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'Game of Thrones' team on series future: 'There is a ticking clock' -- EXCLUSIVE

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The third season is complete. The fourth is coming. Yet HBO’s Game of Thrones faces a potentially complicated future. Below Thrones showrunners, author George R.R. Martin and HBO’s programming president talk to EW about how the hit series might navigate the franchise’s uniquely twisting road ahead. “There is a ticking clock here,” says writer-executive producer David Benioff.

Sunday’s finale cut off the action roughly two-thirds of the way through George R.R. Martin’s third Ice and Fire novel, A Storm of Swords. There are two more books left unexplored (A Feast for Crows, A Dance With Dragons), which will present a few manageable adaptation challenges. Martin is working on his sixth book (The Winds of Winter) and plans a seventh (A Dream of Spring), but there’s no guarantee either will be ready in time for Thrones’ annual production schedule, or even that the seventh novel will be Martin’s last entry in the series.

Season four, at least, should be relatively straight-forward. Martin’s story provides a strong map for the near-term.

Adapting Feast is more tricky. While Book 3 is the runaway fan favorite of the Ice and Fire saga, Book 4 is considered the weakest. Feast included new characters and tangents while omitting some beloved names like Tyrion, Jon and Daenerys. Since the events in Book 5 largely overlap with Book 4, Thrones will start drawing heavily from both novels at the same time to maintain chronological consistency. Some elements of Book 4 could (and probably should) remain on the page for Thrones to continue effectively serving its sprawling universe of current storylines and characters.

“I don’t think we want to answer specifically what we’re keeping and dropping, but we do take your point,” Benioff said when asked about Book 4’s content. “The series has already reached a point where there are so many characters, particularly in season three we’re introducing so many new ones, we run the risk of bursting at the seams as we try to cram every single subplot and all the various characters and it becomes impossible on a budgetary level and it becomes impossible on an episode-basis to jump around every few minutes to 30 different characters and locations. We don’t want to do that, and recognize that as a real risk and we will take steps not to fall into that trap.”

Quipped Benioff’s fellow showrunner Dan Weiss: “Time for negative population growth.”

Of greater concern is the pace of books vs. seasons. It’s an issue that fans pointed out from the moment the show was greenlit and now even HBO is beginning to realize there could be an issue. Book 5 took Martin six years to write and it was released in 2011. “I finally understand fans’ fear — which I didn’t a couple years ago: What if the storytelling catches up to the books?,” says HBO programming president Michael Lombardo. “Let’s all hope and pray that’s not going to be a problem”

Martin, for one, isn’t worried. The way the author sees it, producers have plenty of material to keep Thrones rolling. “I think the odds against that happening are very long,” Martin says when asked about the show catching up to his novels. “I still have a lead of several gigantic books. If they include everything in the books, I don’t think they’re going to catch up with me. If they do, we’ll have some interesting discussions.”

Martin points to Starz’ Spartacus, which interrupted its main storyline with a prequel season. As it so happens, Martin has discussed with HBO the possibility of developing a series based on his Hedge Knight books, which are prequels to Ice and Fire.

Yet HBO and Thrones producers are wary of stretching the series, for both monetary and creative reasons.

NEXT: ‘I don’t think I’d be happy with that’

'Game of Thrones': Theon's mysterious tormentor speaks

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POLL ADDED: He was called Boy. That’s it. On the Game of Thrones set, in the scripts, even in conversations with visiting journalists. Just Boy.

Thrones showrunners wanted to keep Theon’s mysterious tormenter a third-season secret, even from fans of George R.R. Martin’s novels, readers who had figured out weeks ago what the show revealed in its third finale Sunday: He is Ramsay Snow, the bastard son of Roose Bolton, that smarmy traitorous lord who was pledged to Robb Stark, then stabbed the Young Wolf at the Red Wedding after switching to partner with the Lannisters and Freys.

