Winter is coming...again
A Game of Thrones prequel series has finally been confirmed by HBO – here’s everything we know so far about its title, release date, cast, plot and rumours. Oh, and rumours about other prequels….
- Separate series on the Targaryen house’s civil war reportedly close to being green-lit by HBO
- John Simm confirms he’s been cast in the tentatively titled The Long Night prequel
- HBO’s Casey Bloys confirms the new prequel pilot has finished filming – and the new series will reference the original Game of Thrones television show
- Shooting on the new series has begun with seemingly pivotal scenes in Italy
- George R. R. Martin has revealed new details about what characters we can expect to see in the prequel, together with an update about what Westeros looks like
- George R. R. Martin hints about a new title for the show and gives an update about what Westeros will look like
- S.J. Clarkson will direct the show’s upcoming pilot episode
- The full core cast has been confirmed
- There could be up to five prequels eventually, all taking place thousands of years before the events in Game of Thrones
- One of these, believed to be called The Long Night, is now casting and will be the first prequel
- Naomi Watts and Josh Whitehouse have been cast in the first prequel
What is it all about?
The first prequel will be set thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones. According to a HBO press release, the series “chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. From the horrifying secrets of Westeros’s history to the true origin of the White Walkers, the mysteries of the East to the Starks of legend, only one thing is for sure: it’s not the story we think we know.”
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has said it won’t feature any of the characters from the current series but will instead focus on their ancestors. He’s also confirmed that the project won’t be a spin-off, but a prequel.
He’s also said that it will be set in an entire new land. In November 2018, Martin told Entertainment Weekly that Westeros will be “a very different place”.
“There’s no King’s Landing. There’s no Iron Throne. There are no Targaryens, Valyria has hardly begun to rise yet with its dragons and the great empire that it built,” he said.
“We’re dealing with a different and older world and hopefully that will be part of the fun of the series.
“[Prequel showrunner Jane Goldman] is a tremendous talent. She flew into Santa Fe and we spent a week talking about her ideas. She’s going into territory that I haven’t explored very much in the books. I’ve hinted about them. But she’s a major writer, I love her work.”
In a September 2018 blog post, Martin confirmed there will be ‘five different Game of Thrones successor shows in development”, adding that he doesn’t like the term “spinoffs.”
He also gave an update about when they are being filmed. He wrote: “At HBO, and three of them are still moving forward nicely. The one I am not supposed to call The Long Night will be shooting later this year, and two other shows remain in the script stage, but are edging closer.”
One of those “other two shows” in the script stage is presumably the prequel about the Targaryen family, set roughly 200 years before Game of Thrones. As Entertainment Weekly reported in September 2019, HBO is close to green-lighting the prequel separate to The Long Night.
EW wrote that “the series would lead up to and eventually chronicle the house’s civil war — a.k.a the legendary Dance of the Dragons.”
‘The Dance of Dragons’ is the war between Rhaenyra and Aegon Targaryen for control over the Seven Kingdoms.
The series’ plot will reportedly draw from Fire and Blood, George R.R. Martin’s book published in November 2018 about the history of the Targaryen house. Ryan Condal is writing the pilot episode while Martin is an executive producer.
In a post to his blog on September 16 2019, Martin did not confirm that Condal’s pilot is based on Fire and Blood but he did confirm that it’s a prequel “set thousands of years after” The Long Night. “Yes, it is based on material from one of my books,” he added. He also promised “there will be dragons.”
Additionally, he said this second as-yet-unconfirmed second prequel does not have an “obvious” title, which is a hint that it won’t be called Fire and Blood if it is indeed based on that book.
Elsewhere in his blog post: Martin wrote about his early interactions with Condal:
“It has a script and a bible, and both of them are terrific, first rate, exciting. They’re the work of Ryan Condal. I first met Ryan when he came to New Mexico a couple of years ago to shoot a pilot for a fantasy western called The Sixth Gun, based on the comic book. That show did not go, though I had the pleasure of screening the pilot at my theatre, the Jean Cocteau.
