On Friday of Comic-Con International 2015, fans in Hall H eagerly looked forward to the start of the Game of Thrones panel. Many had waited in line overnight so they could see their favorite cast members and hear from the HBO fantasy show’s creators about what they can expect next season. As anyone who has watched the show knows, GoT includes some very intense moments that can inspire a lot of passion. Thankfully, the moderator of the panel was someone who knew how to keep conversations flowing and entertaining: “Late Night” host Set Meyers.
Meyers quickly got things started by calling the cast and crew out to the stage. This included Gwendoline Christie, Liam Cunningham, Carice Van Houten, Natalie Dormer, Sophie Turner, Alfie Allen, John Bradley, Hannah Murray, Maisie Williams, Conleth Hill, Director David Nutter, and Executive Producer Carolyn Strauss. The moderator began by mentioning how great it was to see all these characters together, as many of them don’t often have scenes with each other.
“That’s true. We see each other more outside of the UK [where most of the show is filmed] than we do on set,” said Williams.
Meyers then pointed out that they are in an interesting point on the show because they have caught up to the place where the published novels the show is based on have left off; in other words, no one (other than author George R.R. Martin) knows what will happen to the characters next. Before he delved into this topic further, he asked the cast which of them had actually read the books. The only person who could respond in the affirmative was Christie. “I did my homework,” she proudly declared, to laughs from the audience.
This led Meyers to ask the cast if fans have ever ruined plot points for them. “People would come up and tell me ‘Arya goes blind!’” said Williams. “And even though I didn’t know, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, I know. I’m totally aware of that.’ Even though I didn’t.”
In light of the fact that the story on TV will be passing the one in the books, the moderator asked if the cast was being held to a higher level of secrecy when it came to the scripts. Williams agreed that it was more intense, while Hill said, “We can’t even tell you the level of secrecy.”
This led Meyers to ask Strauss how much the production team is talking to Martin at this point. She replied, “I think they talk to him as much as they were previously. He’s laid out much of his thinking in what takes place going forward, and then [writers] Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff] have jumped off from there.”
The moderator then turned to Bradley and Murray and confessed how glad he was that Samwell and Gilly finally got together on the show. Meyers asked them what they thought their characters might be looking forward to as their relationship moves forward. Bradley responded, “I think Sam would happily accept more of the same.”
After the laughter died down, he added, “I don’t think Sam is one of those people who would try to inject a bit of exotica into his sex life.”
This led Meyers to respond, “So when he’s looking at all those books, is that what he’s actually reading about?”
Next, the moderator turned to Dormer, whose character was left in a prison cell at the end of the season. She acknowledged this fact and said, “Poor Margaery, they left her in a cell. She needs a shower and a coffee, I’m sure, by now.”
“I think you should do a crossover with ‘Orange is the New Black,’” Meyers added with a grin.
He then addressed Hill and said, “Varys is one of the most interesting characters in the book and in the show…It’s very hard to know – even reading the books – is Varys a very good person or is he very bad? What are you rooting for in Varys as you play him?”
“Good, ultimately,” answered Hill. “One of the reasons I didn’t read the books is because you can only play the moment. You can’t play knowledge that you’re going to know what happens next.”
One of the more intense moments this season was the burning of Shireen, the little Princess of King Stannis. Meyers asked the cast and crew what the mood was like on the set that day. Nutter responded, “There was no levity at all. It was a tough scene, and everyone needed to feel what was going to happen to this young girl. The actors were all into the sequence, the extras were into it, and it was an amazingly powerful moment and I think it turned out just right.”
The moderator also pointed out that most of the time when someone on the show dies, the writers are able to blame George R.R. Martin (the books’ author). But now that they’re ahead of the book, who will they direct the blame at?
“We’re still going to blame him,” Strauss replied with a smile.
Fans were then allowed to approach a microphone on the floor and ask questions of the panel. The first individual to step forward asked Williams about the challenges she foresees in playing Arya now that she’s blind.
