When Emilia Clarke read the scripts for the final season of Game of Thrones, she was left speechless. Unable to process what she'd just read, she left the house and found herself aimlessly wandering the streets of London before returning home three hours later.
It was, she recalls, wide-eyed, "a total head f***".
The drama that's set to unfold over the next six weeks will surprise, delight and shock fans, according to various cast members. It is, they all agree, the best season ever produced. A fitting end to the fantasy saga that has captivated the world for nearly a decade.
"People are going to go crazy for this," says Clarke. "They're going to go wild for it, so I can't wait for that."
It's hardly a revelation. The world has spent the past nine years losing its collective mind over the series and the various bombshells it's dropped along the way, including killing off its lead star in the very first season.
But as the cast convenes for its final ever press day – a chaotic event that saw more than 100 journalists from around the world converge in a London hotel in February – it becomes clear the final series will not disappoint.
"It was just an enormous sense of relief," says John Bradley (Samwell Tarly) as he recalls reading the scripts for the first time. "Relief first and foremost that this was going to be an end that we were happy to send out to the world because so many shows have fudged the ending slightly or given fans an ending they're not satisfied with.
"Just knowing that we were going to be proud of it right until the very last second was an enormous relief and then after that we just couldn't wait to get started shooting it."
That excitement and enthusiasm was quickly tempered with the reality of embarking on the most ambitious and gruelling action sequence the show had ever undertaken.
"Fifty-five nights in one go, in Northern Ireland in January and February. It was pretty horrible," says Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister.
In fact, he jokes, if it hadn't been the final season, they probably wouldn't have agreed to it.
"It was massive on so many levels and it was going to be tough... But because - the crew and cast, everyone - we've loved working on this show, there was that feeling of 'well, no matter what, we're going to do the best we can to get this right'. I suspect if this had been halfway through and we'd been told we'd been extended three more years, people would have been…"
Co-star Jerome Flynn (Bronn) interrupts with a wry smile: "Very happy, I'm sure."
On a more serious note, Flynn adds: "I was really conscious of it and quite nervous because it's been such an extraordinary show and the guys have done so well to keep those standards up… We were all a bit like, 'how are they going to do this?' And I just remember being really pleased that they'd done it so well. I was as impressed as ever - they've been so incredibly sensitive and clever in the way they've handled it."
"The guys" he is referring to are showrunners David Benioff and Daniel Weiss. Or Dave and Dan as they are referred to repeatedly throughout the day. If there is one theme to the day's interviews – aside from dodging any potential plot spoilers – it's the reverence and respect the cast share for the men who brought the series to life.
Gemma Whelan, who plays Yara Greyjoy, expresses it best as she recalls wrapping the final season.
"It was all done with such class and precision and respect… I feel so moved and lucky to have been part of this incredible journey with these amazing people – and it all comes from the top. David and Dan, the way they've conducted the whole thing. The production is them and it trickled down and made it so much fun and so exciting. So yes, it was moving when it ended but it was right."
On set, the showrunners farewelled each and every cast member after they filmed their final scenes – gathering the cast and crew as they made individual farewell speeches and presented the actors with a special gift.
"They gave us these storybooks of incredibly eventful moments in our journeys," reveals Richard Dormer (Beric Dondarrion). "There was an individual one for your character with a message on the back. It was really stunning."
But what about on screen? Where will those journeys end and who will be the last man – or woman – standing?
Over the course of the previous seven seasons, the cast has spent as much time analysing and predicting possible story arcs as their rabid fans.
"Every day!" exclaims Liam Cunningham (Ser Davos), when asked if he had turned his thoughts to who might ultimately sit on the Iron Throne.
For the record, he's backing Jon Snow for the win.
"I consider myself a punter as well as a participant in the show. I mean, do we want Cersei there? Do we want the Night King there? My loyalties are already with him so it would be very mean of me to say 'no, I don't want Jon Snow'. I get the impression most people would like Jon to be on the throne. He's a good man. He's trying to do the right thing – and there's not too many of them to the pound in Westeros."
The problem with that scenario, however, is it's a little too close to a happy ending. And as Kristofer Hivju (Tormund Giantsbane) points out, that's just not Game of Thrones.
"Is a happy ending something that's possible in this world? In any world? I think the reason why so many people have enjoyed this show is that you really don't know how it's gonna end or where it's gonna go.
"When you watch a feature film, you have an idea how it's going to end just because of the genre. But nobody has any idea how this is going to end and it's going to end very differently. That's all part of the joy."
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Game of Thrones screens Mondays at 1pm on Sky SoHo and is available the same day on Neon.