As if HBO’s Game of Thrones required a testament to its success, beyond its greenlit second season and 13 Emmy nominations, devoted fans waited in line Thursday in the San Diego sun for an average of three hours for the hit drama’s Comic-Con International presentation. Even then, thousands didn’t make it into the ballroom.
The lucky ones, both longtime followers of author George R.R. Martin’s bestselling fantasy novels and recent converts to the television adaptation, were privy to a conversation with the actors who portray some of Game of Thrones’ pivotal roles. Martin himself moderated the panel, beginning with a reel recapping the first season -- he praised the video for managing to “cover 10 minutes in what took me 1,200 pages” -- and an introduction of stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo) and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), and series co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
The epic Game of Thrones is a serious and, at times, shockingly graphic narrative chronicling the discord and drama among warring lords and ladies, but the panel’s members exuded anything but that. The energy of the roaring, enthusiastic crowd combined with the cast’s chemistry and good-humored camaraderie for an hour-long discussion that proved plenty surprising to anyone expecting a mirror of the show’s tone.
Martin admitted, while posing a question to Momoa – the Conan the Barbarian star quickly stole the show with his decidedly anti-Drogo personality -- that the actors were appearing at “the geek capital of the world.” So he asked the obvious: “Who would win, Khal Drogo or Conan?” Among shrieks of laughter and opinionated shouts throughout the ballroom, Jason answered with conviction, “George, between you and me, Drogo would kick Conan’s ass.”
The author also focused in on the two relative newcomers on the panel, Clarke and Harington. Acknowledging Clarke’s leap from acting school to the beloved role of the exiled Daenerys, he asked, “Are you being recognized?” “No!” the brunette, who dons a blonde wig on the show, responded. “It’s the hair! Although one person gave me free frozen yogurt soft serve.”
Martin then stated the obvious to hunky young Harington, “You realize that your poster is going up on the bedrooms of thousands of women.” After an ear-piercing agreement from the screaming female members of the crowd, the actor replied, “It scares the crap out of me.”
And what are fans to expect of the Season 1 DVD? Weiss shut down any possibility of deleted scenes, saying, “We pretty much used everything we shot – it was a very vicious and challenging schedule and so, as a result of that, it’s not like there were a lot of things left on the cutting room floor.” But Benioff jumped in to say, “The thing I’m really excited about for the DVDs – it’d be great if we had it here to show you – is the first auditions for everybody here. You can see what Momoa does. It’s the dance that won him the role… He came in and he read the scene and there’s no dance in the actual scene but he decided to show us how good he was, and he just tore off his shirt.”
As far as the show’s second season, the co-creators played off each other beautifully. Benioff stated sarcastically, “Everyone dies. Sorry.” Weiss countered, “It was all a dream!”
But in a moment of seriousness, Benioff did offer a broad overview of the next season ... and hints at the one after that: "I would say, for the readers, they know what to expect. I’d say, if we’re lucky enough, if we have a Season 3, that’s when it won’t start corresponding so neatly to the books because A Storm of Swords is just too big to do as one season. So we don’t know yet whether it’d be one and a half seasons … we don’t know yet exactly. For the second season we’ve got a bunch of great characters coming in – we’ve already got such an incredible cast but, you know, it’s time to meet the Red Priestess and it’s time to see those dragons and wolves and that stuff north of The Wall, and it’s a season of exploration all leading up to – our hope has always been from the very beginning … if we can keep this alive somehow, there’s a certain scene in A Storm of Swords – I’m not even going to say the name of the scene because the name itself is a spoiler but you all know if you’ve read the books what scene I’m talking about. It’s called 'R.W.,' and if we can get to 'R.W.' we’ve accomplished something."
During the audience Q&A, one brave member asked Martin whether he’s concerned about, putting it in the author's words, “pulling a Lost” when it comes to writing the final two books in what will be his full seven-volume series.
“I believe Damon Lindelof is in the room so I better be careful what I say,” Martin replied, before going on to note, “I still have two more books to go and I’m juggling a lot of balls and of course there is the deep fear that eventually some of them are going to fall on my head. But all I can keep doing is juggling as fast as I can and hopefully bring everything together in the magnificent way I see it in my head. I love Lord of the Rings and I love [the chapter] “The Scouring of the Shire” – the fact that it was not Hobbits dancing happily in the woods – there was a cost to the war and there was a human cost – and there’s triumph yes but there’s also tragedy. I hope I can do something half as good.”
Another audience member begged for an explanation regarding Martin’s infamous penchant for killing off his main characters. “It keeps you on your toes!” the author responded. “I’ve always believed that I want people involved in my story, and when they’re in a dangerous situation – just as you’d be in life if you were in a dangerous situation – I want the readers to be almost afraid to turn the page not knowing who’s going to win and who’s going to die. I mean, we all know books and movies where the hero may seem to be in deep trouble but you know he’s gonna get out of it because, after all, he’s the hero. And those shows are fun, but they don’t really involve your emotions – and that’s what I’m looking for.” And when asked if he mourns his characters when he eliminates them, Martin admitted that he does, but justified his actions laughing, “I tell myself, it’s not me killing them – it’s the other characters.”
Some other fun facts we learned:
• Momoa added the infamous scene where he rips out an opponent’s throat with his bare hands, because, “I wanted to do something so it looked like he was the baddest man in the world.” Despite the departure from its source material, Martin approved.
• After pleading from audience members to bring Drogo back from the dead, Martin chided, “Who knows – he may have a twin brother somewhere.” Perhaps he’ll take it into account while writing the final two books The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring? Dare to dream!
• If Peter Dinklage, nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of the fan-favorite Tyrion Lannister, could write the end of the series, it would include a dance number.
• Momoa believes Khal Drogo’s Dothraki language, custom-created for the show by David J. Peterson, “Sounds like Jabba the Hutt and Fozzie Bear.”
HBO’s Game of Thrones returns for its second season in spring 2012.
Editor's note: The article has been edited to clarify comments by Benioff about the second and third seasons.