“Later we also did a premiere for Colony, the aliens-in-LA series that Ryan created and ran. He’s a helluva strong writer, and a huge fan of A Song of Ice & Fire, Dunk & Egg, and Westeros in general. I’ve loved working with him, and if the Seven Gods and HBO are kind, I hope to keep on working with him for years to come on this new successor show,” he wrote.
At the time of writing (September 18 2019) HBO has not confirmed an order for the series.
Does it have a title?
Kind of, yes. Martin gave an update about it on his blog on October 30 2018, revealing that “casting was underway for The Long Night, the first of the Game of Thrones successor series…ordered to film.”
However, a few days later on November 4, Martin then said that the prequel was as yet untitled. He wrote: “HBO has informed me that the Jane Goldman pilot is not (yet) titled The Long Night. That’s certainly the title I prefer, but for the moment the pilot is officially untitled.” It’s a title that has already been referenced in Game of Thrones elsewhere…
According to The Sun (May 2019) shooting had got underway in Belfast under the working title ‘Bloodmoon’.
A source said: “Thrones fans will be delighted to hear things have started with the prequel.
“Those working on the set in Belfast are referring to the series as Bloodmoon. Producers have put together a stellar cast and it will be must-watch telly for anyone who loves Game Of Thrones.”
Martin gave another update about this via EW in July 2019. While The Long Night is still his preferred title, he added: “I heard a suggestion that it could be called The Longest Night, which is a variant I wouldn’t mind. That would be pretty good.”
Has it started filming?
Yes! And it’s been taking place in locations that will be very familiar to Game of Thrones fans. These include Tollymore Forest, which features as the lands around Winterfell, and Castle Ward, which originally appeared as Winterfell.
Other returning locations include Inch Abbey, which originally appeared as Robb Stark’s Camp, Riverrun in Season 1.
In Belfast, meanwhile, The Dark Hedges featured in a major scene with Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) in Season 2.
The prequel has also had some filming in Italy, where fans spotted a number of boats with what appears to be House Stark banners flying from the top of them. Check it out below.
In short, it all feels very familiar.
HBO exec Casey Bloys revealed earlier in 2019 that the pilot would be filmed in June. “I have to get a sense from production when we see scripts for a season, how big and involved it is. Shooting a pilot in June and having it on the air a year later feels a little rushed, but it’s too soon to tell.”
“The casting was completed a couple of weeks ago.” Bloys continued. “They are busy in Belfast prepping and getting ready to start shooting in a couple of weeks.” According to Comicbook.com, filming on the series proper was rumoured to start in late July 2019.
A leak came out in July 2019 of a filming location at Grotta del Turco, Gaeta in Italy, showing Naomi Watts’ costume: a dazzling golden outfit.
HBO’s Casey Bloys confirmed at a press conference that the pilot for the new prequel has wrapped production. He’s also revealed that the pilot will reference the original series.
Speaking to Deadline in July 2019, Bloys stated there would be “some references” to events and characters from Game Of Thrones, although these wouldn’t be “direct references”, he says.
Speaking to JOE, George R. R. Martin revealed that the pilot for the prequel is in post-production and that he hopes to see a cut of the pilot by September 2019. Martin said: “I just saw [Jane Goldman] in London, she’s deep in the throes of post-production. I hope to see a cut of [the pilot] probably by early September.”
Who has written this and who else is involved in production?
Jane Goldman and Martin are the creators of the new series and it’s based on a story the pair wrote together. Goldman has scripted the pilot and according to Martin (writing on his blog in September 2019) “will be running the show.” Martin also said: “she and her team are busy in London right now, neck deep in casting, and I expect some more names will be announced soon.”
