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Miltos Yerolemou (Syrio Forel) talks about the origin of his Braavosi accent and Water Dancing skill

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Working on a project as big as Game of Thrones is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The fame that comes with being part of something so big exceeds that of the fortune you inherit from the show. People begin to recognize you by your character and remember you by your contribution. Game of Thrones veteran Miltos Yerolemou left an everlasting mark in the minds of the viewers with his performance as Syrio Forel. Even with his limited time on the show, Arya Stark’s Obi-Wan Kenobi kept the audience hooked till his last scene.

Syrio was characterized by a distinct accent and his own slick sword fighting style, which became Arya Stark’s Water Dancing lessons. In a recent live Instagram session with Game of Laughs, Miltos explained how he came up with them. Talking about his unique Braavosi accent, he said:

I came up with it myself. Initially, I was just doing an impersonation of my father. He is a Greek Cypriot. And I just thought (imitates his father) if I talk a little bit like this, very different, maybe how my dad speaks in English. But I didn’t want it to be specific. So that’s when I started to change it. Sometimes I think I overdid it. When I watch it now 10 years later I always think, “Oh my god, it’s over the top, it’s too much!” But I wanted it to be very nonspecific, because of course it is based on a place that doesn’t exist in the real world. And I didn’t want people just to go, “Oh he’s just doing Italian accent or he’s just doing a Spanish accent, or a Greek accent. I wanted to mix it all up a bit. So that’s why it comes out the way it does.”

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“When I was in my very last audition, when David and Dan went to the room with me, they said, “Do it, will you do that scene for me? But do it using many different voices.” So I did it the way you hear it in the show, but I also did it in received pronunciation, you know like kind of classical, Shakespearean way, and also did it in many different accents. But they settled on the one that I originally created. They always gave me free rein, they never told me really what to do. In fact, I had to ask them for directions sometimes. But they said, don’t ask us, we loved what you did. Just do it the way you did it. Cuz that’s why we gave you the job. So it was all a very instinctive response to the character. I mean I’m from a very small village in Cyprus, in the middle of nowhere. And my dad is a local celebrity because of Game of Thrones. Everyone watches it here.”

He also talked about how he developed the water dancing technique with Hollywood legend William Hobbs, I was very lucky. As soon as I got the job, I asked my agent to get in touch with HBO and get me someone who I can work with. Someone who is good at sword fighting. Because I wanted to make sure I was ready. Whenever you work on things like this, on films or on TV shows, there’s a stunt coordinator and then there’s the guy who looks after the choreography.”

“Most of the time actors don’t have the time to learn it because they’re busy filming. So that’s why the stunt people do the complicated stuff. But I didn’t want that to happen because I had such little screen time I was like, “This guy is supposed to look like he was born with a sword in his hand.” So if it’s not me what is the point of me being there, right? So I thought, that is the most important thing to me. And they got me this absolute legend, his name’s Williams Hobbs, and you’ve seen any period sword fighting film, since the 70s, he would have been the one who would have choreographed it. If you think about Ridley Scott’s The Duelist, he choreographed them. Dangerous Liaisons, he choreographed that. Especially when it comes to historic details regarding sword fighting.”

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“He was my mentor, he was my Syrio Forel.”

“It’s such a shame that he died two years ago, unfortunately. He was quite an old man when he passed away. I just feel so blessed that I managed to work with him because he really was the best at what he did. And he would always look at it from a character point of view. I always wanted to do the coolest moves. He said, “No, no, no. I’m not gonna do this with you, right? This is guy is who you think you say he is, he is a very experienced teacher, you know, people who’re very very good at something, they don’t need to show off. They do everything they need to do in or two moves, and that’s it. And he was right, of course, he was right.”

“Working with him, we cooked up the vocabulary, so he created this style, which we know as the water dance. We didn’t put the choreography together at once, I worked with Bill for two weeks in London, then I went to Maisie in Northern Ireland and taught her that. And then we started working with the stunt coordinator. First two weeks he was my right hand man, who would guide and put the fights together. And he created the actual fights themselves, but the style was something me and Bill Hobbs created together.”

He went on to talk about what made Syrio Forel so popular, “Well in the books it’s because he’s such an important character to Arya’s story. He kicks it all off. If it wasn’t for his training then she probably wouldn’t have become the amazing assassin that she ends up becoming. As far as the TV show, it’s because of this cheeky face (laughs). But seriously though, it’s because there aren’t many honourable characters in Game of Thrones, there’s very-very few. And most of them end up dead.”

“I think that is in reality as well, there are very few people you can rely on, people whose loyalty is unquestionable. And so I think that makes a big difference. Also because Arya’s story is so good, and so compelling. Being part of it is a great honour. I feel privileged to have been a member of House Stark. As much as I love Jaime Lannister as a character, I’m a Stark. Despite the fact that they are terribly naïve, and end up, you know, not many of them left. They’re a very honourable house. And can’t really, not like that.”

Did you miss Syrio Forel on Game of Thrones? Talk to us in the comments below!

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