The way ‘Game of Thrones’ make greyscale on the show is super painful

The way ‘Game of Thrones’ make greyscale on the show is super painful

Game of Thrones' Jorah Mormont never seemed to catch a break. He's perpetually in the friend zone or constantly being exiled from somewhere for something he did to disappoint someone. The last case of exile was on account of having been infected with a nasty case of greyscale and being told by the perpetually-friend-zoning Danaerys to go away and only come back after he's cured himself. Which didn't really seem all that likely.

Greyscale is a contagious disease that is usually fatal. It spreads over the body, making your flesh go stiff while your skin cracks and flakes. Over time, mental symptoms begin to develop, where greyscale sufferers will become aggressive and develop psychotic behaviour.

greyscale game of thrones Credit: HBO

So imagine poor Jorah when he goes to the knowledge city of Citadel to be looked at and the Archmaester tells him he could live another 10 to 20 years, but he'd probably go a bit loopy in six months or so. Lucky for him, the morally impassioned Samwell Tarly gets to know Jorah while they're both in the Citadel, and he becomes determined to help Jorah and his predicament.

Following the remedies of a very old and probably top secret book, Samwell visits Jorah's room and turns it into an operating theatre. We get some super gross close ups of Sam slicing off thick layers of Jorah's scaly skin, puss oozing out, and Sam going in with a scooping tool to take out a wobbly, pale yellow glob of puss. (And then that seamless cut straight to someone spooning chicken pie into their mouth. No really, THANKS.)

At the start of the scene, Sam makes Jorah drink an entire flask of rum and tells him "Drink it all please, I'm afraid this is going to hurt". And it looks like it does. Iain Glen, who plays Jorah, gives a spectacular show of wincing faces and grunts.

And apparently it hurt quite a bit in real life too. In one of HBO's Game Revealed episodes, revealing behind the scenes videos of the making of Game of Thrones, we are shown what that scene was like to create.

Apparently it took four people around six hours to apply the greyscale prosthetics to Glen's body, requiring a very early pick up time at 1:45am. To film the extraction of the greyscale infected skin, it is revealed that it was like getting waxed. You can hear the director giving the orders: "Ripping in 3, 2, 1... rip!"

Game of Thrones' prosthetics designer Barrie Gowler said he and his team had never worked on anything like it before: "We had to devise a way of removing the top outer skin of this disease and having an under layer beneath which could bleed, have pus, and various gooey things."

Mmm, lovely.

We've seen glimpses of greyscale in the show before. Stannis Baratheon's daughter Shireen had remnants of cured greyscale on the side of her face. The stone men who attack Jorah in the first place carry the most developed case of greyscale we see on the show. To create the look for the two stone men, Gower said in a different behind-the-scenes video that the team used references from Shireen's already established look, as well as inspiration from elephant skin and cracked riverbeds.

Jorah's greyscale extraction is an excellently disgusting scene, showing the incredible effort that goes into all parts of Game of Thrones production. Lucky for Glen, Samwell's procedure was a success and Jorah will live on as one of few greyscale survivors.

Fingers crossed, he won't have to go through that scene again.