Navua man’s role in Game of Thrones

Navua lad Sireli McGoon on set with actor Vladimir Furdik, who plays the Night King on Game of Thrones. Picture: SUPPLIED

GROWING up in rural Navua, Sireli Mcgoon did not enjoy the same comforts as other children.

His home had no power and water, he walked and swam his way to school every day, and his family relied on fishing to make ends meet.

These struggles are a far cry from the sets of the world’s most popular television show, HBO’s Game of Thrones, where he spends most days as a crew member.

The first episode of the popular series’ final season aired on April 14 in the US and broke viewing records with more than 17 million people tuning in to watch.

Since 2011, the show has gained fans worldwide, including Fiji.

Set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, Game of Thrones focuses on powerful families entangled in a web of political corruption, lies and wars to control the Seven Kingdoms part of Westeros amid an apocalyptic threat.

For Sireli, the experience has been surreal.

He started as a driver on the set in 2014, but his journey to rubbing shoulders with Game of Thrones stars began when he was a student at Latter-Day Saints College in Suva.

“I met a girl called Nicole Pratt at school and we eventually married and moved to the United Kingdom and settled in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Northern Ireland, by the way, was one of the few permanent locations for the show during its eight-season tenure.

Sireli worked at a gym called the Kensington Health and Fitness Club and within two years became the proprietor and ran the fitness centre for three years.

He dabbled in other professions for a while, including setting up his own eatery and coffee shop, before returning to the fitness business.

It was at this time he met Steven Herron, who was part of the transport department, on the set of Game of Thrones.

“I knew nothing about it but thought I’d give it a shot.

“I went in as a driver then eventually moved to the stunt section and loved every minute of it. It was filled with long hours and lots of driving but all the stunt guys were amazing.”

Sireli witnessed some of the more spectacular battle sequences featured in the show, including the Stark versus Bolton clash captured for critically acclaimed episode Battle of the Bastards, filmed at Saintfield in Northern Ireland.

He said he was humbled to play a part in such a successful franchise and was conscious of the tremendous efforts by the cast and crew to put the series together.

What remained surreal for him was catching a glimpse of the stars on set, something he wasn’t accustomed to in his earlier days.

“Within a few weeks of starting, I was moved to driving minibuses where I got to transport extras of the show and from there I got to see some of the cast. It was no big deal to me as I knew very little of the show or about the show.”

However, he said many crew and cast members knew about Fiji and they had even been to Fiji before.

“I recall once bumping into Jon Snow (played by actor Kit Harington) and when he saw me he wanted to challenge me to a rugby scrum, which I humbly declined.

“Part of our protocol was that we were never encouraged to ask any questions as this would be seen or interpreted as looking for information on what was to come on the show. I was very aware of this so I didn’t bother as I didn’t want to risk losing my job.”

Sireli said despite the hard work involved, he didn’t consider it a challenge.

“I’m a hard worker and always up for the challenge. I was always moving about, always eager to help whatever department was short in numbers.

“For me, it was gaining valuable experience and making new friends.

“Working on the show has helped me realise how very talented actors are. When you sit, eat and chat with them, they are just normal individuals but when you see them on screen and see them acting, it seems like you are hearing a totally different person speaking through the person you were just sharing a joke with.

“It has changed my life for the better in terms of appreciating a good movie or show or any TV program because there is a lot of hard work involved in producing them.

“We sit in the comfort of our sofas and enjoy 60 minutes of a show without realising that show would take at least a week or two of hard work to get it on the screen.”

While shooting for the highly-anticipated Season Eight, Sireli said they had to film for 55 consecutive nights in the middle of winter which he described as “pretty bleak”.

“We all got through it together and we always reminded each other of our slogan – “One Team, One Dream.”

And while Game of Thrones Season Eight signals the end of the show, it isn’t Sireli’s final moments with the production team.

He has managed to remain a crew in the production of a prequel series being adopted for television by show runner Jane Goldman.

Game of Thrones concludes after the final episode airs on May 19.

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