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“For years, we tried to get Ed Sheeran on the show to surprise Maisie [Williams], and this year we finally did it,” Benioff said. A spokeswoman for HBO confirmed the appearance but did not provide details about the role that Sheeran, who just released the album Divide, will play.
Actresses Williams, known for her role as Arya Stark, and Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark, moderated the discussion with Benioff and Weiss, which was full of lively discussion about the on-set antics of the large cast.
The HBO fantasy series, which is the premium channel’s most-watched show ever and winner of a whopping 38 Emmys, is set for two more abbreviated seasons before calling it quits on the stories of Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and the other inhabitants of the Seven Kingdoms.
Benioff and Weiss kept details on future seasons sparse, but did confirm that season eight, the final installment of the series, will have an abbreviated six episodes. David Hill is set to write episode one, Bryan Cogman is on board for episode two and Weiss and Benioff will tack the final four episodes.
Both Benioff and Weiss have long stated their desire to stop after the series’ eighth season. And while HBO programming president Casey Bloys confirmed the news at the Television Critics Association’s press tour in July, he also hinted that the network would be open to a prequel or spinoff of the show, although nothing is currently being developed.
Benioff reiterated the possibility during the talk, saying that “the network might well do” a spinoff, “but I think it’s better for them to get new blood in.” Weiss echoed the sentiment, adding that his future projects include what he calls “sitting in a cool, dark room for two months.” They did joke that if they did a spinoff they’d give Hodor (Kristian Nairn) his own multi-cam sitcom.
While the show’s success is unquestionable now, it wasn’t always that way. The duo recounted a moment after the pilot aired when they tried to console Williams and Turner, who were crying at the wrap party. “There was a very good chance the show wouldn’t get picked up because we made a lot of mistakes with the pilot,” Benioff said. “I told you guys it would be okay, but I had no idea.”
The duo also touched on memories from throughout the show including the hardest character to cast (Arya), the toughest death sequence to write (Khal Drogo, played by Jason Momoa), the costumes they’d steal from the set (probably the swords) and their favorite deaths (Benioff’s was Ramsay, Weiss picked Joffrey).
They also said that, for the most part, success hadn’t gone to the heads of the cast, which was made up with mostly unknown actors when the series began. “We got such a good group of people,” Benioff said. “Especially when the show got successful, it’s so easy for them to turn into assholes, and everyone has remained really great with one exception.” He didn’t elaborate on who he was referencing.
It was previously announced that season seven will feature four different directors: series veterans Alan Taylor, Jeremy Podeswa and Mark Mylod, along with Thrones newcomer Matt Shankman, best known for directing 39 episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The new season also will feature some new faces, with the most notable addition so far being Jim Broadbent, who will be playing a maester of the Citadel at Oldtown.
In a now-infamous Facebook live snafu — in which more than 160,000 fans were forced to literally watch ice melt during three separate broadcasts — the release date for the show’s seventh season was revealed to be July 16.
As the series nears its ending, the panelists reflected on their proudest moments. Turner, referencing her character’s wedding night with Ramsay (Iwan Rheon), said, “I’m quite proud of what that brought about and it led to a discussion about the taboo of rape, and it turned me into kind of an activist for that.”
For Benioff, it was ending the show on his terms: “I’m very happy that we’ve kept everyone together and get to finish it the way we want to.”
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