Time for my third and final Comic-Con live blog of the day from Hall H, with what may be the biggest “Game of Thrones” panel to date. Scheduled to appear: showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and stars (some current, some former) Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Michelle Fairley, Richard Madden, Kit Harington, Rose Leslie and John Bradley (Sam). And as a change of pace, George R.R. Martin won’t be serving as moderator, with Elvis Mitchell leading the discussion, potentially in some very different directions from previous con appearances. Assuming the wifi holds up (which it has for live-blogs of “Veronica Mars” and “The Walking Dead”), I’ll be posting updates pretty frequently, so keep reloading until I say we’re all done.
2:53 p.m.: “The Walking Dead” panel started 10 minutes early. This one’s gonna be at least 5 minutes late, if not more. Comic-Con is unpredictable.
2:55 p.m.: And we’re off! Crowd laughs as we start with an In Memoriam video (set to Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday”) of most of the characters who’ve been killed in the first three seasons. (Very informative for a non-book reader like me who doesn’t know how to spell all these names). Crowd awws at Ros, laughs when Beric is listed with “for the 6th time.” There’s a long count of Stannis’ sailors from Blackwater, and a huge cheer when Viserys gets the golden crown. Big cheers for the Starks (all of whom are shown in life, not in death), as the reel concludes with the line “The North Remembers.”
3:02 p.m.: Benioff and Weiss come out to introduce the cast. Dinklage gets a predictably huge response. Michelle Fairley looks lovely (and alive). Crowd doesn’t recognize Bradley’s name, but they’re very happy to see his face. The woman sitting next to me says, “He’s so pretty!” when Harington emerges. Rose Leslie is much more cleaned up than when she’s north of the wall. Madden also looks hale and hearty and alive, sporting a David Bowie t-shirt. His cheers goes on longer than anyone else so far. George R.R. Martin wasn’t listed on the schedule, but he joins the panel right after Emilia Clarke, apparently substituting for Coster-Waldau.
3:03 p.m.: Elvis Mitchell opens with, “George, you heartless bastard!” Asks if it’s true that he lies to his wife about whether her favorite characters will die. “I have many characters, so killing a few – there’s always more. There’s job opportunities for actors and actresses. And I should say in my defense that David and Dan have turned everything up to 11. They’ve killed many characters who are still alive in the books. I’ll only take some of the bloodthirsty blame in the books.”
3:04 p.m.: Speaking of which, Mitchell wondered if changing Robb’s wife from the books meant he was going to survive the Red Wedding. Weiss says, “No, we always knew they were all going to die.” Benioff calls that day a rough one on set. He hugged Fairley and Madden, saying, “It’s the last time we’re going to work with them.” Even the tough Irish crew in Belfast was crying on set. “It’s such a testament to Michelle and Richard and Oona (Chaplin)” that everyone who knew these deaths were coming were still crying on set. Madden admits he cried on set and on the flight home.
3:07 p.m.: Did Fairley read ahead in the books? She says she only read each book for each season. But she adds, “I knew how many years I signed for, so I knew what was coming.” She loves the books, but treats the scripts as “the bible.” Do Benioff and Weiss encourage the cast to read the books? Benioff says whatever the actors want to do, and says there can be a danger of actors playing what their character will be up to several seasons from now. Dinklage says “in four or five years, when this is all over, I’m going to go back and read all the books.” He doesn’t want to know what’s coming, so he stays away from reading into the future. The producers joke that Tyrion becomes a dragon in a later book; Dinklage says he can already breathe fire.
3:09 p.m.: Mitchell brings up Ygritte shooting arrows into Jon Snow in the season 3 finale. Harington says as soon as he read the scene, he ran to Leslie to talk about how beautifully-written it was. He hates kissing up to Benioff and Weiss, “but they’re very good at writing dialogue.” He had a lot of fun filming the scene. “Some of the most brutal scenes are the funnest to film.” Leslie says she was wrapped up in Ygritte’s devastation at Jon leaving her. Ygritte was convinced Jon would be part of the wildling tribe, and can’t entirely believe that he remained loyal to Westeros. “It’s horrible that there’s that realization, and it hits here there and then. And he’s not going to get away with this. I am going to hunt him down and hurt him.”
3:11 p.m.: The crowd applauds a mention of Clarke’s Emmy nomination. She says she was out the night before the nominations with Leslie, never imagining that she would get one. Her alarm went off early even though she never set it, and got a message from HBO to tell her about the good news. Mitchell asks about the season’s final moment with Dany being celebrated by the freed slaves of Yunkai. She calls it “absolutely exhilarating to film.” When the extras lifted her up, she naturally broke into that grin.
3:12 p.m.: Khal Drogo in the house! Jason Momoa bursts out of the wings, plants a kiss on Clarke, shouts, “I’m not dead yet!” and runs off to huge cheers.
3:14 p.m.: Weiss talks about the challenge of writing the Red Wedding, and says he and Benioff knew that if they could get the series to that scene and pull off “the ‘throw the book across the room’ of that moment,” then they would have done something very right. He sings the praises of David Nutter for directing it. Benioff says the book readers had been waiting for that moment for so long. Four years ago, “We said if we could just get to the Red Wedding, we could die happy.” He says Fairley had to play the howl 20 times on set, and “it was insane.”
