With the production designer for Game of Thrones already saying she can’t wait to see the final season of the landmark series when it returns to HBO next year, that must surely tell you something about how incredible it’s going to look.

Not that it wasn’t a massive, high-pressure undertaking for Deborah Riley, who’s an Emmy contender for “Outstanding Production Design” as part of the 70th Annual Emmy Awards coming up in September. Riley has been with the epic fantasy series since season 4 and has been a major force in the way it looks — designing Dragonstone and the pyramids of Meereen, among other things.

Still, in an interview with Deadline, Riley is as candid as she can be about the creative commitment and the sheer work required to make the final season all it could be, and this quote alone has us seriously anticipating what’s to come: “The final season nearly killed me,” she told the news outlet. “I realized at a certain point that all of the work in previous seasons was just a warm-up for Season 8. By the end, I had nothing left to give and finished knowing I had done everything I could. Season 8 does not pull any punches and is raw and honest and important.”

She goes on to talk about how this season meant a lot of “massive builds” that had to happen, and many of which had to be under way at more or less the same time. There were also less characters, which meant less alternatives to shoot on the schedule — so not a lot of ways, in other words, to buy time to finish sets. It was a reality that really intensified in Season 7 and then got eclipsed by Season 8.

“The homecoming of Daenerys Targaryen into her ancestral home of Dragonstone was something that (showrunners) Dan (Weiss) and David (Benioff) gave specific instructions about,” Riley continues in the interview, talking about her work on Season 7. “With reference to the Dragonstone Audience Chamber, the power of totalitarian architecture as well as the device of forced perspective to help strengthen the focus to the throne, were statements they were very interested in making. I looked first to Louis Khan and his Salk Institute and later the Église Notre-Dame de Royan, for brutalist inspiration. When it came to Euron’s ship, The Silence, again we looked to historical references. This time we found Roman Naval warfare particularly inspirational.”

She goes on to note that for a show with the scope and massiveness of Game of Thrones, hers was still nevertheless a relatively small team working in Belfast. The thing that got them through and helped in developing epic sets and designs was, in Riley’s words, the loyalty of the crew “and our pride in the show.”

If you still need more to get you fired up for the return of the series, check out our previous report about what cast members themselves are saying about what’s in store. It includes actress Nathalie Emmanuel, who plays Daenerys Targaryen confidant Missandei, saying in an interview with The Hindustan Times that she thinks the final season is going to bring everything to a close in a way that’s “incredibly satisfying for people.” She also said it will be “heartbreaking” and that “people will have their mind blown when they watch the final one.” We can’t wait.

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