Belfast actor JJ Murphy has died days after starting his new role on the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones.
The 86-year-old was cast to portray Ser Denys Mallister, the oldest member of the Night’s Watch military order, and began filming scenes last week. He died on Friday at his home.
A spokesman for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland confirmed the death.
“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with regret of the death of veteran Northern Irelands actor, JJ Murphy, who died suddenly on Friday, August 8, aged 86.”
His film credits include Cal (1984), Angela’s Ashes (1999) and Mickybo and Me (2004). He has a character role in the forthcoming film, Dracula Untold and, just days before his death, filmed his first scenes for Game of Thrones, also shot in Northern Ireland.
JJ Murphy is perhaps more familiar to Northern Ireland audiences through his wide range of stage work, including Sam Cree’s Don’t Tell the Wife (1967) at the Belfast Arts Theatre, Martin Lynch’s Lyric Theatre production of Dockers (1981), and Tinderbox Theatre Company’s production of Convictions (2000), a site-specific work at Crumlin Road Courthouse, Belfast.
He trained with the Ulster Group Theatre and worked for many years at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, where he helped mentor a younger generation of local actors including Ciaran Hinds and Liam Neeson.
The Arts Council added: “His concern for his fellow actors was well-known. A longstanding member of Equity (trade union), he was a spirited and redoubtable advocate for improving the pay, conditions and career opportunities of actors in Northern Ireland.”
Actress and fellow Equity member Maggie Cronin said: “His passion for theatre, for the welfare and betterment of actors and those who worked in the performing arts was always there, it was an integral part of the man.”
Mr Murphy is survived by his wife Mary and their children.