3:17 p.m.: How did Fairley decide to play that agonizing moment? “It’s like a piece of music; you have to work your way through it.” She had Madden by her side for much of the series, she had a great script, and she had Nutter directing. She remembers when there was a key change in the music, it felt like someone walking over her grave.
3:18 p.m.: Benioff praises the show’s composer Ramin Djawadi for coming up with a memorable version of “The Rains of Castamere.” Early in the development process, they discussed the idea of making the show’s theme song into “The Rains of Castamere,” but Weiss argued against it, and Benioff agrees it was the right call.
3:20 p.m.: Bradley on Sam’s newfound heroism: “I think Sam’s always been a hero. I think one branch of bravery is to stick with yourself and ward off bad vibes, but I think it’s braver sometimes to absorb punishment, and to be the underdog all the time. I think Sam had a lot of that.” Bradley says the one moment where Sam becomes the hero is a moment of complete gut instinct. “People say that Sam applied this knowledge of dragonglass killing White Walkers; he didn’t.” His sword was broken, he reached for a weapon and lucked into the right one. “Sam just needs to get out of his own brain a bit… When he’s placed under enormous pressure and given enormous responsibility, he’s a bit of a dude.”
3:22 p.m.: Harington talking about all the father figures Jon Snow has had, and suggests that in season 4, “He gets sick of it” and becomes his own man.
3:25 p.m.: More father figure talk, as Mitchell asks Dinklage about playing scenes opposite Charles Dance as Tywin, and about Tyrion’s ambivalence about fatherhood. He says he can’t imagine anyone but Dance in that role. “Every time we have one of those scenes, Charles gives me a nice little shoulder rub after each take to make sure we love each other, as fellow thespians. They’re beautifully-written scenes. I find those scenes fascinating, because he’s so frustrated with Tyrion.” Suggests that Tywin’s three children are three parts of a whole, but the wholes aren’t in the right person; ‘They each lack what the other one has.”
3:30 p.m.: Mitchell talks about how well (most of) the people who read the book did at keeping spoilers about the Red Wedding away from finding out. Benioff says the community is very good at self-policing, “but unfortunately, there are going to be some douches who want to tell you.” (As happened to me.) “It just makes us really grateful” that they keep quiet, Benioff adds. Weiss says the first season was the test case: that everyone kept quiet about Ned Stark was very reassuring to them.
3:32 p.m.: Clarke talking about the move Dany makes against the slavers of Astapor. “I just think she just builds from that, and asks advice less and listens to herself more – which is pretty wonderful to get to play, considering where she came from season 1 to this.”
3:34 p.m.: Mitchell asks Madden about how peaceful and happy Robb was in the episodes before his murder. Madden said he tried to recreate the atmosphere of the book, where you have no idea what’s going to happen to Robb until it does. “That’s what keeps it exciting, and what George did in the book.” He says actors on the show “commit to a decision, and then you get slammed by a curveball.” Robb was always committed in the moment, and present, and from his point of view, there was no way he could imagine the wedding wouldn’t work out.
3:40 p.m.: It’s finally time for audience questions, but first Weiss introduces a deleted scene between Tywin and Maester Pycelle, taking place before the first Small Council meeting in which Tywin is Hand of the King. Pycelle pleads for his position on the Small Council back, and Tywin calls him out for his usual doddering old man schtick. It’s a terrific scene.
3:43 p.m.: A fan asks if Martin would ever consider writing prequel books about the events before the series, noting that you could bring Ned Stark back without killing off Sean Bean again. “First, I have to finish ‘The Winds of Winter’ and ‘A Dream of Spring,'” Martin says. “That’s going to take me a while. I have to write quickly, because these guys are catching up to me.” He compares it to a locomotive coming as he’s still laying down the tracks. After he’s done with the final books, he might write other books set in Westeros, but doesn’t think it’d be a prequel about Robert’s rebellion. “By the time I’m finished with the last two books, I think you’ll know all about that.” But he might go back earlier to write about Dany’s ancestors. “No offense to Sean Bean,” he adds. “It’s always sad to see him die. But he does die so well.”
3:46 p.m.: A fan asks Clarke about playing a female character whose femininity makes her stronger, when genre women often are portrayed as weaker because of their feminine qualities. Clarke says playing Dany is “the most glorious experience as an actor. I couldn’t have dreamed going to drama school that I would ever get to play such a strong woman.” As a young woman herself, “It empowers me as a woman. Getting to play that is incredible.” She praises Martin and then Benioff and Weiss for the way they write the character.
3:47 p.m.: A fan mentions his joint love of Martin’s books and the Harry Potter books. He wonders if any of the actors have a relationship like Alan Rickman and J.K. Rowling, where Martin has told them what’s coming for their characters in future books. Martin says some of the actors don’t want to know, and some do want to know. Occasionally when he visits the set and someone asks him, he’ll tell them. “And of course, there is the factor that things change,” he adds. “The books are the books and the show is the show. Although the show is a faithful adaptation, it’s not identical.” So finding out what happens to your character in the books isn’t always helpful.
3:48 p.m.: And that’s it. Not a lot of time for fan questions, but a good panel overall.