Goldman has adapted books for television previously, having worked on Stardust, The Limehouse Golem, Kick-Ass and The Woman in Black. She has also worked as an executive producer on several films including both of the Kingsman films and Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
Both Goldman and Martin will executive produce the prequel alongside James Farrell, Jim Danger Gray, Vince Gerardis and Daniel Zelman.
On January 8 2019 it was confirmed that British director S.J. Clarkson will direct the pilot. She’s previously worked on the likes of Collateral, Orange Is the New Black, Dexter and Bates Motel. She’ll also be directing the next Star Trek film.
What can we expect from the pilot?
Details are scarce as yet but Martin has revealed on his blog in September 17 that “the pilot is coming along well, with casting falling into place…”
Entertainment Weekly reported in February 209 that the pilot would begin shooting in the summer. While no plot details have officially been released, the fact it’s not being shot in the depths of winter could point to a happier, more relaxed beginning.
When is it on our screens?
No official date has been released as yet, but it’s likely to be 2020 at the earliest. Casey Bloys, HBO’s programming president told Hollywood Deadline in January 2019 that he wants “the final season of Game of Thrones to be the final season of Game of Thrones.” He added: “I don’t want to use it to launch something else, I want it to stand out as the finale of the greatest TV show of all time, I don’t want to do anything that infringes on that.”
What about the cast members?
As revealed by Variety in 2018, the first big cast announcement came on October 30, with HBO confirming that Naomi Watts had been cast in the prequel. Details about her role are scarce, but we do know that she will be playing “a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.” Speaking about the casting, Martin said “I could not be more excited. Welcome to Westeros, Naomi.”
Fans are speculating that Watts could be playing Nissa Nissa, the wife of an ancient hero called Azor Ahai, the Lord of Light and central figure to the R’hllor faith. According to legend, he forged a magical sword called ‘Lightbringer’ which he later used to defeat the White Walkers. Other speculation is that – since her description draws similarities to Ceresi Lannister – her character may well be a Lannister ancestor.
Speaking to Entertainment Tonight in November 2018, Watts admitted that she hadn’t watched any episodes of Game of Thrones before her casting but that she’s now already “beyond a fan.” She told them: “I am late coming to it, I have to say…but that’s how I am with lots of things in life. I am binging it right now and studying. It’s very exciting.”
Another cast member confirmed for the prequel, as reported in Deadline, is Poldark actor Josh Whitehouse. No details are available yet about his part although it is rumoured to be a major role. Looking into Game of Thrones history may give us some clues about his character based on the time the prequel is set.
He could play the heroic Bran the Builder – a Stark ancestor, or Lann the Clever – the founder of the Lannister House. The Grey King who founded the Iron islands may be another possibility. At the time the story is set, the Tyrells, Baratheons and the Greyjoys weren’t around and the Targaryeans were still in Essos. There are rumours the action could be set in Essos, based on the information from a diverse casting call that HBO released in October 2018.
We’ve also had confirmation of Miranda Richardson, known to other franchise fans as meddling Harry Potter journalist Rita Skeeter. She’ll join in an as-yet-unspecified role.
On January 8 2019, HBO announced the remaining members of the core cast for the Game of Thrones prequel. Naomi Ackie, Denise Gough, Jamie Campbell Bower, Shella Atim, Ivanno Jeremiah, Georgie Henley, Alex Sharp and Toby Regbo are all members of the diverse cast – you can see pictures of the cast and find more information here.
As Watchers on the Wall reported in September 2019, a HBO casting call could have been for the prequel. Reported to be for “a confidential untitled project” in which filming was set for February 2019, it tied in with rumours about when the prequel project would begin filming. Another casting call was released on Twitter earlier in 2019.
Fans think they’ve discovered a clue about a potential Game of Thrones character who could return in the prequel, thanks to a plot synopsis which reads: “Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: from the horrifying secrets of Westeros’s history to the true origin of the White Walkers, the mysteries of the East, to the Starks of legend … it’s not the story we think we know.”
