it at 30 minutes at the most. The “Silence” really, 20 minutes.
So it’s very physically demanding as well as pushing your acting skills?
Yes I would say so. That is what it’s mostly testing, my physical stamina really, especially something like the White Walker where I start at 1am, and I’m 5 hours in make-up, and then I have 12 hour day to shoot after I start, so it’s like an 18 hour day, and then I have a very short turnaround to sleep eat and get back on set. So it can be very physically taxing, but I’m up for the challenge!
With how long it takes etc, why do it!?
Why do it! I enjoy it, I like the chat on set, I love filming, love the people I work with, it’s great to be a part of television history. That’s why I do it! I like it. And, I’m a glutton for punishment!
With your characters all being creatures, do you feel that you’ve managed to keep your anonymity on the street so you’re not hounded by the press etc?
Yes! Absolutely, I did an interview for Game of Thrones this past year on Sky, and it was the first time I was really on TV as myself. It was really funny because 2 weeks after that everywhere I went, people were like “Hey, saw you on Thronecast the other day”, which is really lovely as well, but it’s nice to have a bit of anonymity. When we were shooting Time Heist, when we were out with some of the cast, everyone was coming up to them and talking to them. It can get a bit “Ok, I’ve got to chat with somebody”, which can be a bit hard, but you know, it’s good. Anonymity is good! When you want to be on your own it’s good.
Have you had any awkward moments? We had heard of Owen Teale being in a pub, some chap asked if it was ok to take a photo with him, Owen being a nice chap agreed. Photo was then posted on Twitter, and next thing Owen knew, he had a queue of people in the pub wanting him to sign things.
Ah no! I haven’t had that, no not really awkward like that, no. I’ve had really funny things like my friends who don’t watch the show, they say things like “This is my friend Ross, he’s in the Hobbit, he’s in the Lord of the Rings isn’t it?”, And I’m like “No, it’s not Lord of the Rings, it’s Game of Thrones”, and then they’re like “Yeah yeah that’s it yeah, the Game of Thrones one” (laughs). Or somebody said to me “You know, he’s in Mr Who, it’s a really popular show”, and I have to correct them “It’s Dr Who”. So there’s that, now that is awkward! People want to brag that they know you but they don’t know what they’re talking about! (laughs). That’s the only awkward thing that I get.
When you saw yourself in the last episode of Game of Thrones, did that really shock you, the completed effect?
It is a bit weird now that you mention it yes, it’s a funny thing that, it is a very odd thing. Of course when I’m on set, like I don’t see myself, I just feel what I’m going through, which is of course a lot of physical challenges. And then the director will say “Come over here and watch the playback, and we’ll have a look at this”, and I’ll look at it and be like “Wow! That’s really wild!”, and they then say “Yeah, that’s what you look like”. There’s actually not very much CGI with the White Walker though, this photo here is basically what I looked like for the screen test, so they don’t add a lot of CGI on there. But when you do see the whole thing, I mean when this episode of Game of Thrones first aired in America, my Facebook feed here in the UK was just going bonkers, everyone was putting up pictures and video clips and everything, and everyone was going “Oh my god, have you seen it!?” And I was like “Wow, that’s really cool! Because we shot all of that on green screen so it didn’t look anything like a winter landscape, so when I saw it, it was boiling hot on set, not cold at all (Connor!!), it was beautiful. It really did look beautiful, I just thought that it was a really beautiful piece of artwork, and I was in it, somewhere!
It’s odd, because despite the menace of the character. It’s incredibly graceful.
(Laughs) The thing is, I watch it and then I think of the horses that I’m on, because it’s the horses that I’m with the most on set, and I would go “Oh it’s Spikey here”, the name of the horse. And there was Prince, the other horse, the black one.
The blue eyes, I take it those are contact lenses and then CGI.
Exactly right, contact lenses, and then CGI on top of that to make then glow.
A big thank you to Ross for his time, and for being great fun to chat to!