George R.R. Martin teased and quizzed the Game of Thrones cast in a panel at Comic-Con yesterday. The cast shared their greatest GoT challenges and favourite scenes, the creators hinted at what's ahead, and Martin revealed the moment he won't watch on television.
Martin sported a spiffy pair of flame-covered suspenders as he moderated a playful and relatively spoiler-free panel with cast members 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), as well as show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
Martin kicked off the panel by asking Benioff and Weiss how they got involved with the project. Benioff admitted that when their agent sent them the books, he had never heard of A Song of Fire and Ice, but he was hooked from the moment Jaime pushed Bran out the window. "It's like crack on paper," he said. As they worked on adapting the series for screen, they were approached by several people convinced they had found a way to make a two-and-a-half-hour Game of Thrones feature film (a revelation that earned audible scoffs from panelists and the audience alike), but he and Weiss always envisioned it as an HBO series, and consider themselves lucky that Martin agreed.
Among the panelists, Momoa stole the show, walking on stage in sunglasses and quickly pulling them down to reveal his Khal Drogo eye makeup. When Martin asked Momoa, who stars in the latest Conan film, who would win in a fight between Drogo and Conan, Momoa didn't hesitate: "Between you and me, Drogo would kick Conan's ass" and proceeded to yell a Dothraki war cry into the microphone.
Drogo fans will also be in for a treat when the first season comes out on DVD. Benioff and Weiss explained that deleted scenes are unlikely since very little ended up on the cutting room floor. But in addition to extras created by the production team (and artwork from storyboard artist Will Simpson), the DVD set will include the cast members' first auditions, so we can see their first interpretations of the characters. Benioff singled out Momoa's audition, which includes a special dance Momoa decided to perform for the casting directors to prove his worth as Khal Drogo.
Martin asked Headey if it was difficult going from playing a heroic character on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles to the villainous Queen Cersei. Headey repeatedly expressed great affection for Cersei (and says she's gotten flack from fans for humanising the character), but said it's fun to play a character who isn't trying to be morally good. "I'm not looking to please people. But then people come up and say, ‘Oh I hate you.' It's shocking." When Martin asked Dinklage if playing such a beloved character affected his acting approach, Dinklage noted that everyone on the panel had "big shoes to fill." He paused. "Yeah, it was terrifying."
Martin teased Harington about the Jon Snow posters sure to be hanging on girls' walls – and joked that he always hoped that a Twilight-style "Team Jon" and "Team Robb" would emerge from the show. He then asked how Harington would feel about replacing his canine co-stars with puppet wolves. "The thing about puppet wolves," Harington said, "is they do what they're told. I love Cooper – [the dog who plays]Ghost – but he doesn't do what he's told. He just wanted the meat from my hand."
For Momoa, the prospect of acting in the made-up Dothraki language was daunting, especially one that, in his words, sounds like a cross between "Jabba the Hutt and Fozzie Bear." But after a lot of pizza and a lot of Guinness, he was game.
One fan asked the actors to name which scene was their favourite to film. Coster-Waldau was quick to joke, "Isaac was really annoying, so pushing him. No! No! That's a joke. I really liked my last scene with Catelyn." Headey chose a scene not from the book, the first scene between Cersei and Robert, which she felt revealed a lot about their relationship. Momoa had earlier expounded at length on Drogo's tongue-extricating fight scene, which he helped craft (apparently, he dreamed about ripping someone's throat out), and Martin said he quite enjoyed. Dinklage cited his trial as a personal favourite, "because it was a long day and there were a lot of extras. So I felt like a master of ceremonies for a lot of bored extras." For Clarke, the choice was easy: the final scene of the season. "Then getting to see it properly on screen was amazing," she said. "When I saw those dragons – I got shivers."
Coster-Waldau had the most amusing answer for a fan who wanted to know how the actors would end the series: "There's a big battle and it fades to black. It comes up with a sign that says, "Twenty years later." There's a cottage. Jaime and Cersei come out, and he says, "Finally, my love. Finally."
So what can fans expect for the coming seasons? "It's time to meet the red priestess," Benioff said. "And it's time to see those wolves and dragons grow up."
Weiss added, "It's a season of exploration."
The challenge, the creators said, is if and when they get to Season Three, since A Storm of Swords won't fit neatly into a single season. Benioff is especially concerned with reaching an event in A Storm of Swords that he would refer to only by the initials "R.W." "If we get to R.W.," he said, "we'll know we've done something. If we can get to R.W., then I can retire."
As for the future of the book series, one fan asked Martin if he was afraid of pulling a Lost. "I am concerned about the ending," he admitted. "I still have two books to go and I'm juggling a lot of balls, and there is that fear that some of those balls will land on my head. But I'm just going to keep juggling as fast as I can." He reiterated what he's told fans before: expect a bittersweet ending.
And does he ever mourn those characters he's killed? Martin firmly believes that the knowledge that a character could die at any moment is important to a reader's emotional investment in the characters, but that hasn't made those deaths any easier. "Actually," he said, "I mourn all the characters as I kill them." He reminded the audience that he spends a lot of time crawling around inside his point-of-view characters' heads. "I've lived with some of these characters for 20 years, and it's hard when I have to kill them, and I tell myself it's not me killing the characters; it's the other characters."
He describes a certain death that occurs two thirds of the way through A Storm of Swords as "the hardest thing I've ever written." In fact, he put off writing that particular scene until after he had written the rest of the book. "It was as wrenching to write as I'm sure it was for many of you to read."
In fact, it's the one thing he's not looking forward to seeing on the show. "I think when they show it, I'm going to arrange to be out of the country to some place that doesn't have television yet."