“For the last scene I shot, I was wearing these big contacts for that reveal at the end, and I just did it for the one shot, so I only had them in for fifteen minutes,” she explained. “They’re really, really thick and really wide, but once they were in, it took a while to get comfortable but then they were back out again. So I’m worried if I’m going to have to do any fighting or anything, because one – I can’t see, and two – they’re extremely uncomfortable. So I’m curious to see what’s going to happen. It takes the writers three seconds to write, ‘Arya fights blind,’ but it takes me a lot longer to master that.”
The next audience member asked Dormer what she thought was going to happen with Margaery. She replied, “I don’t know. All I can tell you is grandma ain’t around to look after her anymore, and she is in a situation where she doesn’t know how she’s going to play her next move. I think Margaery is in quite a lot of trouble, to be honest.”
As there is a lot of sword-fighting and battles on the show, a fan said he wondered if there were any stunts that the cast wanted to do, but weren’t allowed to perform for safety reasons.
“I do all my own stunts,” Hill said to laughter (as his character never fights). “I feel bad because everyone – especially Gwendolyn and all the warriors – fight and have twelve-day shooting scenes, and I have an afternoon drinking with Peter Dinklage.”
Considering the events of the past season, one individual asked about the controversial sexual abuse Sansa’s character went through. He said it seemed the character had grown strong over previous seasons due to the challenges she endured, and he wondered if this moment somehow weakened all that.
“If there’s one thing that Sansa still is, it’s strong,” Turner said. “Sansa has developed skills from Margaery and Cersei and other folks and is still just as strong as ever. Over the whole series she has been getting by without doing anything radical, because she knows it's dangerous for her. She could die – that is certainly true with Ramsay – so she didn't fight. She could have, but she chose not to. She is one of those characters who does her scheming in her mind rather than outwardly.”
While on the topic of all that’s happened to Sansa, a fan asked her opinion of Theon. She said, “It seems like half the fans want him to die and half want you to forgive him. How do you think Sansa should feel about him?”
Turner thought about this for a moment. “Until recently, she had been convinced that he killed Bran and Rickon. And he betrayed her family. But he grew up with them, so they’ll always have that family bond. She'll always trust him a little bit, even if she hates him."
After this, Christie was asked about the evolution of Brienne and her relationship with Jaime. “I found the basis of the relationship very interesting. This unique, unconventional women endured abuse at the hands of a man, then that got turned on its head to grudging respect that’s intense and close and doesn’t have its roots in sexuality. And I was thrilled by this powerful, modern representation,” she said to applause and cheers from the audience.
The show’s popularity has obviously changed all the actors’ lives, so the next person to the microphone asked Williams (as she is one of the youngest on the show) how she has dealt with all the attention.
“It didn’t happen overnight, it was something that happened very gradually,” she said. “And I’ve got a really great family and I’m the youngest of four, so whenever I’m home I’m reminded of that constantly. I don’t get to ride shotgun, and I don’t get to choose what’s on TV. While it’s overwhelming sometimes, the fans are something I’m very grateful for.”
Nutter felt the same, and recently had an interaction he shared with the crowd. “About three weeks ago, I got a chance to meet our number one fan – the president of the United States. And he came up to me, shook my hand, and he put his other hand on my shoulder and said, ‘You didn’t kill Jon Snow, did you?’ And I was afraid they were going to send me to Guantanamo, but then I had to tell him, ‘Mr. President, Jon Snow is deader than dead.’”
Meyers asked if there were any other strange encounters cast members could share. Hill replied, “I once had a woman come at me with her hand at my crotch level, and I said ‘What are you doing?’ and she said, ‘I just wanted to see if something was there.’” (For those who don’t watch the show, his character is a eunuch.)
He followed this with “I don’t speak to my mother anymore,” which naturally received uproarious laughter from the audience.
It was then time for the panel to come to a conclusion, but before the cast could leave, Meyers asked them which character, in their opinion, should win the “Game of Thrones.” In a nearly unanimous response, they all seemed to agree on one individual: Hodor.