HBO’s Game of Thrones is undoubtedly one of the most successful series in cable history, so it’s no surprise there was a rabid turnout for their SDCC Comic-Con panel on Friday. The panel began with none other than author George RR Martin as moderator.
Martin mentioned that producers David Benioff and Daniel B. Weiss regretted that they’d be unable to make the panel as they’re currently on-set directing the current season. Martin also joked about the unavailability of the 13 year old co-producer in charge of boobies (a reference to a recent SNL Digital Short).
He then played a preview reel showing highlights of season two and introducing new characters for season three, including Pirates of the Caribbean star Mackenzie Crook and legendary actress Diana Rigg as the Queen of Thorns.
Martin introduced the panelists, including executive producer Caroline Strauss, actors Richard Madden (Rob Stark), Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark), Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), Rose Leslie (Ygritte), and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen).
Martin asked Strauss how HBO came to develop Game of Thrones. She said that producers Benioff and Weiss gave her Martin’s books and she was intrigued by the idea of bringing a “genre-buster” again (like The Wire, previously) to HBO, She sent Benioff and Weiss off to write a script, and after a long decision-making process, HBO committed to their script.
Martin acknowledged that no character has had such a morally complex character as Theon Greyjoy, to which Allen agreed it has been a thrill to play. Martin said he’s written Greyjoy so many sex scenes and Alfie hasn’t even reciprocated with so much as a box of chocolates. Allen said he loves the sex scenes and has had to get in good shape for them.
Madden said he himself prefers the violence of swinging a sword to acting in sex scenes. Martin said Catelyn’s arc has gotten darker and darker and asked Fairley if it’s taken a toll on her as an actress. She said it really hasn’t as she loves digging into the big emotional scenes.
Martin mentioned that Leslie is the only member of the cast to actually have been born and raised in a real castle (in Scotland), which she described as cold, and really having an authentic dungeon. She mentioned that she doesn’t inherit the castle as it’ll go to her older brother.
Clarke said that compared to her relative anonymity last year, she actually does get recognized and stopped from time to time these days. She said she was recently riding in an elevator when woman recognized her in shock, and just as the doors were closing, turned to her and exclaimed, “Khaleesi!”
Martin mentioned that Game of Thrones is the only production to shoot simultaneously in four different countries last season, and this year in Ireland, Scotland, and Iceland, and Strauss mentioned it’s a Herculean task.
Martin said that Benioff and Weiss wrote a fake script last season in which Bran kills Theon, and presented it to Allen. They then asked Allen how he felt about the prospect of coming back as a naked zombie. Allen knew then that the producers were pranking him.
Martin pointed out that Kristian Nairn, the actor who plays Hodor, was in the audience and Nairn stood and waved to the crowd.
Martin asked Leslie how Gwen Dawson, her previous Downton Abbey character would handle being in Game of Thrones and vice versa. She thought Ygritte would fare better in the Abbey than Gwen would in the North behind The Wall.
Fairley said she enjoyed working with Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth, admires her ability to maneuver in all that heavy armor, and they have many laughs together on set.
Madden talked about working with the dire wolves on the set, and said he’s really acting against a silver ball on a stick that stand in for the CGI wolves. Clarke described this year’s dragons as life-scale models she got to act against, as opposed to the “green sausages” for CGI stand-ins she acted against last year. She said it was amazingly incredible to be able to act with Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo) again for season two’s dream sequence. Also shooting in Dubrovnik, doubling for the city of Qarth was a thrill.
During the Q & A session, Allen said his most enjoyable scene to shoot last season was the inspirational speech he gave (that was cut short by a bang on the head). Fairley and Madden said all their scenes together were a pleasure.
Madden said he felt the amazing costumes really get him into character, even changing the way he walks, and is the best thing he gets to do. Fairley praised costume designer Michelle Clapton, and her intense attention to detail.
The cast asked if they had to choose their own sigil, what would it be? Allen said his sigil would be an arsenal badge, Madden’s a wolf, Leslie’s an eagle, Fairley an ostrich, and Clarke said she’d stick with her dragons.
Martin said that turtles are his sigil because growing up in the Federal projects in Bayonne, NJ, the only pets he could have were dimestore turtles, and he used to make up fantasy stories using his turtles as his cast, which eventually led to writing the Game of Thrones series.
A fan praised the show’s ability to touch upon relevant current issues, to which Strauss credited Martin’s complex human characters and well-told stories. Martin credited Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien as an author whose strength is in allegory. He says all good writing is the human heart and conflict.
Clarke said that every choice Dany makes is morally justified, based on the circumstances she’s placed in. Martin agree that good fiction should be morally complex, and that’s why it’s so much fun to write his characters.
Madden said that he stays away from reading ahead in the GoT series so he’s as surprised as his character in what transpires. Fairley said that it’s great to have the books as a backup to add to her character’s depth.
Clarke said her protectiveness over her dragons forces Dany to act strong despite her internal fear, and that strength informs her actions and motivations.