NYCC: Sophie Turner Talks Dark Phoenix And Keeping Game of Thrones Secrets

Sophie Turner was possibly the most in-demand talent at New York Comic Con. The Game of Thrones star dropped into the Studio @ NYCC for an hourlong conversation about the colossal crossroads in her career. As she bids farewell to the resilient Sansa Stark, she emerges as the central focus of another epic fanbase. The actress has begun promotion for her starring turn as Jean Grey in crisis as a dark force from within threatens to consume her. Dark Phoenix is one of the most iconic storylines in the X-Men comics and Turner confessed the role was intimidating.

“I felt a lot of pressure,” Turner told NYCC fans. “I knew Simon [Kinberg] was taking me out to lunch and I wondered what this is about. He sits me down and says it’s ‘Dark Phoenix,’ no ‘X-Men.’ Just Dark Phoenix. It’s such an honor. I know it’s one of the most loved stories in all of the X-Men universe. For Simon to trust me enough to take on that responsibility, I wanted to do the fans of the comics justice.”

Turner revealed that Jean’s struggle will be an emotional one. Before the accident that causes her to ‘phoenix out’ as the cast called it, she’s stable and happy. She has good relationships and is content in her work.

“When we open the movie, Jean is a teacher at Xavier’s (James McAvoy) School for the Gifted. He’s a paternal figure to her and more in this. She’s in a very secure place in her life, but everything goes haywire when this cosmic force arises.”

From the 13-minute clip we saw at NYCC, it’s clear that Xavier doesn’t always have Jean’s best interests at heart. He seems more concerned with optics than putting a member in the line of danger. We don’t know yet who will be standing with Jean after the Dark Phoenix events, but she will not be entirely abandoned.

“At the center of this movie is the relationship between Scott (Tye Sheridan) and Jean,” Turner said. “There’s a theme throughout this movie of Jean feeling abandoned over again. Scott is the one person who sticks by her through Jean falling apart. It’s a really heartbreaking story for Scott, but also one that Scott’s storyline deserved. Throughout the movies, he hasn’t had this leading role in the movies. This time he steps up and it’s an amazing storyline for Scott and I think fans of Cyclops.”

The trouble begins beyond Earth’s atmosphere when Jean has an accident while trying to rescue NASA astronauts. Dark Phoenix will be the first time the X-Men have ventured into space.

“That was fun. It’s something we’ve never done. It pushes the bounds for all the X-Men,” Turner explained. “It makes the stakes higher. It’s fun to take it someplace different. This time it was really exciting and made the stakes even higher. The scene where they go into space is very tense. Very exciting.”

Sophie Turner stars as Jean Grey in Twentieth Century Fox’s X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX. Photo Credit: Doane Gregory.

After getting caught in a fiery explosion, it’s clear she is not the same. A force has shifted, and Jean will no longer be able to contain it. Although mutants are far more powerful than humans, Turner said it is a relatable condition for so many people.

“It’s very difficult to maneuver, but you just have to think for something like mental illness, there’s something inside you that you’re covering up completely and it’s pushing its way out and it’s going to manifest and show itself,” Turner said. “All of a sudden, she lets go and with what we call the ‘Dark Phoenix,’ it’s kind of like a release for her. She just let’s go and it’s almost like this euphoric thing for her to be what this cosmic force wants her to be.”

The trailer for Dark Phoenix blew us away, but not everything is as glamorous behind the scenes. One of the experiences that look much better on screen than on set, Turner said, was her flying scene.

“We had this thing called the parallelogram which was basically a seesaw. They would attach weights to one end and I was held up by my crotch. My feet were dangling and they would push the weights down and it was the least cool thing I’ve ever done on camera. It was CGI Phoenix hair, so I wore a bald cap as well. You felt really stupid, but in the movie, it looks cool. Eventually, we changed to wires and it was a lot more fun. A lot easier on the crotch.”

Dark Phoenix poster. Courtesy 20th Century Fox.
Dark Phoenix poster. Courtesy 20th Century Fox.

Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants are the only X-Men films currently in production. With a potential Fox and Disney merger looming, the mutants could realistically crossover with the Avengers in the future. Turner said that in order for that to happen, she believes there would need to be some reconciliation between the two storylines.

“I feel like the complexities of the X-Men being shunned from society and all that segregation is not something that happens in the Avengers universe. I would like to see them cross over, but I don’t know if the X-Men themes would collaborate well. If they do it, I would love to see how it turns out.”

The New Mutants will star Turner’s Game of Thrones co-star, Maisie Williams. The two are notoriously close friends. Early in the series, they had ‘sleepovers every night,’ according to Turner. However, before they went their separate ways as X-Men, they first had to leave Winterfell for good.

Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams.
photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

“It was very emotional,” Turner said of leaving the Game of Thrones set. “I was lucky that my last day was surrounded by all of the cast members. We had been shooting the same scene for five days straight. Whenever someone wraps, they bring out a storyboard of your favorite scene of your character and I bawled my eyes out and couldn’t stop shaking and crying for hours. It’s been nearly a decade for me. The majority of my life. I’m still very much processing it. I still don’t accept that it’s done. I don’t think I will until it’s next year and I’m not back in Belfast with my family.”

The final season is one of the most highly anticipated in TV history, and Turner said the cast and crew had to go to extensive lengths to keep the plot under wraps.

“The secrecy is crazy. We have a whole different name for it when we’re shooting it. This year it was the ‘Tree of Life,’ which is a movie. The script our names are changed and on the call sheets. We have aliases on the call sheets and just numbers on the trailers.”

The production team took no chances. If there were any prying eyes from the sky, they were prepared to shut it down. And if there were leaks? No bother. The massive production with elaborate sets and hundreds of people working at a time staged fake shoots. Be wary of rumors you hear. Any scenes filmed in Croatia are probably a red herring.

Sophie Turner.
photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

“We have a drone killer. If drones fly above the set, there is this thing that can kill the drones,” Turner revealed. “I don’t know how it does it. It creates this field around it and the drone just drops. Also, we shoot fake scenes as well. We got into costume in Croatia and we would film fake scenes. So, we would spend half a day doing nothing.”

As for a final token from her time as Sansa Stark, Turner went home with a unique keepsake.

“Kit [Harrington] is taking his sword and Maisie is taking her sword so I thought, ‘F–k what do I have?’ So, I took my corset. I tried to take my necklace with a mini sword on the end. They want to use that for exhibitions, so that’s not mine.”

Dark Phoenix opens in theaters June 7.

Featured Image: Sophie Turner stars as Jean Grey in Twentieth Century Fox’s X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX. Photo Credit: Doane Gregory.


Kelle Long

Kelle has written about film and TV for The Credits since 2016. Follow her on Twitter @molaitdc for interviews with really cool film and TV artists and only occasional outbursts about Broadway, tennis, and country music. Please no talking or texting during the movie. Unless it is a musical, then sing along loudly.