They returned to Hall H, but novelist George R.R. Martin and his HBO "Game of Thrones" panel lacked the ebullience of last's year's panel in the smaller Ballroom 20. That one included eventual Emmy winner Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Jason Momoa (who made the fans go gaga).
This year's dense recap reel of Season Two did incite screams in the audience, as did a preview reel with new characters (including Diana Rigg; see the complete list of fourteen below). Martin says they were already the biggest cast on television and now they are even bigger; "I better start killing these characters," he says.
Cast members Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) and Richard Madden (Rob Stark) nabbed the warmest Hall H welcome. They were joined by Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark), Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), Rose Leslie (Ygritte) and exec producer Carolyn Strauss. The panel concluded with a pathetically brief "clip" of the "Game of Thrones" logo and a flash of the season three air date (March 31, 2013).
Throughout the panel, Martin referred several times to the thirteen-year old boy "producing partner" inside him who is responsible for all the "boobies" on the show. Martin's agents from WME, sitting nearby, assured me that he simply "has a weird sense of humor." Well, clearly that thirteen-year old boy is responsible for the boobies, sex and violence for which "Game of Thrones" is beloved. Martin explained that exec producer/writer/showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (who attended last year's panel) sent their apologies as they are busy shooting Season Three. They've decided to direct now too, since "they didn't feel they needed to sleep anymore!" says Martin.
Martin and the cast believe the show's popularity derives from real human characters with flaws. Martin said that the show is about "the human heart and conflict with the self."
Clarke said her Khaleesi often comes up against self-doubt, despite her needing to express herself as strong and without fear: "But the self doubt keeps her human and linked in to something very real and noble, not just wanting the throne for the throne's sake."
Martin thinks "Game of Thrones" is the first TV show in history to shoot in four locations simultaneously. Strauss thinks he's probably right, and confirms that it's "a phenomenally difficult show to pull off."
Strauss also recalls the show's beginnings, when "two straggly youngsters [Benioff and Weiss] came in." She says they "put a couple of really heavy books down on the conference table." They didn't exactly scream HBO, but Strauss "saw it as a genre buster, something that has the pillars and posts of genre, but takes it in an entirely new direction, like 'The Wire' did with the cop drama…So I said go write a script, and it came back exactly that."
HBO put it through a few changes but "the script stayed great," and they threw "a ton of money behind hit." And the rest is history.
EW lays out the new characters below, who also introduce themselves in a video:
Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna Tyrell. Also known as “The Queen of Thorns,” Lady Olenna is the grandmother of Margaery and Loras Tyrell and is, in many ways, the true leader of their powerful family.
Mackenzie Crook as Orell. A wildling raider, Orell is a “warg” or “skinchanger,” with the ability to enter the mind of an animal and control its actions.
Clive Russell as Bryndon “The Blackfish” Tully. Known far and wide as “The Blackfish,” Brynden is a famous knight and the uncle of Catelyn Stark. He quarreled bitterly with his brother, Lord Hoster Tully, and the two were estranged for many years.
Nathalie Emannuel as Missandei. Originally from the peaceful island of Naath, Missandei was sold into slavery as a child, along with her brother. She received education in various languages and became a translator to the slave trader Kraznys in Astapor.
Kerry Ingram as Shireen Baratheon, the only child of Stannis Baratheon. An avid reader, she escapes her lonely life through myths and stories – her books are her most treasured possessions.
Paul Kaye as Thoros of Myr. A key member of the outlaw band known as the Brotherhood Without Banners, he is a Red Priest, in service of the Lord of Light, and originally hails from the Free City of Myr, in Essos.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Jojen Reed, a mysterious and enigmatic young man who becomes an important ally to Bran Stark.
Ellie Kendirck as Meera Reed. The eldest daughter of Howland Reed and a staunch Stark loyalist, Meera and her younger brother Jojen seek out Bran Stark to protect him on his hard journey north.
Richard Dormer as Beric Dondarrion. Once the lord of Blackhaven and a celebrated warrior, Lord Beric has now become the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners, a band of vigilante outlaws.
Kristofer Hivju as Tormund Giantsbane. A famed wildling warrior and chief lieutenant of the “King Beyond the Wall,” Mance Rayder, Tormund is fearsome and strong, with a large build and a beard to match.
Philip McGinley as Anguy, an extremely skilled archer and key member of the outlaw band known as the Brotherhood Without Banners.
Tara Fitzgerald as Selyse Baratheon. The wife of Stannis Baratheon, Selyse spends much of her life in seclusion, shut away in a gloomy tower.
Tobias Menzies as Edmure Tully. The younger brother of Catelyn Stark, Edmure has recently become Lord of Riverrun in the wake of his father’s death.
Anton Lesser as Qyburn, a former maester of the Citadel, who was stripped of his chain many years ago.