In the seventh season of Game of Thrones, just before the rot really started to set in, the show faced an unusual amount of public backlash, due to a small cameo from singer Ed Sheeran.
Sheeran’s distinctive face appears for a full scene, as a Lannister soldier in the episode “Dragonstone,” with the musician sitting around a campfire, singing a tune.
As far as celebrity cameos go, Sheeran’s wasn’t particularly subtle – Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) even calls attention to Sheeran’s song, claiming to have never heard it before, and Sheeran responds by saying, “it’s a new one,” practically winking at the camera.
Appearing on Monday’s Armchair Expert podcast hosted by Dax Shepard and Monica Padman, Sheeran talked about his experience on the set of HBO’s Thrones:
“It was great,” he said of the day’s shoot. However, Sheeran wasn’t as enthused with the public’s distaste for his cameo. “I feel like people’s reaction to it sort of muddied my joy to it,” he admitted.
It turns out, Sheeran’s appearance wasn’t really for the audience, but intended as a surprise for actor Maisie Williams, whose character was apparently due to be killed off that season, before the showrunners changed their minds.
“She’s always been awesome,” Sheeran said of Williams. “I don’t think they had written the ending yet. It was meant to be her last season but it wasn’t. And as a surprise for her, [they got] me on. So, she was meant to turn up on set, and I was by the fire.”
Viewers found Sheeran’s cameo to be so obnoxious (and out-of-place) that it temporarily ruined the immersion, reminded us all that the world of Westeros is just another set, occasionally visited by celebrities and singers.
At the time, Thrones fever was full pitch, so some fans probably went a bit too far with the online vitriol; during the backlash, Sheeran even deactivated his Twitter account.
But as a big fan of the show, Sheeran viewed the cameo as a golden opportunity, and didn’t anticipate the negative public response:
“I feel like I pissed off a lot of people by being in that, but anytime I meet someone that is like, ‘Oh you cameoed on that show,’ I’m like, ‘What would you say?’ Everyone would say yes. I was a fan of the show; they asked me to be in it. I didn’t expect there to be that much backlash …”
Later, Sheeran reportedly wished for his character to have suffered a brutal death, just to satiate bloodthirsty fans, but Thrones subtly references his character’s fate in season 8, revealing that he survived the battle.
During a conversation between two of Bronn’s (Jerome Flynn) prostitutes, the two refer to a “ginger” soldier named Eddie that managed to survive a dragon attack, but suffered serious injury, with both eyelids burnt off by the creature’s flames. Yeesh.
“I am definitely more careful when I am offered cameos now,” Sheeran concluded.
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