Game of Thrones star Jack Gleeson: “Joffrey couldn’t just fall off a ladder and go splat”

Find out what the stars thought of Joffrey's death in exclusive chapter from behind-the-scenes book

— The Death of Joffrey —

episode 402: “the lion and the rose”


“A royal wedding is not an amusement. A royal wedding is history.”

—King Joffrey

With the royal wedding between King Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell, a new alliance is formed that promises to finally bring lasting security to King’s Landing. Tywin Lannister and Lady Olenna Tyrell have gotten their way, and all seems well. The wedding participants leave the Sept of Baelor to join the crowds of guests for a celebratory feast of epic proportions.

Yet Joffrey’s pleasure often rests in others’ pain, and at the feast he hosts a spectacle designed to humiliate both his former fiancée Sansa Stark and his uncle Tyrion. A troupe of performing dwarves burst through the lion’s head stage and reenact the War of the Five Kings and the death of Robb Stark in the most vulgar fashion. Joffrey also demands that Tyrion, antagonized beyond reason, service him as a cupbearer, but timing is everything. Secretly poisoned by his drink, Joffrey begins to choke, dying in agony before the horrified crowd and his stunned family.

In the confusion of Joffrey’s death, Sansa escapes with Ser Dontos, a man she believes she can trust, unaware that her flight makes her appear guilty of murder. Tyrion, too shocked to move, is immediately seized for regicide at the command of an hysterical


There is no question that Joffrey had to die in a way that was something like this. He can’t just fall off a ladder and go splat. The audience needs and also really deserves a nice drawn out choking death. It’s the most painful way one can imagine to die, and it’s shown in a very visceral way, so it offers something of a catharsis for all the years of Joffrey that have come before.


When Joffrey dies, it is the worst possible timing for Tyrion. The wedding celebrations begin with a humiliating pageant, and then Joffrey is killed. I honestly don’t think Tyrion saw either coming, however much he might have hoped for the latter.


Even before Joffrey dies, Cersei’s world is beginning to crumble. She began the series as an invincible force, married to the king and very much in control. That has begun to shift. She’s hugely threatened by Margaery, this beautiful young girl who is taking Joffrey’s attention. She knows she is losing her grasp on him. He can’t really be con­trolled. When he dies, Cersei comes apart in a way you would never expect. It’s the beginning of a descent into madness. Being a parent is both a gift and a curse—there is no love like that of a parent for their child. You open yourself to something extraordinary. When I was lying over his body, I was thinking of the loss of no longer having Jack around—this warm, funny, intelligent being, so beyond me in wisdom. I couldn’t look at him on the day without tearing up. Cersei was Joffrey’s one true ally, and he never saw it. Now she’s completely alone.


Cersei’s reaction is that of a mother who has lost her son. Jaime’s isn’t. I don’t believe Jaime has ever had that connection with Joffrey. He’s never been blind to what sort of person Joffrey is. His reaction is for her. There is no love lost.


Cersei has devoted her entire life to the advancement and protection of her children, particularly first-born Joffrey. I love the way Lena played the scene—but it’s consistent with how she’s always played Cersei. She’s never a villain, never the ice queen. She’s a flesh-and-blood person who loves her family and feels the same all-consum­ing grief at losing Joffrey that a “heroic” character like Catelyn felt at losing Robb.


Cersei truly believes Tyrion was guilty; there is no question. She loves her chil­dren so much. She is a true scorpion to defend them. The madness that comes with it makes sense. The instant she believes it, she is pure venom. Everyone else is simply following the big fat liar that is Tyrion’s father.


Although Joffrey’s death was indeed grotesque, it wasn’t meant to be triumphant. We knew many people would take it that way, but it’s not played as a vic­tory. If we’d ended the episode on Joffrey’s death, it might have, but the accusatory fingers point right at Tyrion before we have time to savor Joffrey’s demise. For Joffrey’s final moments, Jack and Lena stripped their characters down to the bone—he was a son in trouble begging his mother for help, and she was the mother who couldn’t help her son when he needed her most. Something definitely snaps in Cersei at this moment—her “anger” phase kicks in right away, and hits Tyrion head-on.


In terms of the experience, the run up to my death was great fun to do. The actual death was very technical—we had different stages of makeup, and everything had to be shot repeatedly, so it was a little harder to do. For me, though, it was wonderful to be able to do my final scenes with so many of the cast around me, just to be able to see them all before I went.

Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 3 & 4, by C.A. Taylor, David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, and George R. R. Martin, is published by Gollancz on the 6th of November 2014, Hardback £20/ eBook £10.99


Exclusive behind the scenes pictures from Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones: Seasons 3 & 4