Rose Leslie on ‘The Last Witch Hunter,’ Jon Snow Fan Theories and Her ‘Downton’ Return
Rose Leslie’s Ygritte stole Jon Snow’s heart (and virginity), shot three arrows into him and coined her very own Game of Thrones catchphrase. Though her wildling was killed off of the HBO series last year, the Scottish actress still watched Season 5 as addictively as the rest of us. But did Leslie, who reportedly dated former Thrones co-star Kit Harington on-and-off again, know about his shocking season finale death before the rest of us?
Being the devoted Jon Snow theorizer I am, I couldn’t resist asking Leslie about the Season 5 finale while she was promoting her upcoming movie The Last Witch Hunter in New York — and because I live by the code of having no Ygrittes. As it turns out, Leslie’s a proud supporter of team Jon-Snow-is-dead, despite the mountains of evidence proving Harington is totally, most definitely returning for Season 6. (Perhaps she’s just good at keeping secrets, like Maisie Williams.) Before she described her reaction to watching the GoT Season 5 finale and revealed whether she’d ever return to the series, Leslie discussed her magical role in The Last Witch Hunter.
In the fantasy film, directed by Breck Eisner (Sahara), Leslie plays Chloe, a witch with the power to travel through people’s dreams, who pairs up with Vin Diesel‘s immortal witch hunter Kaulder. Together, with the help of Elijah Wood’s priest, they fight the bearded evil witches (in this world, Chloe’s a good witch) who attacked Michael Caine‘s retired priest. On top of being a former wildling, Leslie shared what it’s like to also play a member of a coven.
What’s the best part of playing a witch?
Crickey. I think the best part of playing a witch would be ability, or at least Chloe’s ability, to go into someone else’s mind. I thought that that was a very cool concept and a new component of this world, and as a result I was able to kind of think up different ways to immerse myself into someone else’s head. I thought that that was quite fun.
Did you have many conversations with Breck Eisner about how Chloe does that?
Yes, I did. Breck was brilliant, in the sense that he collaborates a lot with his actors. There was a great dialogue we had with one another. We kind of thought we didn’t really want to go crazy with the [witches’] eyes and just use that CGI so that they light up [instead]. At the beginning I thought, Well what if it kind of rolls to the back of your head, and he’s like, No, that’s a rubbish idea. [Laughs.] I was like, Okay, fine we’ll stick with your plan.
Chloe has a dream bar in the movie. What kind of dreams would you concoct in real life?
I particularly I have this dream where — I saw, on the plane, Inside Out for the first time. The idea that there is this dreams production. That idea, the unicorn with the kind of multicolored mane. I love that idea. I think it would be kind of happy, clappy, lots of rainbows and unicorns for other people’s dreams. Happy dreams, no nasty nefarious ones.
In the movie you’re also a dream walker. How would you affect someone’s dream if you could walk into one?
Oh gosh. You don’t necessary twist it in a good way. As a dream walker, I think you go in and warp it to your own advantage. I think it would be someone like my ex-boyfriend. Something like that. I could just go into his dream and, Right. Okay. Exactly. That wasn’t a good ending that we had so here’s my payback. [Laughs.] No, he was lovely.
Since you play a witch, which Hogwarts house would you be in?
I’m so biased, but I would be Gryffindor.
What about the rest of the cast? Vin? Elijah?
I think Elijah would be [redacted for spoilers]. I think Vin would probably be in his own house. I think he’d create one for himself, only because of him being immortal he’s probably older than Hogwarts.
What about Michael Caine?
With him being such an intellect, I would say he would be Hufflepuff.
This is your third feature film that’s come out, so far. What the biggest difference for you between doing TV and film?
I have found, particularly working on Game of Thrones, that because the caliber is so high on that particular show, with regards to the cinematography and the locations, the directors, the cast, the costumes, I really almost cannot see the difference between a feature film and something of that high standard. So television and film are kind of merging on the same plane now, certainly with regards to writing, as well. But I do think being in a movie of this scale has been such a fabulous education.
Speaking of GoT, did you watch Season 5?
I was all over it. I adore that show. I’m such a huge fan of it myself that there’s no way I can’t keep up and be aware of what’s going to happen to everyone.
Did you have any idea what was going to happen?
I had no idea. Particularly for the last episode with Jon Snow dying I was like, Ahh! I couldn’t believe [it]. I was screaming at my television. I didn’t want it to happen at all.
Especially since it’s Olly who kills him, too.
I know. I’ve never been so livid at a kid before in my life. Livid. [Laughs.] But I thought that was so clever of them to merge that together with Olly. But no, I didn’t see it coming at all.
Do you have a Jon Snow fan theory? Is he coming back? Is he dead?
I think he’s dead. I think Game of Thrones made such a point at — not even teasing, it’s just kind of like stabbing a knife to your heart for the audience, taking away all your favorite characters. They started off with Sean Bean, so it’s now just been such a roller coaster. I think they’re gonna stick by it and we’re all gonna hate them for it, but still watch the show.
Would you ever return if they ever asked you back?
I had the best time of my life working, for those three years, on that project. And I have such a love for the entire crew and everybody behind it. But I’m dead. I’m burnt. There’s no way I can even come back as a White Walker.
Unless there’s a flashback…
I know, but Jon Snow’s dead so there’s not really gonna be a flashback.
You are returning to Downton Abbey this season, though.
Yes. Very exciting. I’m very privileged to be back for one episode and to kind of show the journey that my character Gwen has gone on in the last, I think it’s been 11 years. She comes back with her husband, she’s doing really well in her job and it’s a nice, happy ending.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
The Last Witch Hunter opens October 23.