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Emmy Watch: Natalie Dormer on her 'modern' wannabe queen in 'Game of Thrones'

Between now and June 28, the deadline for Emmy voters to submit nomination ballots, EW.com will feature interviews with some of the actors and actresses whose names we hope to hear when nominations are announced on July 18.

How does a bright-eyed, sweet-natured, deceptively ambitious teenage girl navigate the treacherous waters of King’s Landing society — not to mention the cruel nature of her sadistic husband-to-be and his scheming mother — without losing her head? Simple: By hiding her true motives behind a megawatt smile, wielding innocence and enthusiasm as skillfully as a swordsman brandishes his blade.

It also helps if that teenager is played by 31-year-old Natalie Dormer, a seasoned performer who specializes in masters of manipulation like The Tudors‘ Anne Boleyn (another noble with royal ambitions) and Elementary‘s Irene Adler/Moriarty.

In Dormer’s hands, these characters are never just seductive scam artists. Margaery Tyrell of Game of Thrones, for example, is certainly cunning — but in the actress’ mind, she’s also genuinely caring, thoughtful, and liberal-minded. “She has quite a modern take on power and how it operates, which is fascinating to play,” Dorner told EW in between screenings at the Edinburgh Film Festival. We’re guessing she was being sincere — though with an actress like this, it’s always just a little tough to tell for sure.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You first appeared on Game of Thrones in season 2, but your character didn’t really break out until season 3. Was there a particular moment this year when you started to feel like you had become a more integral part of the ensemble?
NATALIE DORMER:
Yeah, absolutely. I thought I’d talk to you about the crossbow scene in episode 2, with me and Jack [Gleeson] talking in Joffrey’s bedchamber.
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'Game of Thrones' sets another piracy record

Game of Thrones was the must-watch show of the season — and it has the illegal-download numbers to prove it.

According to TorrentFreak, the HBO fantasy series’ third season is the most-pirated show of spring 2013, with 5.2 million downloads. The Big Bang Theory lands at No. 2 with 2.9 million, followed by How I Met Your Mother (2.85 million), The Walking Dead (2.7 million) and rookie series Hannibal (2.1 million).

This is just the latest piracy record set by GoT, which was named the most illegally downloaded TV series of 2012. When EW spoke with HBO programming president Michael Lombardo in March, he saw the dubious record as somewhat of an honor.
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'Big Bang Theory' and HBO are big winners at Critics' Choice Television Awards

Two TV juggernauts won extra accolades at last night’s 3rd annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards, presented by the Broadcast Television Journalists Association at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Monday night.

CBS’s The Big Bang Theory — the most-watched comedy both on network TV and on cable — snagged three prizes, including the honors for Best Comedy Series, Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy (Simon Helberg), and Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy (Kaley Cuoco, who tied with The Middle‘s Eden Sher), making it the awards’ single-most celebrated series.

Cable powerhouse HBO, meanwhile, was cited five times for three different series (Veep, Game of Thrones, and The Newsroom) and one TV movie (Behind the Candelabra), making it the awards’ most celebrated network. With four awards of its own, though, FX is nipping at HBO’s heels. And though Game of Thrones was named Best Drama Series at the awards, it wasn’t the only show to win that title; the fantasy shared the prize with AMC’s Breaking Bad.

A full list of winners — including the BTJA’s picks for this fall’s “most exciting new series” — follows.

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'Game of Thrones' finale ratings up; surpass 'True Blood'

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HBO’s Game of Thrones closed out its best season yet with nearly its biggest rating ever.

Sunday night’s third season closer “Mhysa” delivered 5.4 million viewers, just shy of its 5.5 million all-time high that was set several weeks back, and totaled 6.3 million for the night. That’s up 28 percent compared to last season’s finale. Thrones was against some strong summer broadcast competition that included the NBA Finals and, to a lesser degree, the Tonys.

Moreover, this season of Thrones has firmly surpassed True Blood as HBO’s second most-popular season of all time. The third season of Thrones currently averages 13.6 million viewers across all platforms, which is above True Blood‘s summit of 13 million viewer average in 2010. The Sopranos remains No. 1 with 14.4 million for its 2004 season. READ FULL STORY

Finally: Why HBO greenlit 'Game of Thrones'

As we finish our season three Game of Thrones coverage, there’s one last anecdote to share. Do you want to know what prompted HBO to turn George R.R. Martin’s novels into a TV show? It’s a story only a few people know.

There are many factors in any decision like this, of course, and the novels have a lot of obvious benefits — a gripping, constantly cliff-hanging story with a passionate built-in fan base, for starters. But HBO programming president Michael Lombardo can recall one specific moment when he decided to move forward with the pilot — a “tipping point,” for you Malcolm Gladwell fans.

This was 2008. It’s easy to forget Thrones seemed like a huge risk. An adult fantasy TV show had never succeeded before and HBO’s brand was built on more “serious” programming. There were fantasy films with enormous budgets that threatened to make any TV project look weak and cheap by comparison. And writers David Benioff and Dan Weiss turned in a pilot script that clearly demonstrated this was a show of enormous ambition.

“We had this pilot script and we were budgeting it and scratching our head whether we should go ahead and greenlight this,” Lombardo recalls. “And we were trying to figure out the production challenges. We knew it had to be able to stand next to projects in this genre being done on the big screen yet with a more limited budget.”

With the decision hanging over him, Lombardo escaped HBO’s Santa Monica office and hit the gym.

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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.

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'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

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