Have you ever watched a TV show or movie where the background extra actor is doing the most? It can be distracting — or, in the case of Irish actor Andrew McClay, it can help a fictional place like Westeros feel extremely real. McClay was featured in the documentary Game Of Thrones: The Last Watch, and sporting his direwolf jacket, he proved himself to be the most loyal Stark soldier, and possibly the biggest Game of Thrones fan of all.
In Game Of Thrones: The Last Watch, viewers got to know McClay, a Stark soldier who lives ‘till the very end. McClay became an actor after he “didn’t do well at math” in school, he explains. He made his first appearance in 2014 to the Battle of the Bastards, and survived right through the final battle in King’s Landing as part of Jon Snow’s guard. He’s easily recognized by his long, scraggly beard, for which his character is named: Aberdall Strongbeard. McClay portrayed a soldier in Stannis Baratheon’s army, and then a loyal Stark bannerman in season 6-8. Through his character only spoke the words “The King in the North,” McClay became a meme on Game of Thrones Reddit threads, such as r/freefolk.
McClay’s love of Game of Thrones run deep. Even after several seasons on the show, the documentary shows McClay being dazzled by the production, his costumes and makeup, and the show’s stars. Each season, Game of Thrones extras are given a customized jacket, and McClay was given a Stark jacket with a direwolf on the back. On a sleeve, it read, “The King in the North.” McClay loved Jon Snow so much that he gave his jacket to Kit Harington. “He’s now trying to give me money for it,” said McClay, “but I won’t take no money for it. I just wanted to give Jon Snow his jacket, big time.” For those of you spending the day trying to find them online, sadly, the House Stark direwolf jacket is not for sale.
Background actors work hard, long days. An extra in a King’s Landing scene told the Los Angles Times that, after the actor’s agency takes their cut, a Game of Thrones extra gets paid around 94.85 euros (about $107) for a 14-hour day of work. It’s clear that McClay wasn’t in the show for a lucrative paycheck — he portrayed Aberdall Strongbeard because he genuinely loves the show. McClay, like all of us, was also emotional when the show wrapped. “I’m choking up here, man,” he says, as walks off the set. “Even though I’m just an extra…[Game of Thrones] has really changed my life.”