‘Game of Thrones’ Star Raleigh Ritchie On His First Love

Photo by Louis Browne

Before he led the Unsullied, Grey Worm wrote songs

After leaving his hometown of Bristol, England, for London at the age of 17, Raleigh Ritchie found himself in a dark place. He decided to enter therapy, and though he doesn’t get into specifics, the transition shaped his outlook while providing him with deep empathy and emotional understanding for others. During his late teens and early 20s, Ritchie, under his given name Jacob Anderson, starred in a mix of British soap operas, dramas, and sci-fi series before landing his big break in 2013, on HBO’s cultural juggernaut Game of Thrones. Playing Grey Worm, the steely, soft-spoken protector of Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen, Ritchie perfected a signature stoic composition as the castrated leader of the Unsullied. 

And while Ritchie has carved out a space as a fan favorite on the show, his anxieties about his place in the world still exist, and music has been a vehicle for him to voice such anxieties. Infusing soul, R&B, hip-hop, and pop into vulnerable catharsis, Ritchie released his debut album, You’re a Man Now, Boy, last year to positive reviews. Before his sold-out show at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom earlier this month, we called up Ritchie to discuss Game of Thrones, his newfound fame, and how being bullied led him to create art.

Do you consider yourself foremost an actor or a musician?
I just consider myself somebody that makes stuff. I don't like to sound pretentious, but I don't believe in this day and age anybody needs to choose just one thing, especially if you think about how much there is to do now. We're constantly looking at screens and constantly overstimulated. I think that actually now is the perfect time for people to do what they love and keep themselves active.

How did your background, growing up in Bristol, shape your style of music? 
Bristol is known for having quite a good success rate of music—Massive Attack and Portishead, that drum and bass, dance music scene. I never listened to that stuff when I was a kid, but my parents did, and my parents knew some of those people. I think I rebelled against that kind of thing. I'm still rebelling a little bit against dance music, and I'm not entirely sure what got into me from Bristol. Maybe it's—and you wouldn't know it from listening to my music—that I've got a kind of fairly laid-back approach to music. 

Did Game of Thrones play a part in your newer work? 
I don't really know how it could, to be honest. I write songs when I need to. That's how I write songs: when there's something that's bugging me. If something's troubling me and I don't really know how to articulate it to people directly, my friends my family or my girlfriend, then I'll write a song about it because I know I can articulate it that way. 

Can you tell us a little bit about the new album you have coming out? 
I’m going to go away pretty soon for a couple weeks and work on it every day intensely, and I think that's when the sound will materialize. But there's a lot to think about at the moment in the world, and I've been trying to figure out my place in it. 

In previous interviews, you've mentioned that you were bullied in school. Has that been something that motivates you?
I love making music. I wouldn't want it to be for revenge, if that makes sense. However, in a very literal way, as a result of being bullied, I shut myself out from the more social aspects of school and went and did my own thing. I spent a lot of my lunchtimes writing songs. I went off on my own and investigated music that I liked and thought about the kind of thing I wanted to do. So I guess, in some ways, it led to me doing this. But I'm not trying to be a success to spite somebody that hurt me. 

How have you been able to reconcile the fame that you now have? 
I don't really go to fancy parties, so I'm not really familiar with that kind of celebrity lifestyle. I don't dress up a lot. My girlfriend and I walk a lot and watch a lot of movies, and my friends and I go to the park or each others' houses. I don't find, apart from people coming up to me on the street wanting a selfie, that my life's really different. I don't think of myself as famous. 

What’s been your favorite scene to shoot in Game of Thrones?
One of my favorite scenes was a scene where Grey Worm smiles, because I'm really bad at holding in laughter. Peter Dinklage and Conleth Hill and Nathalie Emmanuel, they're all really funny, but I'm never allowed to laugh because I've got to have this stoic face on all the time. So one of my favorite scenes was being able to smile. This sounds like a lie, it sounds like the thing somebody would say in a press junket or whatever, but obviously we're not just talking about Game of Thrones, so I feel like I can say it: I genuinely have never had a bad day on set. Game of Thrones is the best job in the world. 

What’s the juxtaposition between when you're on set, surrounded by all of these talented people you love working with, and when you're off on your own creating music?
Sometimes it can be quite confusing, but they serve different purposes. When I write songs, I'm really inside my head; when I’m acting, I'm completely outside my head. I'm pretending to be somebody else and I don't have to deal with myself. I feel like I'm my smartest and strongest and most articulate self when I'm writing. I don't think I'm that good at talking about it. 

What do you want as your legacy?
The boring answer is that I don't really know yet. I feel like I'll know it when I feel it. But the fluffy answer is, and there's truth in it, that I just want people to be like, ‘That guy was true to himself, and he did what made him happy and he tried. He worked hard, and he was nice to people.’ That's a really important legacy for me: to work hard and be kind to other human beings. 

Photo courtesy of Helen Sloan/HBO

"And now our watch has ended"

In a thoughtful tribute on Instagram, actress Emilia Clarke said goodbye to Game of Thrones, and her character, Daenerys Targaryen.

Clarke posted a gallery of photos including some group shots with the rest of the cast, as well as a closeup of Dany's intricately braided hair, and a still from the show. "Finding the words to write this post has left me overwhelmed with how much I want to say but how small words feel in comparison to what this show and Dany have meant to me," she wrote, continuing to say that "Game of Thrones has shaped me as a woman, as an actor, and as a human being."

