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Everything we know about the Game of Thrones spinoff series

It’s not Game of Thrones season 9, but we’ll take it

Game of Thrones HBO
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

Game of Thrones is over. Jon Snow, Daenerys, Tyrion, Sansa, Arya, Bran — their stories are complete. The series finale gave us death, mourning, political decision-making, [SPOILERS], cause for speculation, and even a little closure. But it’s done. No Game of Thrones season 9. So long, show we can’t believe really existed.

Ha. Just kidding: Game of Thrones is over, but the Game of Thrones universe prevails. Announced in May 2017, a Thrones prequel series is currently in the works, ready to captivate our Sunday night attention after the book closes on the flagship series (but not on George R.R. Martin’s actual books, which are not close to closing whatsoever). But what is the new Game of Thrones show actually about? When are we getting it?

Here’s everything we know about the currently untitled Thrones prequel.

Five writers took a stab at developing the Game of Thrones prequel story

After HBO announced plans for a Game of Thrones prequel, the network revealed that five writers were developing scripts: Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island), Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class), Brian Helgeland (A Knight’s Tale), Carly Wray (Mad Men), and Thrones writer Bryan Cogman.

Currently, HBO is only moving forward with one concept for a first-season commitment.

Jane Goldman (Kingsmen) will write the series

Goldman, who also adapted Neil Gaiman’s Stardust a few years back, hasn’t said much about her vision for the series, but has hinted vaguely about humor and gore. We’ll take it!

Thrones creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are not involved

Reactions to Game of Thrones season 8 have been mixed, so this may come as more of a welcome turn of events in the end, but the creative team behind the original Thrones won’t return for the spinoff. (In fact, they’ll be off writing a series of Star Wars films.)

“We have kept them up to date on our plans and they will be attached, along with George R.R. Martin, as executive producers on all projects,” an HBO rep said at the time of the first announcement.


The new series will have a comparable budget to the most recent Thrones seasons

Anyone worried about the franchise scaling down after the mega-sized season 8 should breathe easy. HBO knows what fans want out of the spinoff, and is prepared to deliver.

“$50 million (per season) would never fly for what we are trying to do,” Francesca Orsi, HBO’s senior vice president of drama, said at an INTV conference in Israel last March. “We are going big.”

The new Thrones show takes place way before the original

HBO’s declaration of the prequel show’s existence made it extremely clear that it wasn’t going to depict Robert’s Rebellion or anything within the fans’ scope. The untitled prequel would go waaaaay back.

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.

On his blog, George R.R. Martin often refers to the series as The Long Night (despite HBO apparently asking him not to). The temporary title refers to an event 8,000 years before the War of Conquest and the Targaryen rise to power, when the White Walkers first descended upon Westeros, prompting humanity to fight for their lives, then erect the Wall.

Naomi Watts headlines the cast

The Twin Peaks and King Kong actress is the major Hollywood coup for the prequel’s ensemble. According to HBO, Watts will play “a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.”

The rest of the cast is full of up-and-coming young people

Other announced actors include Josh Whitehouse (Poldark), Naomi Ackie (Lady Macbeth, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), Denise Gough (Monday), Jamie Campbell Bower (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), Sheila Atim (Harlots), Ivanno Jeremiah (Humans), Georgie Henley (The Chronicles of Narnia films), Alex Sharp (How to Talk to Girls at Parties), and Toby Regbo (The Last Kingdom, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald).

There are other familiar faces, too

Harry Potter fans will be excited to see Rita Skeeter herself, Miranda Richardson, as part of the lineup. Recent additions include Marquis Rodriguez (Manifest), John Simm (Strangers), Richard McCabe (Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams), John Heffernan (Dracula), and Dixie Egerickx (Summerland).

In a notable break from the usual Thrones suspects, a female director will helm the pilot

Thrones faced criticism over the years for having a behind-the-scenes crew that was mostly male. The new series immediately confronts the homogeny. S.J. Clarkson (The Defenders, Jessica Jones, HBO’s Succession, and the upcoming Star Trek installment) will direct the pilot episode.

George R.R. Martin - Game of Thrones season 5 premiere Photo: Steve Jennings/WireImage/Getty Images

George R.R. Martin isn’t very involved with writing the prequel material

One would think that with vast amounts of Westerosi notes at his disposal, the author of the Song of Ice and Fire series would be instrumental in carving out the backstory to his world. Not so much!

“If you look at the published books so far, there’s really very little material about that — a sentence here, a sentence there,” Martin told the New York Times last November. “Old Nan tells a tale that takes up a paragraph. So Jane had to create the characters, the settings and some of the events, and we had to look at everything that was said and say, ‘O.K., here’s what was said at this point, we need to make it consistent to that.’ We kicked around some ideas and I made some suggestions. But mostly it’s been Jane running with it. It’s set thousands of years before Game of Thrones. King’s Landing does not exist. The Iron Throne does not exist. There are no dragons there.”

When will the Game of Thrones prequel actually debut on HBO?

According to The Sun, a U.K. tabloid with a spottier-than-we’d-all-like-but-still-somewhat-informed record, this prequel pilot began filming in Belfast, Northern Ireland — which previously housed the Winterfell set — at the top of the month under the title Bloodmoon. Considering that the original Game of Thrones pilot was completely reshot after mountains of notes from HBO, it’s not safe to assume the series will hit in 2020. The in-motion Thrones series needed an entire down year to mount season 8, so we’d put our money on a 2021 release.

There are more “successor” series in the works

Though HBO says it’s only moving forward with Goldman’s pitch, Martin has insisted — as recently as the first week of May 2019 — that other Thrones spinoffs are inching forward. In a highly competitive streaming age, and with room on HBO’s streaming platform HBO Now, could additional Thrones-adjacent series come to life?

“We started with four, and eventually went to five,” Martin wrote on his blog. “One of those has been shelved, I am given to understand, and of course Jane’s pilot is now moving to film. But that does not mean the others are dead. Three more Game of Thrones prequels, set in different periods and featuring different characters and storylines, remain in active development. Everything I am told indicates that we could film at least one more pilot, and maybe more than one, in the years to come. We do have an entire world and tens of thousands of years of history to play with, after all. But this is television, so nothing is certain.”

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