Calgary·Q & A

Alberta animal trainer working with Quigly the wolf on Game of Thrones

As far as actors go, Quigly is a catch. He's professional, handsome and easy to work with.

Simpson has also worked on the set of the Revenant

Quigly is a nine-year-old Arctic wolf who stars as Ghost in Game of Thrones. He may look scary here, but his trainer says he is actually lovely to work with. (Kate Fair)

As far as actors go, Quigly is a catch. He's professional, handsome and easy to work with. 

He's also a nine-year-old Arctic wolf best known for his portrayal of Ghost in the HBO series Game of Thrones.

Quigly is being trained just south of Red Deer by Andrew Simpson, the owner and operator of Instinct Animals for Film.

And while the four-legged star himself couldn't make it to the Homestretch studio for an interview, Simpson sat down with CBC's Doug Dirks to talk about his experiences with the "biggest TV show in the world."

Doug Dirks: Fans around the world are dying to know what happens in the next season. Is it hard to keep the show's secrets to yourself?

Andrew Simpson: There's a lot of pressure and it's not just from local people, it's from people all around the world. Once they find out what you do and what you're involved in, the questions keep coming. If it's a birthday or Christmas it's hard to keep those kinds of secrets but when you're dealing with the biggest TV show in the world and you have the biggest secrets ever, yeah, it's tough.

DD: Without getting you in trouble with the producers, what can you tell us about the production and how this wolf, Quigly, was involved?

AS: What I can tell you is that the producers are awesome, the crew is very nice and Quigly is still there. For now, Quigly is still there doing his part in defending the Wall.

DD: How long have you been working with Quigly?

AS: Quigly is nine. He started out his career at five-weeks-old in Russia. He has been doing it for a long time, he's very professional, easy to work with. He does have his moments but he normally gets picked for his handsomeness.

DD: How do you train a wolf to respond to cues and work with people on set?

AS: Luckily for me, I've been doing it for a long time, made my mistakes, learned my lessons and now I've got a handle on it but everything we do is full reward and positive reinforcement. A lot of love, a lot of positive praise and that gets us through the day.

Andrew Simpson raised and trained Quigly. The wolf's first movie job was at a mere five weeks old. (Kate Fair)

The mantra I go by is, 'You have to raise them before you can train them, and you have to have trust before you can have control.' So as long as you put in the time, the energy and the effort to get to know the animal, to get to know his personality, spend the time with him and build that relationship, everything else just falls into place.

DD: You've also done some work with the Revenant. What was that like?

AS: It was a crazy, crazy show to work on for a lot of different reasons. We did a lot of wolf stuff on there with one of our other wolves, Two-Toes, who is very popular around the filming world. Leonardo [DiCaprio] was very nice to work with, very professional, very courteous to the animal but unfortunately the scenes we shot ended up getting cut out for some reason.

Simpson also trained a wolf to appear in the Revenant, but the scene got cut. (Kate Fair)

The rumour going around Hollywood was by the time they cut the movie together there was so much that this character had to endure so right or wrong they ended up taking one or two scenes out and unfortunately one of them was ours.

DD: In your book and documentary, Wolves Unleashed, you describe wolves as 'misunderstood.' What would you like people to know about wolves?

AS: A lot of it is trying to clear up the misconception that wolves are this evil man-eating, beast-eating machine in the forest. In reality they're not. Of course, a wolf is a wild animal and when he's out there and prey presents itself, yeah he's going to take advantage of that. But he's not this mean animal that is hiding behind every tree in the forest who's going to jump out and scare you when you go for a family walk or picnic.

DD: How did you get your start training wolves and other animals?

AS: Believe it or not it was just totally by accident. 20 years ago I was in Australia, and I fell across a film set, went to get a job as an extra and I wound up meeting someone there who trained animals for the film industry.

It's a very interesting job. There's nowhere in most places in the world where you can go to learn this. For me is was just growing up in Scotland in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature. For the animal training thing in the industry, I think it's something you can't really teach people. It's something you've got into and you understand it.

DD: Any scary situations for you?

AS: A lot of times you get a bit of an adrenaline rush, but that's usually from the producers.

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