"The mother of dragons chapter has taken up the whole of my adult life. This woman has taken up the whole of my heart," she wrote. "I've sweated in the blaze of dragon fire, shed many tears at those who left our family early, and wrung my brain dry trying to do Khaleesi and the masterful words, actions (and names) I was given, justice." She also gave a nod to her father, who died in 2016, saying that she wishes he was still alive "to see how far we've flown."

Clarke finished by thanking her fans, telling them that "without you there is no us... I owe you so much thanks, for your steady gaze at what we've made and what I've done with a character that was already in the hearts of many before I slipped on the platinum wig of dreams," she said. "And now our watch has ended."

Photo courtesy of HBO

Don't reusable cups exist in Westeros?

Apparently, no one could keep their drinks off-set during the final season of Game of Thrones. The show, which has been known for its meticulous editing, has featured a Starbucks coffee cup in an episode, and now, a plastic water bottle. Someone get these characters a reusable cup!

Yes, in the final episode of the series, there's a disposable water bottle hidden in plain sight in one of the scenes. If you look closely enough, you'll see the bottle peeking out from behind Samwell Tarly's leg in a scene where many characters were arguing about the fate of Westeros.

Another water bottle was spotted by someone else, hiding behind Ser Davos Seaworth's foot.

It seems that everyone was too parched on the set of the final episode to worry about a misplaced water bottle making it into the final shots. Some are speculating that the team left them in on purpose as payback to the writers for the series' ending.

We just really hope that everyone in the series recycles. If there are disposable cups and plastic bottles available in the fictional world, we hope that there's an ethical way of disposing of them. Otherwise, well, it might be more disappointing than the series finale itself.


Think about all the ways you've begged for ruin

I'll admit I can get a little possessive about full moons; I was born on a full moon, you see. I'll admit there's something that makes people go mad over a full moon and there's something in that madness that situates me, gives me a place to drop my anchor. I see the full moon, her one wide open eye, and think of the first gods—the cyclops and the titans—how they betrayed each other. The full moon reminds me that each of us walks this life having inherited the stories of the lives that brought us here, we carry moments of great suffering in our DNA and we carry moments of great joy too.

A Scorpio full moon is especially prone to these sorts of reminders, dancing partner to the Sun in Taurus, since both these stars are so devoted to the past, since both like to mine a wound just to see how deep it goes and how much they can stand to endure. It's true, too, that Taurus is the sign linked to the Hierophant in the Tarot. The Hierophant is a figure in service to Mysteries: guarding and teaching the sacred. The Hierophant is pre-occupied with devotion and desecration and so is Taurus. Steadied by worship and undone by violation, a Taurus knows that a cycle is a cycle, there's always a hunger that thrives in the devotional figure, that seeks to be defiled and, in that way, tested. What better consort, what better polarity, for an Earth sign like that than the watery depths of Scorpio? Scorpio, the sign of transformation, of the occult, of karmic debts, fertile and secretive darkness. Scorpio, the snake that eats its own tail, our sexual power and our sexual shame. Scorpio rules money and Taurus loves to feel wealth, to sense abundance, to roll around in the rich black dirt.

While the Sun goes down under the star of Taurus and Uranus activates Venus, so the planet of love can pour her light over the bull's horns, the Moon rises in Scorpio and we are tasked with acknowledging the many ways we begged for ruin. Is there a heaviness on your heart, dear reader? Wasn't there a time when, green as a new stem, you begged the world to give you something real to experience, to bring you to your knees with wonder and revelation? You must have known that you had to break the bud to bloom, you must have sensed—somewhere in that ancestral memory of yours—that to love something, to pour your life into something, is to prepare to lose it. That's the deal we've made with god, or what governs time.

Have you left a cup out overnight and awoke to find it brimming with memories of betrayal, of loss, of something you felt was owed to you and never retributed? You can drink from the cup of the past searching only for the taste of it, seeking only to sate your thirst for bitterness. It's your right to feel everything you feel, to remember everything that happened to you and everything you set into motion, everything you did. But, listen. The sun is warm and generous, calling new life out of the ground. You move over the Earth like a cloud heavy with emotion and memory, threatening pour, while night waits on the other side, smelling like freedom—sweet, sharp and ineffable—full of poison blooms. You can hold the truth of this wild living world, its sacred promise to consecrate you with beauty and ruin you with it too. You can sip from the cup of the past with gratitude for your past self—the one who gave her life so that you could rise again, three times as powerful and wise.

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Screenshot via YouTube

It's so good

Lana Del Rey released a cover of Sublime's 1997 song "Doin' Time," and she made it completely her own. That means it's the perfect combination of trippy melancholia and full-out lust.

According to Rolling Stone, the cover will appear in an upcoming documentary which will "[outline] the history of the iconic California band." In a statement, Del Rey said, "Not a day goes by that I don't listen to at least one Sublime song. They epitomized the SoCal vibe and made a genre and sound totally their own."

Bud Gaugh, a member of the band, "We are so excited to be collaborating with Lana on this. The smoky, sexy, and iconic sound of her voice breathes new life into one of our favorite singles." It certainly does.

My personal favorite part of the cover is the fact that Del Rey doesn't change the gender of the person the song is about, like so many musicians often do. Instead, Del Rey's intonation of "me and my girl, we got this relationship/ I love her so bad but she treats me like shit" is gay rights.

Listen to Del Rey's cover of "Doin' Time," below.

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.