Yesterday was one of those truly golden spring days—and also 4/20. You could practically smell the smoke settling over Brooklyn. Across the river, I’ve been invited to an exclusive Game of Thrones-themed exhibit called Art the Throne. In honor of the occasion, I abandon fire in favor of ice: instead of lighting up, I drink a "special" chocolate milk my friend brews called "Dutty Water."
The birds are shining and the sun chirping as I approach the Angel Orensanz Foundation just south of Houston Street, an old church that was bought in the 70s and repurposed into an event space. Turn the corner onto Norfolk Street and you’re transported from a residential Manhattan neighborhood to a medieval-looking castle, complete with arching doorways and stone-cut facades. Blue and green lights color the entranceway, lending an otherworldly feel to the space. I take in all this information a split-second before the chocolate milk hits, and suddenly the PR woman who had invited me seems to have materialized out of thin air and is showing me artwork.
I see two crowns, a replica of the one from the show in a tiny display box, and a massive, upside down installation covered in mirrors, the inside decorated with bold words like “WAR,” “PEACE,” and “WALL.” This is the work of LA-based art duo Cyrcle. To the right is a projection-mapped Brienne of Tarth by Brooklyn illustrator Marcos Chin, sitting proudly like a samurai in ornate armor atop her horse. In the back, the old church’s intricate stonework frames a blood-red visualization of the Red Wedding by creative data visualizers Pop Chart Lab, wherein the Season 3 shocker is symbolized by a bunch of swords plunging into a Dire Wolf.
To the left of that, an amazingly intricate paper sculpture by master craftsman Jeff Nishinaka, depicting the Night King and his (it’s? her?) army of the dead marching on all the schmoozing partygoers. I spend 15 minutes trying to take the perfect Instagram pic of this thing, but none of them capture the detail and effort that went into it. The final project is a series of Pop art-style paintings by spray artist Tristan Eaton—think: Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe paintings, but with Daenerys Targaryen instead.
At this point, the orderves start to flow, but as if on cue, my contact materializes once again and tells me it’s time to talk to Jacob Anderson, a.k.a. the Khaleesi’s number one Unsullied, Grey Worm. She leads me upstairs to a miniature red carpet area, complete with Game of Thrones-branded backdrop splattered with blood and hashtags. As I’m waiting in a line of media people, I overhear someone saying that my slot might get commandeered by HuffPo. I desperately try to befriend the journalist-herder closest to me—no way am I letting another entertainment reporter bump me like that.
But, because this is New York, it turns out that one of the media shepherds went to college with a mutual friend. We bond and exchange business cards: I'm in. Soon, I get to the front of the line, Ramsay Bolton-style, and Grey Worm is in my sights.
Cyrcle's mirrored upside-down crown installation, interior view. Photo courtesy HBO®
I greet him with a, “Happy 4/20,” to which he responds with a secret series of codewords and body language signaling, well, you get the highdea. Halfway through our conversation, I realize I forgot to press “record” on my phone, but it's hard to forget our discussion about his collection of movie posters, the gem of which is an original print of the poster for True Romance, the script Ridley Scott’s brother bought from Quentin Tarantino, that became a marimba-filled journey starring Ethan Hawke. “It’s one of 30,” he says proudly.
He savvily answers a question about which artwork was his favorite. “All the artists are really awesome. But I really love the inside of the crown. I’m a huge typography geek,” he says, before speculating that his character on Game of Thrones would be drawn to the portraits of Daenerys. “He’d be like, ‘That’s my queen, that’s my homie.’ He loves her because she freed him.” We agree that Grey Worm would be interested in the art world at large, and that he does have a sensitive side. “As the show goes on, he’s learning about culture, expression, about being a human being,” Anderson explains. Plus a general knowledge of Meereen’s art scene would be sure to impress the Khaleesi’s interpreter Missandei, whom Grey Worm is totally into.
Anderson confirms that Grey Worm is alive in Season 6, followed by wild speculation that his character may have enough life in him to start an art career of his own. “He paints with his spear, in blood!” Anderson laughs before doing an impression of Bob Ross as Grey Worm, which is now my ringtone. “I am going to put the little bush in here,” he says in perfect rendition of an Unsullied’s accent and speech patterns. “Just a little cheeky bush.” Before I go, I ask if there’s anything he wants to add. Without hesitation, he says, “Let’s get unicorns into Game of Thrones.” You can sign my Change.org petition here.
After our conversation ends, I head down the stairwell and run into Bjarke Ingels, the superstar architect behind 2 World Trade Center, amongst many, many more projects. It seems he didn’t expect to be recognized at the same party at which Wyclef Jean and Rose McGowan are spending their own 4/20s, because he’s severely chill when I introduce myself. He was invited by Nikolaj—presumably, Coster-Waldau, the actor who plays Jamie Lannister—who happens to be in town this week. “How do you know Nikolaj?” I ask, surprised. “We’re both Danish,” Ingels answers. Like Thrones, it's a matter of origin.
After we part ways, the ceiling, projection-mapped to look like the sky a lá Hogwarts’ Great Hall, is getting to be a bit much for me. As I head for the exit, a member of the event's team appears with Cyrcle’s David Leavitt in tow. During a quick one-on-one interview, we talk about their artwork and how the upside-down crown represents the constant overthrowing of kings that happens in the series, and the fact that nobody is perfect enough to be king. Leavitt’s partner Rabi joins us and together they explain, “We pitched our concept and they were like, ‘Fuck yeah!”
The three of us then discuss some footage HBO had shown them of Season 6, which doesn’t reveal anything conclusively, but is clearly designed to drive Jon Snow truthers crazy. “It gives you hope for Jon Snow. He’s definitely dead, but someone’s like, ‘I saw him in the fire,’ or some shit. He’s like Jesus Christ!” Fans of the theory that Snow is a Targaryen and will be resurrected through fire, this could be good news for you—but it’s clearly wild speculation, just like the rest of the storm scuffled up around the Bastard Stark’s untimely Season 5 finale.
With this food for thought, I exit the castle-church-event space hybrid: I am now one degree of separation away from the Khaleesi, and Grey Worm is now my favorite character and fellow idea for a Change.org petition creator. Could he ever sit atop the Iron Throne? Have these wildly different interpretation of characters and concepts changed my own perception of the show? Will any week feel longer than the one leading up to the Season 6 premiere? What is going to happen to all this artwork now that the one-time event is over? How am I going to spend the rest of my 4/20? Only one of these questions has a true answer, but come April 24 I’ll have a whole new 40 minutes of Westerosi madness to distract me from the rest.