Hold the door! In June 2018, HBO gave the green light to a Game of Thrones prequel pilot from George R.R. Martin — the author behind A Song of Ice and Fire, the series of books upon which the original show is based — and screenwriter Jane Goldman (Kingsman: The Secret Service).
We now have an idea about when the series will begin production and how long we have to wait until it premieres, as well as some of the new faces that will play roles in it.
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Set thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones conclude — which may be even crazier than you expect — the series will feature two-time Oscar nominee Naomi Watts in a lead role. The pilot for the still-untitled series has been filmed, but isn’t expected to premiere until 2020 or, more likely, 2021.
Here’s everything we know about the Game of Thrones prequel series so far.
The pilot — and beyond
As promised, production on the Game of Thrones prequel started in summer 2019, and while the show is set too early in Westeros’ history to feature any of your favorite characters, you might recognize some locations. Entertainment Weekly reported that filming on the prequel began in Northern Ireland, which was home to Winterfell and parts of Dorne, Riverrun, and the Iron Islands during production of the original series.
By the time the Television Critics Association press tour rolled around a couple of months later, production on the pilot was finished, and Casey Bloys, HBO’s chief of programming, had some very nice things to say about it. “The cast looks really, really good,” Bloys told Deadline, and while there isn’t an edit of the episode yet, “It’s exciting.”
Bloys also indicated that the other Game of Thrones prequels in development might be put on hold until this one airs. “I want to see how this one goes,” said Blo, who also confirmed that the show would air on HBO in addition to HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service. Bloys didn’t reveal a release date for the show, but seemed to think that a 2020 debut felt a little “rushed.”
Oh, by the way, about that Game of Thrones season 8 reshoot that over a millions fans demanded? Bloys said that it “shows a lot of enthusiasm and passion for the show” and left it at that. In other words: It’s not happening.
More cast members were added to the series in March 2019, with Definitely, Maybe actor Marquis Rodriguez, Doctor Who actor John Simm, and Notting Hill actor Richard McCabe all joining the show, along with British stage actor John Heffernan and young actress Dixie Egerickx.
A flurry of new cast members was announced a few months earlier, joining previously announced lead actress Naomi Watts and Poldark actor Josh Whitehouse. That batch of new additions includes Naomi Ackie (Star Wars: Episode IX), Denise Gough (Angels in America), Jamie Campbell Bower (Twilight), Sheila Atim (Harlots), Ivanno Jeremiah (Black Mirror), Georgie Henley (The Chronicles of Narnia), Alex Sharp (To the Bone), and Toby Regbo (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald).
The character Whitehouse will play in the series is a bit of a mystery; no details were revealed in the casting announcement made by The Hollywood Reporter. All that’s known about his character is that he’ll play “a key role, though not the central male lead.”
Whitehouse is best known for his portrayal of Hugh Armitage in period drama Poldark and will appear next in a remake of 1983’s Valley Girl.
Just a few days before Whitehouse joined the series’ cast, the Game of Thrones prequel added some serious star power with Watts, a two-time Oscar nominee, joining the show in a lead role.
According to Variety, Watts will play “a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret” in the series. She was the first actor to be cast in one of the series’ lead roles, and her attachment to the project first indicated it was gaining some official momentum.
From production to premiere
A few months before the final season of Game of Thrones premiered on HBO, Casey Bloys, the network’s programming president, told Entertainment Weekly that the series won’t premiere until at least a year after Game of Thrones concludes its run. That will likely put the show on TV at some point in 2020 or 2021, although filming began much sooner.
In an interview with The New York Times, Martin indicated that Goldman will have a lot of open space to create the world of the series, as the particular age in which it’s set — thousands of years before the events of Martin’s novels — isn’t referenced all that much in A Song of Ice and Fire or the HBO series.
“If you look at the published books so far, there’s really very little material about that — a sentence here, a sentence there. Old Nan tells a tale that takes up a paragraph. So Jane had to create the characters, the settings, and some of the events,” explained Martin. “We had to look at everything that was said and say, ‘OK, here’s what was said at this point, we need to make it consistent to that.’ We kicked around some ideas and I made some suggestions. But mostly it’s been Jane running with it.
“It’s set thousands of years before Game of Thrones,” he added. “King’s Landing does not exist. The Iron Throne does not exist. There are no dragons there.”
Behind the camera
HBO has reportedly hired The Defenders and Jessica Jones director S.J. Clarkson to helm the pilot episode of the still-untitled Games of Thrones prequel series, according to The Wrap. Clarkson was previously attached to direct the next installment of the Star Trek movie franchise, but that project has seemingly stalled in development limbo.
Last year, HBO confirmed the scheduled start of production on the pilot during the Television Critics Association (TCA) summer press event. The network has Goldman attached as showrunner and executive producer alongside Martin and several other Game of Thrones executive producers.
— Debra Birnbaum (@debrabirnbaum) July 25, 2018
Rumors surrounding multiple prequel projects have been flying for a while. It is a bit surprising, though, that Martin would offer his assistance on this particular project, considering he was less than pleased when Thrones deviated heavily from the books (the sixth volume, The Winds of Winter, has been delayed several times thus far).
Apparently, Goldman “won” a sort of contest at HBO in which five writers came up with ideas for prequels and spinoffs; the other four are “still under consideration” at HBO. Her previous writing credits include Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and X-Men: Days of Future Past and she will be writing the script for Disney’s upcoming live-action Little Mermaid reboot.
The series will be set thousands of years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and reportedly involves the final days of the Age of Heroes, a time when many great kings and heroes (Bran the Builder, Lann the Clever, the Grey King) lived. Due to the era in which the show is set, HBO and Goldman have indicated that Game of Thrones fans shouldn’t expect to see any of their favorite characters in the prequel series.
The show is said to chronicle “the world’s descent from the Age of Heroes into its darkest hour, and only one thing is for sure: From the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history to the true origin of the White Walkers, it’s not the story we think we know.”
Game of Thrones will conclude its eight-season run this year, after which showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will go on to develop a trilogy of Star Wars films for Disney. The two reportedly “elected not to be involved” with Goldman’s prequel project.
Updated on July 25, 2019: Added information about the end of pilot production.
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