Dan Weiss David Benioff Events Maisie Williams Sophie Turner

Game of Thrones creators compare the Stark sisters’ journeys, and more SXSW musings

  (Photo by Amy E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW)

From bus signage to a Westeros-themed escape roomGame of Thrones had a massive presence at this year’s South by Southwest interactive film and music festival. But the big story was a panel discussion about the show featuring showrunners David Benioff and Weiss, and stars Sophie Turner (Sansa) and Maisie Williams (Arya). WiC was there to cover it, and now we bring you even more details about the goings on behind the scenes. Because we know you want more.

(Photo by Amy E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW)

First up, Benioff and Weiss both expressed their delight at keeping the core cast together throughout the series, which can be difficult for any show that runs as long as Game of Thrones.

From the very first moment we pitched the show to HBO, we wanted to tell one 70-hour movie, that’s going to turn out to be 73 hours. It stayed relatively the same from the beginning to middle, and now we’re coming to the end. It would have been really tough if we had lost any of our core cast members along the way, so I’m happy we got to finish the way we want to.

There have been some minor re-castings along the way (e.g. Daario Naharis and the Three-Eyed Raven), but the main cast — your Kit Haringtons, your Emilia Clarkes, etc — has stayed intact.

Weiss also talked about being drawn to the female characters from the Song of Ice and Fire series when thinking of adapting it for TV. “We realized it’s an awful world where this story takes place, but there were compelling, female characters who had agency. They weren’t secondary to anybody – they had their own storylines.”

Benioff focused on a couple of those female characters, and contrasted the Stark daughters.

Arya’s a rebel, and I think people are drawn to people who rebel against whatever the societal structures are. For me though, Sansa goes on one of the most interesting journeys; She doesn’t start out as someone who is really sharp, shrewd and tough, but she becomes that person. Arya is kind of always there, which is what’s great about her, but Sansa had to get there by painful experience.

Weiss expounded:

I think Sansa’s had to face harder choices. With Arya there’s always a pretty clear path of: What’s the cool, badass thing to do? Sansa’s choices, in a way, feel more real, and resonate more with not black and white, but gray experiences.

The producers did name Maisie Williams as their favorite of the two actresses, though (jokingly).

The sheer beauty of the exotic Game of Thrones filming locations has made a unique impression upon the showrunners. Discussing filming during season 2 (where Jon and the Night’s Watch goes beyond the Wall) Weiss remarked that “a bunch of very improbable circumstances had fallen into place to put you in this very unlikely, beautiful place. It’s not pride, so much as gratefulness.”

Filming on a glacier in Iceland will leave that impression.

Regarding spoilers, Benioff admitted that it’s “virtually impossible” to stop them. And yet the show goes on.

I’m the kind of viewer or reader where I just don’t want to know about stuff… I want to be surprised by things… So I just kind of work under the assumption that a lot of people are like me and people who are desperate to find out everything beforehand will probably find a way to do it. And that just is what it is.

Finally, have a closer look at the Escape Room exhibit HBO set up elsewhere at the festival, courtesy of AdWeek. (We didn’t embed it here because it’s one of those videos that plays automatically and that’s annoying, but you can follow the link.) You can get a look at the Game of Thrones-themed room, which is modeled off Castle Black, at 1:09.


h/t Making Game of Thrones


  • Both producers said they liked “Rick and Morty” and “Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, but didn’t want to ruin R & M by writing for them. Glad to hear they are fans of two of my favorite comedies! Harmons “Community” is my revered classic, too.

  • The above photo makes them look as though they’re in an identity parade. No doubt they will be found guilty…of great television.

    I still don’t ‘get’ their vision of Sansa. They certainly never seem to take her ethics into account. But they make a point: Arya is all about action; Sansa is all about inaction. However, she has started to think ahead, which is a type of progress. Too bad she didn’t think ahead when she let that snake LF marry her to Ramsay.

  • What I got from their comments about Arya and Sansa, is that Sansa apparently didn’t go through enough in Kings Landing, so they had to have her raped. That storyline never made any sense to me, and now I know why. Because two men, who don’t really seem to know how to write women, wrote it.

  • Up to season 6, we have had the footage of approx 3350 min.s which is almost 56 hours. If D&D have mentioned that there are total 73 hours then we have 17 hours of footage left. And since there are officially 13 episodes remaining, it means we have – 79 min.s per episode.
    Even with 70 hours in total, it comes out to be 64-65 min.s per episode, which is as good as some finales.

    • You may be right that the coming episodes will be longer, but it should be noted that they were likely speaking in terms of the episode count, not literal hours as in exactly 60-minutes. In television land, an “hour” means the time slot. On network television, an “hour” of programming means only 44 minutes of actual content. The rest is filled with commercials. On HBO, the rest is filled with promos for other HBO shows. So even though the show isn’t actually 60 minutes long, they still refer to it as an “hour”.

      I think it’s likely they were simply being approximate in saying “70 hours” and “73 hours”, when really all they meant was “70/73 episodes”. You shouldn’t take it to mean any kind of promise about the remaining episode lengths.

  • Wow, they REALLY didn’t understand the source material at all, did they?

    Arya is not just “a badass”, she’s a traumatized child soldier who mentally shuts down because of all the horror she’s seen. But she also tries really hard to be kind and helpful and dutiful (Weasel, the time at Acorn Hall, etc), and she is social and friendly even in Braavos.

    Sansa isn’t stupid, she’s actually very smart, just idealistic and naive (so is Arya, for that matter). She just thinks she’s stupid, because she trusted the wrong people because her father and mother told her to. In general, her instincts about people are right, notice her first impressions about Littlefinger (that he’s false) or Sandor (relatively safe) or the Tyrells (probably using her, but they’re better than the Lannisters). She also goes through incredible trauma and constant stress, and her narrative is all about finding ways to resist that abuse and retain who she is. It’s disgusting that they felt they had to rape her to teach her a lesson, to make her better, stronger.

    Her marriage to Ramsay didn’t even make sense in the context of the show. How was marrying a usurper strenghten her claim TO HER OWN HOME? Especially since she and Littlefinger were supposedly biding time waiting for Stannis to show up? How is marrying a bastard who stole her home, whose aligned with Stannis’s enemy, going to bolster her case that Winterfell is hers by rights to Stannis when he shows up? Why would Littlefinger risk his “secret weapon” like this?

    They raped her simply because they wanted to rape her (and apparently made jokes about it on set). And that’s vile. Rape is not a stand-in for character development.

    These dudes are sexist as hell, and cannot write women.

    • Lets be real here. They stopped reading after book 3 because all the cared about was the red wedding. If they read more they would realize that there’s much more to these 2 characters.

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