“I had to keep it on the down low, big time,” says 28-year-old Welsh actor Iwan Rheon, now cleared by HBO to speak freely for the first time. “It does make things much easier for me, it’s annoying not even being able to reveal who you are. Everywhere you go people are trying to get it out of you. It’s been quite funny, a lot of my mates were really into the show before [I was cast]. They’ve all come back and are like, ‘you horrible little bastard.'” READ FULL STORY

'Game of Thrones': Nikolaj Coster-Waldau talks Jaime & Brienne (and dials Gwendoline Christie)

Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is currently filming the big-screen revenge comedy The Other Woman, playing a man who cheats on Leslie Mann and Cameron Diaz. You’d think the cast and crew would be torturing him for spoilers for Sunday’s GoT season finale (HBO, 9 p.m. ET), but they aren’t. At least they weren’t when EW spoke with him last week, before the bloody Red Wedding episode. “Like with that episode,” Coster-Waldau said, “I so want to talk about it. I say to friends, ‘Come on, you’ll still enjoy the show. Let me just tell you.’ And they’re like, ‘No. Don’t. Walk away.’ People freak out like that, which is great. They’re very passionate about not knowing. It’s a little different with people who’ve read the books. They like to have the inside knowledge, but then you can see that I break their heart when I actually tell them something. It’s a tricky one.”

While he can relate — “I’m a huge Breaking Bad fan, I would be really annoyed if anyone told me anything about what was going to happen in the last eight episodes” — here’s what he will say about Sunday’s hour: “In episode 10 of a season, you want some kind of closure, and I think the writers did a really good job giving that in a way that feels satisfying for the audience. Certainly for Jaime and Brienne [laughs] — it’s so difficult to talk about these things without spoiling — there is a sense of coming to the end of a chapter. But at the same time, you also want to set up the next season, and they set up the next season in a pretty spectacular way,” he says.

Bottom line: “There will be yelling, and there will be crying, but hopefully in a good way.”

Here, we asked Coster-Waldau to look back on some of his favorite Jaime-Brienne scenes from the season — and, proving he can definitely do comedy, he phoned Gwendoline Christie for help. READ FULL STORY

'Game of Thrones' Michelle Fairley joins USA's 'Suits'

That was fast: Michelle Fairley has booked her TV return.

The Game of Thrones actress has been snatched up by USA Network’s legal dramedy Suits for a recurring role in season three.

She’ll play Ava Hessington, a British entrepreneur who runs a successful international oil company. Faced with a lawsuit that may cost her the family business, she puts her trust in Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) to fight the charges against her.

Fairley will make her Suits debut in the season premiere on July 16. And she’s not the only Game of Thrones actor on the show next season —  Conleth Hill (Varys) will make a return appearance on the series in his guest star role as British firm head Edward Darby. READ FULL STORY

'Game of Thrones': No wedding ratings gift

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Game of Thrones may have broken the Internet with Sunday’s episode, but it didn’t break its ratings record.

“The Rains of Castamere” delivered 5.2 million viewers, down slightly from the show’s all-time high set earlier this season of 5.5 million.

The non-record performance isn’t surprising. The episode aired after the show took a week off for Memorial Day weekend. And even though it was a highly anticipated hour among hardcore fans who knew what was coming, most casual viewers had no idea the episode contained a shockingly violent wedding sequence as HBO intentionally did not promote the episode as anything out of the ordinary to help preserve the surprise. Expect the ratings to rise for next week’s finale, however, possibly to an all-time high.

Read more:
‘Game of Thrones’ Michelle Fairley joins USA’s ‘Suits’
‘Game of Thrones’: See our Red Wedding invitation
Game of Thrones’ recap for ‘Rains of Castamere’
‘Game of Thrones’ showrunners talk The Red Wedding
Robb Stark shocker: ‘Game of Thrones’ actor talks heart-breaking twist
George R.R. Martin must-read interview! Game of Thrones author on why he wrote The Red Wedding
Michelle Fairley interview: Why Catelyn made her shocking decision

