“It was a great way to come back and do the show,” the Emmy winner added the day after his last episode of the series executive produced by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and based on George R.R. Martin’s writings aired. “It was a wonderful challenge and something that, after being away from the show for as long as I had been, I missed it so much. I missed everyone I worked with so much. I missed the family.”
The 2015 Emmy winner for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, Nutter had more time to spend with that family that most — he helmed three of the six episodes of the final season of the HBO blockbuster.
Earlier today, I chatted with him about the experience of coming back to GoT, how it’s all going to end, and that damn coffee cup that appeared in last night’s pivotal “The Last of the Starks” episode.
DEADLINE: As one of only two other directors that EPs David Benioff and D.B. Weiss brought back for the final season, what was it like taking over the debut episode that Jeremy Podeswa helmed for so many years?
NUTTER: Well, it was my first season opener, so I was really going back to the Jeremy Podeswa episodes, to tell the truth. He’s such a fantastic director, and all the episodes that he’s done for the series have been things that I’ve been such a big fan of. So I wanted to live up to that, number one.
I also wanted make sure that the audience, in a very quick fashion, could get a sense of getting back to the swing of things and know who’s who and what’s happening, so there was no pause in that storytelling. I wanted to get right back to that, get back to the pace of really where these characters were coming from and going to.
NUTTER: Because that was important in the telling of the scope and the integrity of that.
For instance, Episode 2, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” was really all about making us remember that besides these inner squabbles that they, the characters, are having, that the White Walkers are coming still. That made it really feel like an episode that actually could make us realize that we have all these little arguments about our own little this, but we have to remember that the White Walkers, the big battle, is to come, and we need to stick together.
With Episode 2, for the first time, the characters got a chance to sit back and in a sense reflect on who they are and what they’re all about and their relationships all around, which I thought was really quite wonderful.
DEADLINE: How did you convey that to Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey and gang?
NUTTER: The one thing I told the actors before the season started, after being away from the series for two years, is realize that the audience just wants to watch and see their characters breathe. They love them so much. So it was a situation where there was a relaxation to that. That you don’t have to, like, put on any false airs or whatever.
There’s a natural volley to that, which is important, and also, I’m a big believer in excessive blocking in rehearsal.
NUTTER: Yes, and in doing that, I’m also a big believer in getting as much coverage as possible so that you can actually give each of the characters their due.
So much of the time when you’re shooting stuff, you don’t get a chance to get an angle here or an angle there that could help make the audience closer to a character or allow the characters to be closer affiliated with each other.
So, because I can here, I’m a big believer in blocking and getting enough opportunity to do smart blocking where you can really get the most bang for your buck as far as performance is concerned.
DEADLINE: In that thoughtful context, how did a modern coffee cup end up in front of Emilia’s Daenerys Targaryen in last night’s episode, which is your last one ever for GoT?
NUTTER: Well, I think that HBO I’m sure will come up with a response to that more appropriate than anything I can throw at you.
DEADLINE: I bet they will try. You mentioned the years you were away from GoT after directing so many episodes up to Season 5. What was it like returning for this eighth and final season?
NUTTER: It was the best year of my life. It was a great way to come back and do the show. It was a wonderful challenge and something that, after being away from the show for as long as I had been, I missed it so much. I missed everyone I worked with so much. I missed the family. It’s something that …it was just the greatest experience of all time.
DEADLINE: Obviously, directing a global sensation and multiple Emmy winner like Games is special, but you were asked to come back to do the majority of the episodes for the last season …
NUTTER: An honor beyond measure. It’s something that I never could’ve dreamed of, and I felt so very special.
DEADLINE: So, no spoilers, how does it all end, my friend?
NUTTER: I think Dave and Dan did a tremendous job in writing it, and I think the audience will be appreciative of the hard work went into making these eight seasons in the series. It will not stop until the final beat of the show.
DEADLINE: Do you think people will be surprised how it ends? Were you surprised?
NUTTER: I’ll say that surprises are plenty in all of Dave and Dan’s episodes and all the stuff that they do. That’s a given, but I think it’s quite powerful how they end the show, and it’s fantastic.
DEADLINE: And for you, what was important about this season at this point in your career and how you wanted to see it end?
NUTTER: Well, I really feel what was important for me is the fact that one of the things that was important, especially with both of the first two episodes leading into the fourth episode, was the fact that there are these big-picture things that you’re going after as far as storytelling is concerned.
But the second thing is the fact that there are little moments between the characters that are silent moments, that are information or non-information, that are emotionally telling, that are connective tissue-type things that actually really brought the characters closer together.
There’s wonderful moments with Arya and the Hound, Arya and Jon Snow, Sansa and Tyrion. There’s so many moments that, actually, I felt was important to establish and to accentuate, to kind of allow these people to kind of tie into each other, which is very important.
DEADLINE: As this phase of your career ends, and we are so close to the end, what do you feel you received from Game of Thrones as a fan and as a director?
NUTTER: I learned that when you work for the very best, you have to bring your very best.
It’s also a situation in which allowing people with great talents and ability, given the respect and the great freedom in the room to do their thing, and it’s a situation in which it’s the epitome of my career.
This series, and the caliber and quality of the work that I’ve done and being able to be a part of, is the epitome of my career. The caliber of people that I’ve worked with, there’ll never be another Game of Thrones crew, and it’s a situation in which I feel truly is the cornerstone of my career.
This is it.