Fans think the ‘golden Age of Heroes’ might hint to something mentioned by Melisandre when she was fire-starting with Stannis in season two. The “Prince who was Promised” is thought to be a reincarnation of Azor Ahai, a legendary warrior who Melisandre mentions alongside the Prince and existed in this golden age. Theories and rumours are not circulating that Melisandre could make a re-appearnce in the prequel.
Melisandre actress Carice van Houten gave another update in July 2019 about the possibility of Melisandre returning for the prequel. Speaking to Deadline, she said: “Who knows. I guess you could see a very young Melisandre or something like that,” she said, suggesting she may not be the one playing her. “That could be fun. But not in the shape of me. No one has contacted me about it.
What about the plot?
We know very little beyond HBO’s general description of the show. They said that the programme will tell of “the world’s descent from the Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: from the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history to the true origin of the white walkers, the mysteries of the East to the Starks of legend…it’s not the story we think we know.”
The Age of Heroes takes place 10,000 years before the events we see in Game of Thrones. We can get some hints about what the time might be like from the companion book to The World of Ice and Fire: “The Age of Heroes lasted for thousands of years, in which kingdoms rose and fell, noble houses were founded and withered away, and great deeds were accomplished. Yet what we truly know of those ancient days is hardly more than what we know of the Dawn Age. The tales we have now are the work of septons and maesters writing thousands of years after the fact.”
Fans have picked up on the fact that in the episode ‘Lord Snow’, Old Nan tells Bran a story when he is recovering from his fall. That story is known as ‘The Long Night’ which ties in with the likely title of the first prequel; this also takes place mid-way through the Age of Heroes.
In that episode, Old Nan tells Bran: “Thousands of years ago, there came a night that lasted a generation. Kings froze to death in their castles, same as the shepherds in their huts; and women smothered their babies rather than let them starve, and wept, and felt the tears freeze on their cheeks. In that darkness the White Walkers came for the first time. They swept through cities and kingdoms, riding their dead horses, hunting with their packs of pale spiders big as hands.”
On his blog, Martin has ruled out fan theories that the prequels focus on the characters of Ser Duncan the Tall, Aegon the Unlikely (also know as Dunk and Egg). He’s also ruled out Robert’s Rebellion as the subject of any prequels.
Where will it be set?
In October 2018 fans speculated HBO may have revealed the setting for the series in a new casting call. The descriptions call for a diverse mix of characters leading many to speculate that the prequel would be set in the fictional location of Essos, a land mass found to the east of Westeros.
Martin gave another update about this to EW in July 2019, revealing that Westeros will be divided into about a hundred different places. “We talk about the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros; there were Seven Kingdoms at the time of Aegon’s Conques. But if you go back further then there are nine kingdoms, and 12 kingdoms, and eventually you get back to where there are a hundred kingdoms — petty kingdoms — and that’s the era we’re talking about here.”
How many prequels will there be?
As reported first by Entertainment Weekly in September 2018, five prequels were originally in development with writers being hired for each separate project.
Martin has hinted that there are at least two more prequels in “active development” alongside the provisionally titled The Long Night. In a blog post on October 30 2018, he wrote: “There are still a couple of other possible prequels in active development. I can’t tell you the subject matter of these projects.” However, he hinted that his next book, Fire & Blood may give us some clues as to what we can expect in the future.
However, Casey Bloys – HBO President of Programming – has said that for now they’ll be working on just one series for the foreseeable. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in July 2018, he said of Goldman’s The Long Night: “That was the one we’re excited about…the other four aren’t happening at the moment.”
As reported by Harpers Bazaar in September 2019, the other four screenwriters believed to be working on prequel projects for HBO include Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island), Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Legend), Carly Wray (The Leftovers, Mad Men), Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones). Martin is rumoured to be co-writing with Wray and Cogman already.
In a November 2018 interview with The Guardian, Martin also confirmed details about the number of prequels as well as the fact he was working on “a couple more” shows for HBO.