HBO exec talks Game of Thrones prequels, George R.R. Martin, and season 8 maybe airing in 2019

Not long ago, HBO announced that it’s developing multiple Game of Thrones prequel series. According to A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin, there are five potential prequels in all, and he’s involved with all of them. Today, Entertainment Weekly posted an illuminating interview with HBO programming president Casey Bloys, who shed light on HBO’s plans for the prequels and for the remainder of Game of Thrones.

First up, Bloys wants people to know that while there are indeed prequels in development, fans shouldn’t expect too many too soon. “[T]his is a really embryonic process,” he said. “I haven’t even seen outlines.”

In the press at large, everybody said, ‘there are four spinoffs’ and they assume that means each one is happening and we’re going to have a new Game of Thrones show per quarter. That’s not what’s going on. The idea is not to do four shows. The bar set by [Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] is so high that my hope is to get one show that lives up to it. Also, this is a long-term plan. Our No. 1 goal is the seventh season this summer and getting the eighth season written and aired.

While this may disappoint some fans, it’s not that big of a shock. Yes, the network is looking into five potential prequel shows (I’m going with Martin’s number here, not Bloys’), but I never expected we would actually get five different shows. It’s more likely that the writers assigned to developing each of the ideas will turn in scripts, and HBO will actually make the one it thinks has the most potential. “I want to make sure that [any prequel] feels worthy,” Bloys said. “We have some amazing writers who want to take a shot at this. They’re also looking at different times in the universe and all will have different feels. This increases our odds of finding one that’s unique.”


 

As for Martin’s involvement, Bloys said it varies from prequel to prequel. “The writers each have to decide how they operate with George. Some like to collaborate, some look at the source material and do their own thing. There’s no one way, but in all cases, George will be reading the scripts and weighing in.”

For the sake of reference, here are the four writers we know HBO has hired to develop these series:

  • Max Borenstein (GodzillaKong: Skull Island)
  • Jane Goldman (Kingsman: The Golden CircleX-Men: First Class)
  • Brian Helgeland (L.A. ConfidentialMystic River)
  • Carly Wray (Mad Men, The Bastard Executioner)

Again, according to Martin, there’s a fifth series in development, but we don’t know who’s writing that.

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

Another note: Don’t expect any prequel series to air right after season 8 is over. “We want to focus on season 7 and 8 [of Game of Thrones]” Bloys said. “If any of these scripts come to pass, you’re not going to see anything air anytime close to the season 8 finale.” That makes sense, too. It’s no easy feat to put together a worthy successor to Game of Thrones, and Bloys is adamant that the first order of business is to give that show a proper sendoff.

One final note on the prequels: Benioff and Weiss, who have been with Game of Thrones since the beginning, won’t be involved in them at all. “By the time the final season airs, Dan and David will have been at this for 12 years,” Bloys said. “Which is an amazing fact. They didn’t go and do movies in between seasons, they didn’t set anything else up, they put everything — and are putting everything — into [Game of Thrones]. They came into HBO with an idea for a show with a beginning, middle, and end, and they want to see it through.

In conversations with them, they feel if their name is on the prequels — even in a passive way — it conveys some sort of expectation or responsibility. They want to enjoy the show as fans and don’t want to worry about the scripts or production issues. We were hoping to have their names on it out of respect for them, but we understand why they don’t want that.

Bloys agrees that Benioff and Weiss will spend approximately the next “year and a half” working on the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, which will consist of six episodes. Somewhat alarmingly, EW asked Bloys if season 8 could potentially air in 2019, and he doesn’t say no. “They have to write the episodes and figure out the production schedule. We’ll have a better sense of that once they get further into the writing.”

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

Now, that could mean that season 8 might debut in 2019 or could just have a couple of episodes cross over into 2019. Either way, that would a longer wait than we’re used to.

If we didn’t get any Game of Thrones in 2018, it would be the first time the show had a gap year. With fewer episodes in season 8, you might ask why HBO couldn’t finish it quicker. Bloys says he expects seasons 7 and 8 to be especially cinematic, which takes more time.

[O]ne of the hallmarks of the show has been how cinematic is it. The show has proven that TV is every bit as impressive and in many cases moreso, than film. What they’re doing is monumental. When you see these battles in season 7, and what I imagine season 8 will be, it’s a big, big show. We’ve done a lot of great shows, but this one combines the complex characters we love with a huge cinematic scope. I think this is the first show to prove that can be done — and we’re the first people to pay for it.

Or season 8 could debut in 2018 like normal. More as it breaks.

As for what’s coming in season 7, Bloys kept it simple. “I don’t want to oversell, but I can’t imagine anybody being disappointed in this season. It’s amazing.”

Game of Thrones season 7 debuts on July 16.

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