Exclusive: On the set of 'Game of Thrones'

HBO takes the task of bringing George R.R. Martin’s bestselling epic fantasy series, Game of Thrones, to the small screen quite seriously. Witness: Dozens of staffers sewing and embroidering Medieval-style dresses, hand-crafting chain mail, drying and aging fabric, and hammering armor. A crew member spending an hour meticulously skimming a lagoon before it could serve as the setting for a talk between Lord Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) and his wife, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) — and this after set designers found the perfect tree in the middle of a Northern Ireland forest, painted it white, and dressed it with red leaves. In pouring rain. In ankle-deep mud.

There’s good reason for the attention to detail. The wildly popular book series — which chronicles the battle for the throne of King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) of Westeros and the soapy goings-on among the kingdom and its enemies — boasts legions of obsessed fans, who’ve hung on every detail of HBO’s forthcoming adaptation. They’re the ones most likely to notice that a key scene has moved from Catelyn Stark’s bedroom to a meeting place in the forest or to geek out on the entire new tongue that the Language Creation Society has whipped up just for Dothraki chief Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) and his countrymen. “It’s better than Klingon,” executive producer D.B. Weiss says. “And you can quote me on that.” EW visited the Belfast set — in the historic Paint Hall Studios — for an exclusive first look at the series. Among the tidbits we uncovered:

* Something for female fans to look forward to: “I lie naked in furs,” Momoa says of his Genghis Khan-like character’s standard operating procedure. “I think I’m naked more than I talk.”

* Weiss and co-showrunner David Benioff first considered Martin’s books for feature film treatment, but “within a week of the time when I finished it, we said we didn’t know how to do this as a movie,” Benioff says. “To do the first book even as a three-hour movie, you’d have to cut 90 percent of it. I’m used to adapting books, and sometimes you have to be ruthless, but in this case we loved all the storylines and the characters. We weren’t interested in that kind of mutilation. So the only way to do this would be as a series.”

* Even non-fantasy fans can get into Thrones, Benioff says, “because it’s not about unicorns and sorcerers. There’s magic in this, but it’s on the fringes.” Quips Weiss, “To be fair, season 2 is going to be all about unicorns. So the characters will all die and be replaced by unicorns. Don’t tell George.” (Note to fans: Seriously, he’s kidding.)

* Speaking of the author, he’s intimately involved in the project: “It’s a lot of late-night emails,” Weiss says. “George watches all the casting videos and tells us who he likes.” Martin was also on set for the pilot as well as for some filming this fall, and he wrote episode 8.

Check out our exclusive sneak peek gallery at ew.com/gameofthrones, and for even more Game of Thrones photos pick up this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Nov. 19.

Comments (58 total) Add your comment
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  • JonathanL

    Handled correctly, this could stand out as the best drama ever put on the small screen. The books are nothing short of brilliant.

  • nodnarb

    If this becomes EW’s newest obsession, it would not be a bad thing.

    • Zombie Jesus

      I’ll take this over their “bordering on creepy” obession with Glee anyday

    • The Devil

      Absolutely agree. It’s great that they’re publicizing this show, especially since the majority of the country hasn’t heard of it. If done well, this show could be superb. It’s very deserving of any publicity it can get.

    • KCF

      Agreed! I could read about the series and the books all day (I guess that makes me one of the legions of obsessed fans, but I’m okay with that.)

  • Anne

    I am ridiculously excited for this. I think it could be amazing if done right, and its so cool to see HBO doing something like this.

  • jen

    SO. FREAKING. EXCITED. The books are the best thing since Lord of the Rings, but the people in them are way more real and complicated. No one is entirely good or bad, and their motivations are all murky.

  • Merrydan

    I will pick up HBO just for this.

  • AC

    Thank you EW for the nerdgasm I just experienced. I can’t freaking wait for this.

    • kaduzy

      Nerdgasm!!! I LOVE it! SO stealing it. :-D Thanks!

  • Grant Gould

    SO SO SO SOOO excited for this series! Thanks for the coverage, EW — The more “Game of Thrones” coverage in EW, the better! People need to know about (a) these amazing books, and (b) what is sure to be HBO’s next amazing hit. :)

  • Solamente Dave

    I’m one of those fans that has been following this since the first rumors appeared a couple of years back. I’ve been on winter-is-coming.net since they went up. To say that I’m excited about this is an understatement. The pics look great – I hope that my copy of EW is in the mailbox when I get home.

  • Ned Stark

    Winter is coming. Finally.

  • jodipo

    Bout FLIPPIN time this gets some coverage on EW!! I will also be picking up HBO just for this. I wonder if GRRM writing episode 8 means thats the one where we lose… nevermind

  • Nicole

    WHOOOOHOOOOOOOOO, and thank you for removing the spoilers.

  • s-k-s

    Note to George – get you nose out of the production and finish the books!

    • Temp

      seriously. I feel so betrayed as a loyal reader, that he apparently just dumped the books to work on the tv show. :-(

      • James G

        he didn’t drop the books, he’s still working on the last three, and due to a lot of things changing plot wise he’s been moving stuff around to put into Dance and a good chunk of stuff that was written is being moved back to the next book. I’m fairly certain nobody wants to see this series finished as much as Martin does.

  • furrever

    Time to get an HBO subscription. Can’t wait.

  • nerdvortex

    And now my constant refreshing on EW and Winter-is-coming have joined forces. Excellent!

  • Nerwen Aldarion

    I’ve never read the books but I’ve been following this tv show for a couple of months now. I might have to go out and pick me up a copy of the books now….looking forward to enjoying a new fantasy series.

    • nodnarb

      I just started reading them a few weeks ago. You will not be disappointed! They are amazing… it’s like Shakespeare meets Tolkien.

      • Claudia

        Yeah they are amazing, just dont get too attached since there’s no conclusion… That drives me nuts. And has turned me off completely from the series. For some reason I just can’t get excited, I feel cheated.

      • just saying

        seriously, george rr martin gets pissed that we fans are constantly asking when is the next book. and i understand that it takes awhile bc the way he writes with all the different POVs and all is inspired but i’m sure very tedious and complicated. That being said, it’s been three years since the last book was written. And while he’s an artist and has to do what he feels inspired to do, and for quality’s sake, i am willing to wait for that, i am still frustrated that he releases books that i am not interested in in the meantime. But it still is worth it in the long run. I love Tolkien, I love Jordan. But this series is special in how realistic and ambiguously he treats the world and the characters that live in it. Noone is just good or evil and no situation is clear cut. And he is not afraid to kill off a main character.

      • kaduzy

        Actually, it’s been FIVE years since Feast For Crows, and the wait makes even less sense when you realize that Feast and Dance were supposed to be one giant book that his publisher split in half. In theory, they should have been released within months of each other.

    • LP

      Agreed!! Everyone who’s interested should definitely check out the books… I don’t normally read fantasy, but started this series at my brother’s urging. I’m halfway through the second book right now and can’t stop reading. The story and characters are fantastic. I definitely highly recommend the books, and can’t wait for the TV series. Exciting stuff!

      • kaduzy

        Man, you are going to be so disappointed in the third book, when everyone stops fighting over the throne, declares peace and invites the Dothrakis to Westeros for a continent-wide picnic with The Others forming an orchestra and the Night Watch changing into a dance troupe. :-P

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