Winter arrived Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, when a massive crowd converged on Hall H to greet the cast and creators of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Warning: This report contains spoilers for the most recent season.
Before stars John Bradley, Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Fairley, Kit Harington, Rose Leslie and Richard Madden, creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and author George R.R. Martin ascended the stage, the fans were treated to a hilarious video dedicated to all of the deaths on the hit drama, set to Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye.” The last frame boasted “The North Remembers,” teasing a possible tagline for the fourth season.
The conversation immediately steered to Season 3’s infamous Red Wedding episode, which saw the brutal deaths of the characters played by Fairley and Madden, among others. “That was a rough day on set,” Benioff recalled. “When we wrapped the Red Wedding, I remember hugging Michelle and Richard. … The crew was crying on set, which I’ve never seen before. They all knew it was coming, but it had them in tears.”
Madden is still mourning the demise of his character Robb Stark, the King of the North. “I kind of feel like I should be doing something and I don’t know what it is,” he explained, referring to the upcoming start of production on Season 4.
Perhaps he’s still feeling a bit drained after his last day on set. “I had a good cry on set with a few other people,” he said. “And it was the wrap party that night. … I got straight on the plane, I didn’t want to be there. And I did sit and cry all the way home. I was ordering multiple drinks on a one-hour flight. It was so many years since we started the pilot. … it was a character thing and it was also an actor thing.”
Fairley was a bit more even-keeled regarding Catelyn Stark’s departure. “I knew how many years I signed for,” she said. “I knew what was coming.”
That brought up an interesting point, though: Who of the cast chooses to read Martin’s novels (and even read ahead), and who avoids the source material entirely?
Dinklage is firmly in the latter camp regarding his character Tyrion Lannister. “In four or five years, when this is all over, I think I’ll go back and read all the books,” he said. “But I don’t want to know what’s coming, so I stay away.”
“Some of the actors don’t want to know and some of the actors do want to know,” Martin said. “So when I occasionally visit the set and they ask me [about future character details], I do tell them. But there is the factor that things change. The books are the books and the show is the show. … Some of the actors finding out what happens in the books to their character doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing is going to happen in the scripts to their character.”
As Clarke discussed her recent Emmy nomination for her role as Daenerys Targaryen, a surprise guest crashed the panel: Khal Drogo himself, Jason Momoa, who yelled, “I’m not dead!” as he kissed Clarke, then fled the stage. As the crowd roared, Clarke reached out and yelled, “My sun and stars!”
Harington teased the Season 4 arc of his character, explaining that Jon Snow has been searching for father figures everywhere, but, “What’s interesting about what’s coming up is he gets sick of that and he turns into that person.”
Dinklage described his polar-opposite on-screen and off-screen relationship with actor Charles Dance, who plays his father Tywin Lannister, explaining that during their particularly contentious scenes together, “Charles gives me a nice little shoulder rub after each take to make sure we still love one another.”
Benioff and Weiss praised fans for their commitment to keeping quiet with spoilers. “For us, the first season was sort of the test case,” Weiss said. “What happened to Ned Stark let us know what we were facing. So many people kept quiet!”
Benioff interjected with a funny personal note, explaining that his mother wasn’t among those with steely self-control. Weiss laughed and recalled, “Yeah, except for David’s mom, who would walk up and down the lines in the book store telling everybody, ‘Did you know Ned Stark dies?’”
During the audience Q&A, a fan asked Martin if he’d consider creating a prequel series, perhaps exploring the fall of the Targaryens or the rise of the Baratheons.
“First I have to finish The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring – that’s going to take me a while,” he explained. “I have to write quickly here. These guys are catching up to me. They’re not quite on top of me yet.”
Despite the focus on completing the Song of Ice and Fire series, Martin is already think about what comes next. “I’m working on what I’m going to write after that,” he said. “Would I write other stories set in Westeros? Yeah, I might. I don’t think it would be a prequel about Robert’s Rebellion – that material is being revealed through flashbacks in the present serie, so by the time I finish these books, you’ll know all about that. But I might go back earlier and write something about Aegon [Targaryen] and his sisters or the Mad King or Aegon the Unworthy.”
Another big wish from the crowd was a prequel featuring Sean Bean’s return as Ned Stark, allowing the actor to buck his trend of dying in virtually every role.
Alas, Martin stood firm. “No offense to Sean Bean – it is always sad to see Sean die, but he does die so well.”
The fourth season of Game of Thrones premieres in spring 2014.