'Game of Thrones' Michelle Fairley explains Catelyn's murderous decision

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Of all the gruesome surprises on the ninth episode of Game of Thrones this season, perhaps the most shocking was Catelyn killing an innocent child. Faced with Lord Walder Frey executing her son Robb, Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) grabbed one of Frey’s young wives and held a knife to her throat. When Frey killed Robb anyway, Catelyn made good on her threat. Below Fairley talks about filming The Red Wedding and why she probably did not watch the episode tonight.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Have you recovered from the Red Wedding?
MICHELLE FAIRLEY: Yeah we did it, we shot it. We were very fortunate we had a week to shoot the whole wedding sequence and did it chronologically as well. By the end of the week you were getting nervous and you have to remain concentrated as well. But you have to remain because you have to do it right. You have to be in control, you have to be calm. You were just nervous, but in a good and productive way. It was amazing, actually.

At what point did you learn Catelyn’s fate? READ FULL STORY

'Game of Thrones' author George R.R. Martin: Why he wrote The Red Wedding -- EXCLUSIVE

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Millions of Game of Thrones fans are feeling sadness, outrage, and, sure, some perverse excitement after watching Sunday’s episode titled “The Rains of Castamere.” But for Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, such reactions to “The Red Wedding” are nothing new. Martin has been receiving exclamatory emails about the disastrous Tully-Frey union for more than a decade, ever since he published his Song of Ice and Fire saga’s third novel, A Storm of Swords. Below, the author reveals why Robb had to die, gives his reaction to upset readers and spills the scene’s horrifying real-life inspiration.

READ FULL STORY

'Game of Thrones' showrunners interview: The Red Wedding -- EXCLUSIVE

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Game of Thrones just depicted one of the most disturbing death scenes in TV history: The graphic massacre of noble young rebellion leader Robb Stark (Richard Madden) at his uncle’s wedding, alongside his mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), pregnant wife (Oona Chaplin) and all of his men.

At about 9:49 p.m. ET, the show’s Twitter fandom exploded. Perhaps the best compliment to the scene’s effectiveness was that there wasn’t much initially tweeted that was very coherent. There was a lot of all-caps agony and wailing.

“The Red Wedding” violence was shocking for many reasons: The safe traditional family environment (it’s a wedding), the betrayal (a cruel deception by the father of the bride), the carnage (pregnant Talisa being stabbed repeatedly in her abdomen; Catelyn murdering an innocent young woman in a busted bluff to save her son) and the apparent unfairness of Robb’s death in particular (he won every battle, yet lost the war).

That many fans are so incensed will probably come as some relief to Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss, who were intent on preserving the surprise of the sequence for viewers as much as possible given that the major character-killing twist from George R.R. Martin’s 13-year-old novel A Storm of Swords was only a mouse-click away for the curious to find. Below, the writer-producers talk about the importance of the scene and its long-time resonance with Martin’s readers. Note: This interview was conducted in January, shortly after filming was completed.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how did it go? READ FULL STORY

Robb Stark shocker: 'Game of Thrones' actor talks heart-breaking twist

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Ned Stark died maintaining his honor. His son died following his heart.

On Sunday night, The King in the North’s rebellion to avenge his father came to a heartbreaking conclusion when he was betrayed by the scheming Lord Walder Frey. Yes, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) is dead. And so is his mom. And his pregnant wife. And his men. And it was all pretty horrific. True, Robb broke his word — marrying field medic Talisa (Oona Chaplin) instead of a key ally’s daughter as he promised. But ultimately he may have died because he didn’t grow up fast enough to win the Iron Throne. Robb had all the battlefield prowess, but not yet the wariness and manipulative social expertise of more experienced players like Tywin Lannister to avoid a deadly trap.

But we’ll always have Madden’s terrific performance. The Scottish actor took a relatively modest character from the books and helped build him into a memorable figure who every bit the equal of the show’s major players. “Thrones has been amazing and I’m really sad to let it go and not be a part of it,” Madden says. “But I knew from the start that this would be my character’s [fate].

Note: The following interview includes Madden’s answers from an exclusive interview with EW conducted months ago, as well as responses from a press conference call with reporters last week (questions paraphrased).

