Game of Thrones was unleashed onto San Diego Comic-Con earlier today as the stage filled with executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, director Miguel Sapochnik and actors Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), John Bradley-West (Samwell Tarly), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei), Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark), Conleth Hill (Varys), Faye Marsay (the Waif), Kristian Nairn (Hodor), Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton) and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark). As Rob McElhenney (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) moderated, the cast talked about season 6 of the show which recently ended on HBO, as well as some insight into what's coming in season 7.
It's gut-wrenching to think we have to almost a year for the series to return, but quality takes time, and Game of Thrones is no exception. Building on what we know from the endless tidbits coming out of the current production, season 7 will have seven episodes. The remaining players are the three major families and the looming White Walker invasion. The Starks, Lannisters, and Daenerys Targaryen have all put themselves in positions of strength.
Game of Thrones Season 7 Production
Moderator Rob McElhenney kicked things off with a question for the series creators - "Why do you hate us all so much?" - alluding to the summer premiere date of Season 7, which will contain seven episodes instead of the traditional 10. "Winter is here," Benioff quoted, and explained the schedule: "We shoot where there are places with trees. We have to wait for the leaves to fall off." Weiss had advice for how to cope with the shorter season: "Rewatch. Start over at the beginning."
The Book/Show Relationship
"Hopefully we're still living out the spirit of [author] George RR Martin's imagination," said Benioff. "Even though we're beyond the books, one thing that's fun is that though George's books will be very different in some respects and the same in others. Hopefully both the series and the books will be surprising."
"What is it like to be America's sweetheart?" McElhenney asked the man behind Ramsay Bolton. Rheon maintained that Ramsay was a great villain because "he had this kind of joy in everything that he does. He was having the best time of his life." When McElhenney asked about Ramsay's perspective, Rheon replied sympathetically. "The poor guy's had a tough upbringing. He's looking for his father's love and acceptance and recognition all his life." Sophie Turner chimed in: "Boo hoo."
When Turner was asked which Season 6 scene she was most excited to film, she didn't hesitate: "100% Ramsay's death scene. The past five seasons have been building up to this - her first kill.... Someone actually quoted that scene to me in a park the other day: 'Your house will disappear. Your family will disappear.' I forgot it was from the show and thought they were cursing me. But I love the way it was written, it was wonderful." Actor Iwan Rheon turned to Turner, adding: "It was an honor to be killed by you."
"Three or four years ago, we were talking to George in Santa Fe," Benioff recalled. "He told where he was heading in the books - and the fate of Hodor. We were so amazed and excited." Actor Kristian Nairn was awed by fans' reaction: "The scene was incredibly written and directed and I knew it was going to be cool," said Nairn, "but I didn't expect the outpouring of emotions." The crowd audibly sighed, prompting Nairn to get emotional: "You're going to make me cry!"
"These guys keep taking the people I like working with away from me," said Liam Cunningham of Benioff and Weiss. Cunningham admitted he was shocked to learn of Shireen's death: "You would have heard the clang of my jaw when I read it." The sadness continued when the actor gave the carved stag to his real-life daughter and encouraged her to watch the episode with the token - unaware of the scene that awaited her. "My daughter was a heap on the sofa watching my surrogate daughter getting burned to death while she held the stag that I had stolen. I felt like the worse dad in the world."
Game of Thrones Deaths
McElhenney reasoned that Samwell Tarly's sweetness makes him prime to die. He asked actor John Bradley-West how he'd like Sam to go out. Bradley-West described Samwell climbing the library shelves to reach a tome when things go awry. "He severely underestimates his own weight and falls backwards off the bookshelf. Imagine the poetic justice. It wasn't battle that killed him - it was books that killed him."
When asked about the future of Missandei, Emmanuel was enthusiastic: "She genuinely believes in Daenerys and her claim. These two women respect and lift each other up. It's a really sweet friendship and working relationship as well. I hope they continue to be a girl-power couple."
"The books are built on a skeleton of Medieval Western history," said Weiss, "But one of the great things about fantasy is you're not bound to what happened." Director Miguel Sapochnik explained that the Battle of the Bastards was "steeped in history." The fight was initially based on the Battle of Agincourt and became informed by the Battle of Cannae - especially the pile of bodies. "It was the first imagine in my head when I read the outline," Sapochnik said, explaining that the art department shifted around 257 bodies from shot to shot to create a sense of scale.
"Why didn't Sansa tell Jon about the Knights of the Vale?" asked McElhenney. Turner's answer: "She wanted all the credit and it was a more dramatic moment when they showed up." The tension goes beyond battle in Turner's mind: "I'm not sure that she believes that Jon is capable of running Winterfell and the North. She doesn't think that Jon has the intellect, knowledge and experience that she has. I concur." Turner acknowledged Jon's good morals but questioned if his decisions would benefit the greater good, adding, "Whatever, Jon."
Is A Girl Arya?
Faye Marsay addressed the popular fan theory that Arya and the Waif are the same person. "The theory was a cool one," Marsay said, "but I think Arya is Arya and that's her journey. The writers got it right." McElhenney turned to Benioff and Weiss for confirmation, but the two remained stone-faced.
The Tower of Joy
What will Bran do after learning of Jon Snow's true parentage? "Bran knows he's been shown this information for a reason," Isaac Hempstead Wright explained. "I presume somehow he'll tell Jon. I don't know how Jon will take it when Bran turns up and says: 'By the way, I'm a tree wizard and your dad isn't your dad.' "
Picks for the Iron Throne
The group went down the line and revealed who they hoped would sit on the Iron Throne. Cunningham had a dark selection: "I see the Night King with his leg over the arm smoking on a Cuban cigar." Sophie Turner also had an unlikely choice: Littlefinger. Her selection yielded cries of "Shame" from McElhenney. "It'd be fun, quirky and sadistic," she reasoned. Hempstead Wright chose a "four-pronged Stark dream team with Bran sitting in the corner with a tree." Iwan Rheon had other ideas: "Melt the thing down and have a democracy."