About 75% of the HBO drama was filmed in Northern Ireland, home to its soundstages and a wide array of natural scenery and centuries-old ruins nearby. "A project of this magnitude in a country with about as many people as Idaho means nearly every taxi driver has a story to share about someone who was involved in a pivotal way," reports Meredith Blake. "About 13,000 people were cast as extras, and, for many, the role of background actor offered entry to a lifestyle they could never have imagined before the start of the series. Extras planned vacations from work so they could come back to the series each season. They were known to be fiercely loyal to their fictional roles; some background actors who were cast as members of the Night’s Watch have been around since the pilot." Blake adds that the show has "helped the 1.8 million residents of Northern Ireland contemplate a future beyond grim headlines."