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first learn your character’s fate? READ FULL STORY

Jimmy Fallon's 'Game of Thrones' parody will be a ball -- EXCLUSIVE CLIP

He titilated you with The Jersey Floor. He intrigued you with Downton Sixbey. And now he’s going to enchant you with Game of Desks, an elaborate parody that spoofs TV’s most beloved epic fantasy.

In this exclusive clip from Late Night‘s latest lengthy send-up, host Jimmy Fallon enters an elevator as himself — and exits it as a long-haired, bearded, fur-and-leather-clad refugee from Westeros, ready to punish a writer from “the Late Night‘s Watch” for writing bad jokes

We can’t know for sure which of Games‘s characters will get the parody treatment when the full clip airs tonight at 12:35 a.m. ET — maybe Jay Leno will be looped in as the deposed Mad King Aerys? The video does at least give us a glimpse at Late Night‘s take on Varys, King’s Landing’s gelded Master of Whispers. Here, Fallon announcer Steve Higgins plays the part by stepping into elaborate robes and looping a very special necklace around his throat. Put it this way: If you touch the pendant, he’ll turn his head and cough.

READ FULL STORY

'Girls' beats 'Game of Thrones' at BAFTA TV awards

It’s not just New York City twenty-somethings who can’t stop watching Hannah Horvath and Co.

The British Academy Television Awards were held last night and the award  for International Program went to Girls, beating out Game of Thrones, Homeland, and The Bridge. But Game of Thrones didn’t go home empty handed — the HBO drama did win the Audience award (which Girls was not nominated for).

Elsewhere, fans looking for their next option to binge-watch should consider the Olympic-themed Twenty Twelve. The U.K. sitcom, starring Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville, won Olivia Colman the BAFTA for Situation Comedy and Performance in a Comedy Programme. On the more serious side, Last Tango in Halifax won for Drama Series. Last Tango in Halifax follows two teenage sweethearts who are reunited 60 years later courtesy of Facebook.

Shocking losses included The Girl, starring nominees Toby Jones, Sienna Miller, and Imelda Staunton, as well as Parade’s End, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which just concluded an HBO run in the United States.

A full list of winners can be found on the BBC’s site.

Read more:
British cult hit ‘The IT Crowd’ to return for finale special
Peabody Awards honor ‘Doctor Who,’ ‘Girls,’ The New York Times (and a bunch of other stuff)
BAFTA announces 2014 awards date, two weeks before Oscars

'Game of Thrones' star Natalie Dormer talks 'Elementary' arc as Irene Adler

As we say in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly hitting stands Friday, behind every man with a thirst for sex and power is an equally clever, manipulative woman… who could be played brilliantly by Natalie Dormer.

The 31-year-old Brit, who broke out Stateside in 2007 as the seductive Anne Boleyn to Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ King Henry VIII in The Tudors and now embodies King Joffrey’s shrewd betrothed Margaery Tyrell on HBO’s Game of Thrones, begins a three-episode stint tonight as Sherlock Holmes’ iconic love Irene Adler on CBS’ Elementary (through May 16’s two-hour season finale). “It’s a real privilege to be asked to play that one woman who has gotten under Sherlock’s skin,” Dormer says, noting that Elementary creator Robert Doherty was a fan of her work on the 2011 cult supernatural British TV show The Fades.

Unsure if her schedule would align with the show’s, Doherty and fellow exec producer Carl Beverly wouldn’t tell her much about the arc when they first met. “We had this kind of really amusing conversation where they were like, ‘We love you!’ And I was like, ‘I love you!'” she recalls. Though she got all the details when she officially signed on, she’s still going to be “reasonably coy” with us… READ FULL STORY

How 'Game of Thrones' producers would write a 'Parks and Recreation' episode (and vice versa)

Parks and Recreation characters love a good Game of Thrones reference. So what would happen if the creative overlords of these two vastly different TV worlds swapped jobs for an episode? Treat yourself to the results. (Parks and Recreation‘s season 5 finale airs tonight on NBC at 9:30 p.m.)  READ FULL STORY

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