It was a spoiler-free “Evening With Game of Thrones” put on by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences last night at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. But don’t despair! There were still some interesting nuggets of information to be harvested from the 90-minute sold-out event.
Appearing on the panel were the Emmy-winning show’s cast members: Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), and Peter Dinklage, who has garnered an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his role on the series as the conniving and lascivious Tyrion Lannister. Additionally, Game of Thrones scribe and creator George R.R. Martin, executive producers David Benioff & D.B Weiss were there and the event was moderated by It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia creator-star Rob McElhenney.
The event kicked off with a brief recap of seasons 1 & 2 before showing a spoiler-free but interesting and visually engaging preview of bits to come this 3rd season…the very last clip had a voice-over stating, “If you think this is going to end well, you haven’t been paying attention,” with two characters ready to fight in a gladiator style arena with a bear! To boot, one of those characters was Brienne of Tarth – a fan favorite (and favorite of mine).
Interesting point here: for all the GoT book readers, so far book 1 has correlated with season 1, and book 2 with season 2. However book 3 is effectively split into two seasons: season 3 & season 4. Here’s where it gets interesting, and the reason I think everyone is so overly cautious when talking about season 3… in book 3 there is one of the biggest surprises (if you can even call it that) ever – literally the most shocking thing. Now when discussing season 3, fans of the book aren’t even sure if it will be in this 1/2 of the season 3 adaptation. I think this is one of the major reasons people are so cautious when discussing anything about the upcoming episodes.
The evening was filled with interesting facts and discussions none-the-less. Definitely several of the laugh-out-loud and audience favorites were courtesy of Mr. Dinklage, who I’ve always found funny but who was especially and absolutely hilarious last night. Two stand-out moments of hilarity:
1. When a fan asked the cast if they could play any other character, who would they play? Michelle stated she’d like to go back in time to play Arya, and Lena said sorry, but she would not trade Cersei for anyone. Peter dead-panned that he’d like to play Daenerys Targaryen and motioned dragons breathing fire and flying out of his bosoms. This dead-pan miming of dragons and fire went on for about a minute and the audience was rolling!
2. The second moment came when the cast was asked if they have received any strange fan mail. Here, Peter told of being sent a photo from the 1970’s by a son cleaning out his father’s photography collection. The photo was of an old man’s harmonica band, with a “person affected by my same condition – a dwarf” standing in front wearing the same ridiculous barbershop stripped outfit, an over-sized ascot and a big goofy grin. The fan had written that he found the photo, and assumed that it was Peter since he’s the only dwarf the man knows – which of course would have made Peter 1 at the time…. Peter then stated he hung the photo in his bathroom so he can give the harmonica band a thumbs up every time he pees.
In all seriousness though, Peter did talk a little about his character. When asked if Tyrion was actually scared or intimidated by anyone, Peter talked of obviously the relationship with his father, and then did mention that Shae, because Tyrion was starting to fall in love with her.
It was also revealed that Peter was approached by David and D.W. before the project has landed at HBO. In an email the producers reached out about GoT and asked Peter to take a look at the role of Tyrion. Actually Peter had been aware of the project already, and was interested. One thing that was funny but poignant as well was when Peter emailed the producers back, his only prerequisite was that Tyrion not have a long beard, and that he liked the fact that there are no unicorns in the books. For any Living in Oblivion fans this was an especially funny moment.
Joking aside, when asked if the actors have actually read the books, Kit was the only one who replied yes, stating he has read through book 4. Sophie and Michelle both fessed up to reading per season and flipping through to their character’s chapters, and Maisie hadn’t read the books, but her mum and step-dad had, and informed her of Anya’s journey with broad strokes. The general consensus amongst the cast was that after the series had ended the actors would read the books in earnest.
Coming across incredibly adorable was Maisie, who plays Arya. When asked which role was the most difficult to cast, the producers talked of the role of Arya, and here it was revealed that GoT was only Maisie’s second audition ever. The audience applauded to this fact, and that her performances are definitely on par with her adult co-stars in depth. Also, Maisie talked about how in the book Arya was left handed, so as she didn’t want to disappoint the fans she decided she must also be left handed and sword fight left handed.
A bit of time was spent then discussing the war aspect of the show and the fight sequences required of the actors. The producers emphatically applauded all the cast for really getting their hands dirty with the fighting, and Kit and Nikolaj were singled out. Apparently when shooting season 1 Nikolaj had almost been decapitated whilst riding on a horse with a sword – the horse jumped up over something at full speed and if Nikolaj wouldn’t have ducked he would have literally lost his head I guess. That shot ended up staying in the cut because apparently it was so amazing and real. Kit was also praised for shooting the ‘beyond the wall fights’ where it was as cold as 35 below! Both Kit and Nikolaj talked of coming home from shooting days, having a few beers, and rehearsing their sword fighting scenes at night – which sounded like a fun way to work.
As far as spoilers, George managed to keep quiet on all plot points, deaths, etc. When asked where he was in writing the books, he revealed he was well into book 6, and that now for the first time he was beginning to feel like a “railroad worker laying track” who could “begin to hear the train coming.”
When asked if he now wrote in the character’s voices from the show (meaning the actor’s voices) or if he still heard his own version of the characters, George chuckled and stated that although the actors were and are wonderful interpretations of his characters, he has been living with them for so long that he indeed did not hear them as portrayed by the cast, but the same voices he has always heard.
Another interesting discussion happened when George recounted how the GoT series came to be. Basically, he talked of creating the book in 1991, and how as the books were published and the readership grew, offers to adapt to film started to come in. George always thought the series was too much of a monster for film and the only way it would work would be to do each book as a series, and get a major network like HBO behind the whole thing. Eventually David and D.B. reached out and a lunch was set up at The Palm restaurant. As George describes it, the lunch turned into this epic 7 hour meeting, which eventually turned into dinner, etc. David and D.B. recounted being nervous, and George laughed as he reminded them that he asked one question to see if they had actually read and/or paid attention to the books: “Who was Jon Snow’s father?” Presumably, if they had not been right with their answer, the meeting would have ended much sooner. However, David and D.B. did laugh saying they “guessed” at that point… good guess guys!
David and D.B. talked about production and the challenges of shooting such an epic series. Really interesting to learn that they block shoot an entire season – in other words the producers told of how day one of season 3 of shooting they were shooting from episode 10. They shot in 5 countries for season 3 – sometimes with units in 2 or 3 countries at the same time. Another interesting thing…GoT has as many as 4 units on principle photography at a time, which is pretty much unheard of in TV. David laughed about hearing of “D Unit” for the first time and being perplexed.
Finally, George rounded out the evening by giving the audience a little insight into his motivation being writing GoT in the voices he choose. He said he was a fan of Tolken and the absolute good vs. absolute evil that he did so well, but he himself was not a fan of writing characters in those extremes. He preferred to write in “grays” and characters that are not purely positive or negative but rather “human”. Yes, GoT was about war, but also about the casualties along the way, and about the choices, the humanity, and the decision one is forced into or grows into that craft and effect one’s character.
Oh and BTW, George did reveal that a few would sit on the iron throne before it was all said and done. But of course, he didn’t say who.
This season 3 of Game of Thrones premieres March 31st on HBO.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, when asked with HBO execs sitting in the audience if it had been picked up for a fourth season, the cast and producers shook their heads “no” – to audible groans of disbelief from the crowd. Stay tuned.
You can watch the panel here:
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