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'Game of Thrones' team at Comic-Con: Season 4 will be best yet

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UPDATED: With Game of Thrones scoring record ratings and 16 Emmy nominations for its third season, the bar is set very high for next year. But showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss tell EW.com that season four will be the best yet.

“It’s the toughest production schedule we’ve ever had,” Benioff said in the EW.com interview suite at Comic-Con on Friday —  videos below. “We got more action, which is obviously more time consuming. It’s a brutal shooting season ahead. But if we can make it through, yeah, I think it’s going to surpass season three. The last 3 episodes, there’s so many scenes we’ve been waiting for so long to do. And it just gets more and more fun to write for these characters. After three years of doing it, we have that much more comfort to make everything uncomfortable for them. We’re very excited for it. Season five gives me nightmares, but [not season four].”

Benioff’s comments were echoed by star Peter Dinklage, who was nominated for a best supporting actor Emmy earlier this week. “I just finished reading the scripts, and the scripts these guys have turned out are my favorite so far of the whole series,” he says.

“They are amazing,” agreed co-star and fellow nominee Emilia Clarke.

UPDATE #1: Thrones Comic-Con panel just finished and included a great video saluting fallen characters. Here are five highlights from the panel with the cast and showrunners.
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Comic-Con: TV's 'Brave New Warriors' on unsexy moments, fan fiction, and more

The handsome was on display Thursday afternoon at Entertainment Weekly’s Brave New Warriors Comic-Con panel, moderated by Lynette Rice. Squeals from the audience were expected, of course, but even the panelists seemed completely delighted by each others aesthetics. “I just wanted to speak for the fans and say, ‘Tyler, you are so sexy,'” said Grimm’s David Guintoli to Teen Wolf’s Tyler Posey. Twice.

Okay, so it might have been tongue in cheek. Still, these guys know how to work a room, even if they do get paid to brood, as Guintoli said. Take a look at some of the best moments from EW’s panel with Matt Smith (Doctor Who), Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf), Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), David Guintoli (Grimm), and Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead).  READ FULL STORY

Emilia Clarke discusses her first Emmy nom, shouting in Valyrian, and throwing things at the alarm clock

Actress Emilia Clarke is best known for her role on HBO’s Game of Thrones as Daenerys Targaryen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Princess of Dragonstone, Breaker of Chains, Mhysa, and Mother of Dragons. Now the actress can add Emmy nominee to her titles. EW chatted with the London-born actress on the phone this morning about the big news.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations on the nomination! How did you find out this morning?
Emilia Clarke: It’s genuinely the weirdest thing. 6 a.m. rolls around, and my alarm in the hotel went off, and I definitely didn’t set it — definitely, definitely. So I went into a frenzy, throwing everything I could at all of the electrical appliances in the room trying to make whatever noise was going on stop. Then I saw my phone and I was like, Ah! Oh my goodness, hopefully the show got nominated because I had a sleepless night praying Dan and David would get nominated for writing. Because I just think they deserve it so much. So it took a couple of phone calls for me to actually hear from my publicist that I myself was also nominated. [Laughs] And then I cried. [Laughs] It’s all quite too much to handle.
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'Game of Thrones' season 4 directors chosen

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For the hard-core fans: Here’s who is directing each episode of Game of Thrones season 4.

One notable name is Neil Marshall (The Descent), who helmed season 2’s pivotal Battle of the Blackwater episode. Fans should also keep an eye on The West Wing Emmy-winner Alex Graves, who really impressed last season with his two episodes, one of which included a stunning sequence where Daenerys unleashed her dragon on a slave city. This time Graves is doing four episodes. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will also take on another episode this season. Absent this round: The director of the Red Wedding episode, the always in-demand David Nutter (I’ll be surprised if Thursday’s Emmy nominations do not include his name).

Once again, Benioff and Weiss will write most of the episodes, with A Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin contributing one episode and co-producer Bryan Cogman doing two episodes this year.

Here’s the lineup:
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Comic-Con 2013: 'Doctor Who' executive producer Steven Moffat talks about the 'terrifying' search for a new Time Lord

Last month, the BBC announced that Doctor Who star Matt Smith had decided to leave the 50-year-old British science fiction show after this year’s special Christmas episode. So how goes the search for the next Doctor? “Well, it’s always just terrifying,” says Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat, who recruited Smith to replace his predecessor, David Tennant, back in late 2008. “If you’re a Doctor Who fan, as I have been all my life, you’ve been doing fantasy casting for this part for as long as you can remember. But when you’re suddenly faced with the reality that you are going to sit there and you are going to make that decision it does feel absolutely chilling. There’s a very big range of people who could play it and different ways you could go with it. We must get this right. One false move and the show’s over.”

Below, Moffat — who will be appearing at the Comic-Con Doctor Who 50th anniversary panel along with Smith and other Who notables  — talks more about the search for a new Doctor, Smith’s decision to leave the show, and why he’s got a bone to pick with Ryan Gosling. READ FULL STORY

Game of 'Suits': Michelle Fairley promo is 'Thrones' homage -- EXCLUSIVE

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With two Game of Thrones actors coming to Suits this summer, USA is rolling out an ad campaign that pays homage to the HBO fantasy hit.

Below is an exclusive look at season 3 guest stars Michelle Fairley and Conleth Hill on the legal drama in a new ad titled “Game of Suits.” Below that, there’s a new print ad that has Suits star Gabriel Macht in the same blue light of Thrones’ recent ad campaign, along with the familiar quote, “I understand the way this game is played.”

Fairley (Catelyn Stark on the HBO series) plays Ava Hessington, a British entrepreneur who runs a successful international oil company and is faced with a lawsuit that may cost her the family business. Hill (Varys on Thrones) makes a return appearance in his guest star role as British firm head Edward Darby.

Here’s the ad and then the art. The promo includes a line of dialogue in the show itself that riffs on a common Lannister expression. Suits returns Tuesday, July 16.
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'Game of Thrones' casts major season 4 role: Oberyn the Red Viper -- EXCLUSIVE

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The most anticipated new role coming to the fourth season of Game of Thrones has been filled.

Prince Oberyn Martell will be played by Chilean actor Pedro Pascal, who has previously had arcs on CBS’ The Good Wife, ABC’s Red Widow and USA’s Graceland.

For those who haven’t read the books, here’s a spoiler-free description of the character: Oberyn is a brash, charming, cunning prince of Dorne (part of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros). His sister Elia was brutally murdered by the Lannister knight Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane when Mad King Aerys was overthrown by Robert Baratheon and the Lannisters. In season four, Oberyn comes to King’s Landing with revenge on his mind.

Also: Nearly every Thrones character has a nickname and Oberyn has one of the coolest: The Red Viper. READ FULL STORY

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’

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