'Game of Thrones' showrunners on season 2, splitting Book 3 and their hope for a 70-hour epic

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Is the end point of Season 2 the same as the book?
Weiss: Not exactly the same. We’re doing it just like last year.  We took a couple of things from other books and brought them into the show. I don’t want to spoil any surprises.

Any extra fights?
Weiss: I think the Hound has more fighting than maybe he does in the book.

And are you still planning to split Book 3 into two seasons?
Benioff: As George and all his fans have said for a long time, there’s no way to do it in a single season, so it’s being broken into two. We’re still kind of figuring out exactly what goes where. We don’t want it to feel like a two-part season. Another rumor is that we’re shooting both seasons simultaneously, which would be a really efficient way to do things, but you can’t write it.

Weiss: Season three, we’re talking about it as if we have a green light.  We’re all optimistic about it, but we won’t know until after the second season starts to air.

Give the rising cost of effects and battles, could you have still hired another big name actor like Sean Bean this year for one of the new characters?
Weiss: You can. You decide if you absolutely need somebody who is well‑known to play a role. And you have that cost‑cutting analysis. I sound like an accountant… but honestly, it’s something we never came up against this year. It wasn’t like we said, “We need Daniel Day-Lewis to play Stannis.” [The new actors] performances were so compelling and so overpowering that we decided that this person is far and away the most interesting person we saw for this role. Like Gemma Whelan came in for the role [of Theon's sister] and I seem to remember her not looking the same as the character in the book. But she is the character now and so overpoweringly great that I can’t imagine anybody else being the character.

And there are black actors this time too. Was that a conscious decision?
Weiss: It was the last thing on anybody’s mind. It wasn’t like, “Let’s cast a black guy for this role.” But if we can, let’s cast this specific person because he’s far and away the most compelling person we’ve seen for this role.

Plus you also add several major new characters, particularly Melisandre and Stannis.
Weiss: Talk about complicated relationships. She’s a priestess of this religion who is ruthless. By her own admission she’s willing to do anything to advance her agenda, to get her religion moved to Westeros. And Stannis wants the throne — not out of greed or power-lust, but because he’s a man who’s always done everything by the book and the book now says, “I should be king” because he’s the rightful heir. So you have a man who’s completely righteous and we have a woman who’s completely willing to do anything.

Director Alan Taylor (who shot the pivotal Episode 9 and four episodes for season two) was snatched up to shoot the Thor sequel. Will you guys renew your contracts after season two? 
Benioff: We want to keep working on the show and they want to keep us working on it. So I feel like that’s not going to be an issue. We hope to keep going as long as we can, because we love it.

Weiss: We went into this with the potentially over-ambitious notion that to get to the end we would have 70 or 80 hours of continuous, consistent film stories. I don’t know that anybody’s ever really done that before. We’d love to do it.

Thrones was nominated for best drama series Emmy. Do you think a fantasy series can win the top prize?
Weiss: I think we can win it.

Benioff: Yeah. I feel like it sometimes takes awhile for people to get their heads around that notion. But you’re aiming to do the best work you can do.

You guys often work separately overseeing different units. When you see each others’ footage, was there ever a time when one of you said, “No! Not like that!”

Benioff: Once, in season one, you see Maester Aemon chopping meat.

Weiss: Why can’t a blind guy chop meat?

Benioff: He can definitely. I just think: Wouldn’t you probably have your steward do it? I look at the dailies and I called him, ‘Why is this blind 100-year-old man chopping meat?'”

Weiss: The actor doing the chopping, Peter Vaughan, he’s actually legally blind. So whatever he was doing, he’s a blind person doing it. I stand behind that.
*****
ALSO
: Check out EW’s Inside TV Podcast this week where we talk Game of Thrones and Spartacus (we’ll have a Sparty showrunner interview tonight after the bloody finale).

ALSO ALSO: Check out our recaps of the first season here — and be sure to go to EW.com this Sunday night for our Thrones season 2 premiere recap.

ALSO X 3: Our season two interviews with Lena Headey and Coster-Waldau; Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke and Jack Gleeson.

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