After eight seasons, 73 episodes and multiple deaths, our national Game of Thrones watch has ended. But the franchise isn’t going away anytime soon. A prequel series is already in production, under the direction of S.J. Clarkson, who previously had been attached to helm a fourth Star Trek film that seems increasingly unlikely to move forward. With showrunner Jane Goldman steering the prequel series, that means that the primary creative voices behind the new show will be female — a notable, and exciting, change from the two-man team of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who have left Westeros behind for the Star Wars franchise. Here’s what we know about the still-untitled prequel show so far.
Long, long ago in a Westeros far, far away
The future of Westeros after Game of Thrones remains to be written, though we’re rooting for a Drogon and Arya team-up series where they explore what lies west of Westeros. This prequel travels back to the distant past, to the waning days of the Age of Heroes, an epoch set several millennia before the events we’ve been following. Martin himself has said that the time span between the shows is 5,000 to 10,000 years. Per an official HBO statement, the series will depict how the world descends from those great heights “into its darkest hour.” Hastening that descent will be the White Walkers–and their mysterious leader, the Night King, whose origins were kept vague up until the very end of Game of Thrones — as well as the distant ancestors of the Stark family we know and love. We can’t help but get Phantom Menace vibes from the premise of watching an orderly society fall into chaos. (Let’s avoid any midichlorians this time.)
The closest person Game of Thrones had to a major movie star when it launched in 2011 was Lord of the Rings star Sean Bean, although Peter Dinklage had a fan following from his film and theater work. HBO’s first big hire for the prequel series was Oscar-nominated A-lister Naomi Watts, who will reportedly play an upper-crust citizen with a secret to protect. (Could that secret be that she’s a Sith Lord with tyrannical ambitions?) Watts is matched in the prestige department by recent hire, Miranda Richardson, best known to younger moviegoers as Rita Skeeter from the Harry Potter franchise. But the British actress’s extensive filmography also includes Oscar-nominated roles in Damage and Tom & Viv, as well as scene-stealing performances in The Crying Game and Sleepy Hollow.
From the galaxy’s edge to Westeros
Last Star Wars reference, we swear! Among the eight actors who just joined the prequel series is Naomi Ackie, who has a top-secret role in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker due in theaters Dec. 20. Well, formerly top secret. At the 2019 Star Wars Celebration in April, Ackie all but confirmed that she’s playing Lando Calrissian’s daughter. So far, the identity of her GoT character successfully remains under wraps. And while Ackie is the only Star Wars veteran in the cast, some of the other new actors hail from such franchises as The Chronicles of Narnia (Georgie Henley), The Twilight Saga (Jamie Campbell Bower) and Fantastic Beasts (Toby Regbo).
Things are going to look a little different
A city like King’s Landing isn’t built in a day, a year … or 5,000 years. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Martin revealed that many familiar landmarks will be missing from the prequel series. “There’s no King’s Landing. There’s no Iron Throne,” he said. “Valyria has hardly begun to rise yet with its dragons and the great empire that it built. We’re dealing with a different and older world, and hopefully that will be part of the fun of the series.”
But the filming locations will be familiar
Just as the Lord of the Rings franchise is still generating revenue for New Zealand, Game of Thrones has become a vital part of the Irish economy. In fact, even though the mothership series has ended its run, several sets were left standing so that tourists can make their pilgrimage to Westeros’s adopted home. HBO will stay local for the prequel series as well, with location filming reportedly underway in Northern Ireland, and new sets being built in Belfast. But cameras will also be dispatched to the Canary Islands, which Vanity Fair suggests may provide the bucolic setting for the Summer Isles, which claims as native-born citizens such fan-favorite characters as Grey Worm.
Back to the Vale?
Specifically, the prequel has been spotted shooting on location in picturesque Glenariff, which served as the setting of the peaceful Vale of Arryn in Game of Thrones. That’s where Sansa spent some time with the young, milk-suckling “Sweetrobin,” Lord Robin Arryn. Robin’s return in the series finale was much remarked upon, and we may get a hint of where his adult good looks come from in the prequel series provided if, as we suspect, we get to spend some quality time with his great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents.
It takes a village
Another Northern Ireland location of interest is County Antrim, where construction on a village set was spotted in late April. That region of the country was also used for such present day Westerosi locations as Castle Black and Hardhome (which were built on the Magheramorne Quarry) and Shane’s Castle, where scenes set in Winterfell’s crypts have been filmed.
The title is still coming
As the creator of Westeros, Martin knows virtually everything about his fictional universe. But some things remain a secret even to him. For example, last fall, the author claimed that the prequel series would be titled The Long Night, which is how Westerosi history refers to the ignoble end of the Age of Heroes. But then HBO swooped in to fact-check him. “HBO has informed me that the Jane Goldman pilot is not (yet) titled The Long Night,” Martin wrote on his blog. “That’s certainly the title I prefer, but for the moment the pilot is still officially UNTITLED.” Because the show needs to be called something during production, early reports suggest that the series is shooting under the working title, Bloodmoon, which definitely makes it sound dark and full of terrors.
The forthcoming Game of Thrones prequel is expected to arrive sometime in 2020 or early 2021.
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