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Following several days of hazy clouds and chilling temperatures, the skies of Los Angeles opened up to their usual warm blue hue on Sunday evening — ironic, seeing as the winds of winter had only just arrived.
The cast and crew of HBO’s Game of Thrones swarmed Hollywood on Sunday, with the TCL Chinese Theater playing host to the world premiere of season six, and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel hosting the subsequent afterparty. Countless stars from the critically acclaimed fantasy series were in attendance, including Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) and several other faces familiar throughout the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and beyond.
While the weather ultimately held out, the red carpet was nonetheless protected within an extravagant enclosure. (Leave it to Thrones to prepare for the stormiest of conditions.) Banners from numerous noble houses of Westeros were seen hanging up and down the carpet: Starks, Targaryens, Lannisters and more. The centerpiece of the carpet was a massive, undeniable recreation of the Three-Eyed Raven, the mystical creature that Isaac Hempstead Wright’s green-seeing Bran Stark pursued over the course of the first four season of the show — as well as the new landlord for Bran’s kind-hearted and big-boned guardian, Hodor, played by Kristian Nairn, not seen onscreen since season four.
“It was a strange year,” he told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet, referring to Hodor’s time on the bench. “I actually live where Game of Thrones is filmed, so people were coming in and out of town… and I kept wondering, ‘Do you need me? I’m here!'”
Needless to say, “it’s really nice to be back,” says Nairn. “After one week in the smelly costume, it felt like I hadn’t been away at all.”
Even for one of the most heavily protected shows on television, the level of secrecy surrounding season six of Thrones is at an all-time high. Indeed, the new season features a massive status quo shift from past years. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ adaptation of author George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is largely faithful and beholden to the books on which the show is based, but with the new season, Thrones is officially poised to pass most of the major story beats unveiled in Martin’s novels, with the sixth installment in his series still unpublished.
What’s next for Daenerys, Tyrion and — most pressingly — Jon Snow (Kit Harington), last seen bleeding out in the snow? Readers of the books are just as in the dark about those questions as viewers of the show, raising the stakes in a palpable way.
“Anything is up for grabs,” said Michael McElhatton, who plays fearsome Steward of the North Roose Bolton. “Last season was a very dark season. Brutal, dreadful things happened. People were knocked from power, and now, people are going to try to get that power back — and some people are very capable of getting that power back. Nothing happens in Game of Thrones incidentally. There is always a price to pay.”
With very little book material to judge from, the season six premiere, called “The Red Woman,” stands out as one of the most enigmatic and eagerly awaited episodes of the entire show’s run. But the limited advance knowledge serves as a creative boon, according to Jonathan Pryce, who plays High Sparrow, the religious zealot currently shaking things up in King’s Landing.
“I haven’t read the books anyway,” Pryce said with a laugh, “so to me, they’re original screenplays.”
Whatever comes next for Lord Commander Snow and the other characters, the show must go on, and go on it did. When the lights dimmed down in the Chinese Theater, a familiar voice filled the air: Lena Headey’s Cersei Lannister, instructing attendees to silence their cell phones.
“Those who violate,” she added, “will be boiled alive.”
Moments later, HBO programming president Michael Lombardo took the stage and addressed the elephant in the room head on: “Is Jon coming back?”
“The answer is yes,” he said, before quipping that Jon Stewart would be beginning his HBO tenure soon.
Showrunners Benioff and Weiss were next to the podium, saying that this past March marked the “tenth anniversary since we made our first pitch [on Game of Thrones] to HBO.”
“If you told us after that pitch that we would be here tonight ten years later at the Chinese Theater,” continued Weiss, “we would have asked you to share whatever it is you’re smoking.”
Benioff proceeded to thank author George R.R. Martin (who was not in attendance) for laying the foundation for the HBO series, and also thanked the entire production team that brought season six to life.
“This season was a beast,” he said, noting that over 680 hours of dailies were filmed — “which translates to 3.7 million of film,” by his estimate. “We shot two units a day for 22 weeks straight, three units a day for 10 weeks straight, and four units a day for two weeks straight. None of that would be possible without the greatest producing team on the planet.”
Weiss also thanked the enormous cast of Thrones, saying, “The largest cast on television is not supposed to be the best cast on television, but it is. The odds are astronomical that within a group of actors this big only one of them would be completely insane, but it’s true.”
With that, the hourlong episode screened — but on Cersei Lannister’s orders, no story details can be shared at this time. Suffice it to say, numerous moments throughout the episode elicited gasps of shock, unexpected (and uncomfortable) laughter, and long moments of stunned silence. A teaser that played after the episode previewed the weeks ahead, and based on what was shown, it looks like season six will be a chilling one indeed.
Following the screening, attendees were ushered across Hollywood Boulevard to the afterparty at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, with a roster of guests including Robert Kirkman (creator of The Walking Dead), Patrick Fugit (star of Kirkman’s Outcast), Damon Lindelof (creator of The Leftovers), Regina King (one of Lindelof’s stars on The Leftovers), Deborah Ann Woll (Daredevil), Caity Lotz (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), Thomas Middleditch and the cast of HBO’s Silicon Valley, and many more. A variety of activities, including a Hall of Faces photo booth and a “Three-Eyed Raven Soothsayer,” were at guests’ disposal.
How will fans react to the premiere? The world will find out when Game of Thrones returns on April 24 — but for his part, Kristian Nairn predicts the viewer response with a single word: “Hodor.”
Follow all of THR’s Game of Thrones coverage here.
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