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Actor J.J. Murphy, 86, has died just a few short days after filming scenes as part of an arc on HBO’s popular program, Game of Thrones. The actor isn’t a person fans will recognize from the series (yet). Murphy was one of a large batch of actors hired over the summer to play characters in the show’s upcoming fifth season. Recently, Murphy completed the first four days of filming for the role, but reports indicate he died at his Belfast home this past Friday, before all of his scenes were finished. Word on his cause of death has not been announced.
J.J. Murphy was set to play Ser Denys Mallister, an older gentleman who is impressive thanks to the fact that he is the oldest member of the Night’s Watch. He’s well-liked in the organization, and in the books, he has a major role in shaping Jon Snow’s future. However, producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff might have to change the TV series plot around somewhat to avoid having to tie in Mallister beyond the scenes that Murphy was able to shoot. According to Deadline, the two executive producers will not be recasting the role, although they did make kind and fitting comments about the actor in a statement this morning.
“We will not be recasting J.J. Murphy. He was a lovely man, and the best Denys Mallister we could have hoped for. And now his watch is ended.”
Normally, Game of Thrones news is a bright spot in the TV Blend day. Today’s news, however, is tinged with sadness and a missed opportunity for a veteran actor to complete his final project. Part of the shock I think stems from the fact that fans expect and are ready for beloved characters to die during the confines of HBO's show, but not in real life. Even though it seems the writers will have to tweak the script to cut out some of Ser Mallister’s role, it seems like the right call to leave the character just where Murphy left it. Hopefully, we will still be privy to the scenes the actor was able to fulfill.
Murphy’s career may be ending with Game of Thrones, but he leaves behind a career storied with theatrical appearances in Belfast, popping up in productions that also sported Liam Neeson and other prominent actors. On the screen, he has taken small roles in Angela’s Ashes and will appear in the upcoming Luke Evans vehicle, Dracula Untold. According to the Belfast Telegraph, the actor leaves behind a wife, Mary, as well as a grown family.
Game of Thrones will return to HBO’s schedule for Season 5 next spring.