Comic-Con: 'Game of Thrones' Cast Talks Hodor, Ramsay and the Long Wait for Season 7

It’s a long wait until HBO’s Game of Thrones returns — a full 10 months, at least — so fans descended on San Diego Comic-Con in droves Friday to get their Westeros fix from the cast and crew.

To be honest, the castmembers on Friday's panel had a disappointing, B-list feel: The notable no-shows included Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington and Maisie Williams. But with Thrones fever at an all-time high — the show averaged 25 million viewers across all platforms in season six and recently racked up a leading 23 Emmy nominations — the Comic-Con crowd was more than happy to take whatever morsels of new information they could get.

The panel was moderated by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star/creator Rob McElhenney, who’s a Thrones superfan himself, and he kicked things off with a funny video proving that he’s actually made a number of appearances on the HBO fantasy drama. The sketch parodies the show’s repeated insistence that “Winter Is Coming”; in it, McElhenney plays a minor background character, asking when, exactly, winter will get here. His Sunny co-star Charlie Day even joins him as a Braavos resident who is devastated to hear that winter is coming: “I don’t have any shoes that aren’t open-toed!”

McElhenney got right to the point, addressing the long layoff by asking showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss: “Why do you hate us all so much?” (The new season of Thrones won’t debut until next summer, and will only consist of seven episodes.) Benioff reiterates that it's all about the weather; in season seven, “winter is here, and we’ve got to shoot in places with trees, and we have to wait until the leaves fall off.”

One of the saddest season six moments came when the gentle giant Hodor sacrificed his life, and viewers learned the origin of his name. Benioff recalled his conversation with Weiss and book author George R.R. Martin regarding Hodor’s fate: “I just remember looking at Dan, and we were just so amazed and excited, because it’s so freaking cool ... It’s suddenly a tragic turn, and that’s so George R.R. Martin.”

Kristian Nairn, who played Hodor, says he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of fan support following Hodor’s death: “I did not expect it to be so crazy. I’m really flattered.” He also noticed his character’s influence stretched everywhere he went; when Nairn visited Los Angeles recently, he says, “all the doorstops said ‘Hodor’ on them.”

Another season six death — though much less mourned — was the demise of sadistic villain Ramsay Bolton, following his defeat by Jon Snow. Iwan Rheon, who plays Ramsay, does think his widely hated character had some redeeming characteristics: “Poor guy’s had a tough upbringing. He’s just looking for her father’s love and acceptance all his life, and everyone can relate to that.” But Sophie Turner couldn’t muster up much sympathy for Sansa's former tormentor: “Boo-hoo.”

Turner took her own turn on the hot seat when McElhenney asked her about one of season six’s burning questions: Why didn’t Sansa tell Jon about the Knights of the Vale? Turner jokes, “She wanted all the credit … and it makes for really good television.” But the actress doesn’t believe Sansa has a lot of faith in Jon Snow as a leader: “I’m not sure she thinks Jon is capable of running Winterfell and the North. I don’t think she thinks he has the intellect, the experience. And I concur.”

McElhenney wrapped things up with the ultimate question: Who should win the Iron Throne? Many nominees came up from the cast: Daenerys, Jon Snow, even Brienne of Tarth. (“Someone with honor and integrity,” Nairn says while suggesting Brienne.) Turner actually got booed for suggesting LIttlefinger. “It’d be fun, it’d be quirky,” she says. But Rheon probably has the best idea of all: “Melt the thing down and have a democracy.”

Bookmark THR.com/ComicCon to keep up with all the highlights and THR.com/GameOfThrones for full show coverage. Watch the Game of Thrones blooper reel and season seven production announcement clips shown during the panel, both below.

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