Warning: This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire.
Game of Thrones actor Sean Bean may have confirmed a long-running fan theory about his character’s bastard son Jon Snow, but before anyone gets too excited, it’s worth considering the other possible interpretations of his comments in a recent interview.
Bean was speaking to Vulture when the site asked him if he was interested in returning to the role of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell for possible flashback sequences connected to Bran’s current adventure. Bean was not only interested in returning—he knew what aspect of his character he wanted the flashbacks to address.
“That should happen, shouldn't it?” Bean said. “I've definitely got some unfinished business that needs to be resolved there. I'm obviously not Jon Snow's dad.”
That last line made major waves among Game of Thrones fans who have read the books. A popular theory circulating among those fans is that Jon Snow is not a bastard, but rather a genuine Stark, albeit not through Ned. Language in George R.R. Martin’s first A Song of Ice and Fire book, A Game of Thrones, seems to hint at this theory, but until Bean’s interview with Vulture, no one in a position to know the answer had said anything that sounded definitive.
Except here’s the thing. Bean’s comment sounds authoritative in print, but there’s reason to believe that he only meant it in a “This must be true, right?” sort of way.
Bean has read the books and thought a lot about his character’s travails. In 2011, he told Collider that the first book “was an interesting story for Ned because he’s on a downward spiral and he’s in a snake pit, surrounded by back-stabbers and corrupt people.”
“His honor and his loyalty is such that it brings about his downfall,” Bean said. “Because he is so rigidly honorable and so loyal, that’s all he knows. Even though that’s a virtue, in Ned’s case, it’s his downfall.”
Clearly Bean carefully studied his character as portrayed in the books and used his understanding of that portrayal to inform his own work on screen. When someone who is that steeped in the source material discusses it in the context of an adaptation, it’s understandable that his enthusiasm might bubble over into an interview where it would be mistaken for authoritative commentary.
Bean may have inside information about Ned Stark’s background, but he could just as easily have been discussing an interesting theory about the character and used language that fans lacked onto.