Everything We Know About the ‘Game of Thrones’ Prequel
October 29 update: Deadline reported that HBO will not be moving forward with this prequel project. After it was plagued with extensive pilot re-edits and filming issues, sources report that the pilot is dead. HBO, however, still has other Game of Thrones successor series in the works in addition to a home for them on the soon-to-launch HBO Max. Read below for all of the developments that occurred prior to this prequel's demise.
Even before Game of Thrones approached its eighth and final season, HBO and Thrones creator George R. R. Martin announced plans that, while the show may come to an end with a huge battle and a controversial choice of ruler, there are a lot more stories set in its world waiting to be told. Multiple spin-offs have been discussed, with five moving to the development stage, and one of those, a prequel, has officially been given the greenlight.
What will the Game of Thrones prequel be about? Although it may not grace our screens for awhile, speculation and news surrounding its cast, plot, and release date are already running rampant and sending fans into theorizing mode. Below, find every detail that's been announced so far about the upcoming prequel.
Who will write and produce the 'Game of Thrones' prequel?
Hollywood screenwriter Jane Goldman (Kingsman: The Secret Service, X-Men: First Class) is signed on to write the series. Goldman will server as a showrunner and executive producer, working alongside Vince Gerardis (who co-executive produced the original series), Daniel Zelman (Damages, Bloodline), Jim Danger (Orange Is the New Black), James Farrell, SJ Clarkson, Chris Symes (The Alienist) as co-executive producer, and, of course, George R. R. Martin. Clarkson (Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black) is also tapped to direct the pilot.
Goldman created the premise for the prequel with Martin, drawing from the author’s existing text with Goldman penning the screenplay. In speaking to IGN, she explained the importance of wanting to utilize what already existed in the history of the GoT universe and expand on a specific moment in the forthcoming series. Of the focus of the prequel, she said, "I think as a book reader or as someone who watched the series, you would say, 'Oh, that! OK.' Yeah, it would be recognizable as a past event."
This means the GoT creators who have increasingly drawn fans' ire, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, are stepping aside from the material and will not be involved. They’ll be off in a galaxy far, far away working on a new Star Wars series, but this gives way for Goldman to helm the show and potentially offer more interesting arcs for what seems to be a series largely driven by women. (More on that later).
What will the 'Game of Thrones' prequel be about?
According to Deadline, the show is set to chronicle a period thousands of years before the happenings of GoT -- known as the Age of Heroes -- and the series of events that initiated a dire time in Westerosi history, possibly the Long Night. HBO says the series will delve into the origins of the White Walkers, "mysteries of the East," and the earliest Starks. That may not be as detailed a plot description as you'd like, but it does place the series in a somewhat less generalized time and place than hearing it won't be a prequel/sequel featuring the characters we know and love.
Naomi Watts will play a leading role.
You may have to say goodbye to the classic Thrones cast, but now you get to say hello to Hollywood A-lister Naomi Watts, who Deadline announced will lead the ensemble series. She is said to play a socialite with a dark secret -- vague, but very intriguing!
In late July 2019, Watts told Variety that she's "super thrilled" for the upcoming series. Like many of the stars in the Thrones universe, she's been taught to keep her lips sealed about any plot details, but she did say, "It's such a great group of people. And they did such a great job … It was one of the most phenomenal things that's happened on TV … I'm super excited. That's all I can say."
Who else will be in the cast of the 'Game of Thrones' prequel?
Like GoT, the spinoff will feature a large ensemble cast. Shortly after news of Watts' casting, Deadline reported that British actor Josh Whitehouse (Northern Soul, The Happy Worker) would also appear. And as of January 2019, The Hollywood Reporter announced a number of other cast regulars, including Naomi Ackie (also in the forthcoming Star Wars), Denise Gough (Colette), Jamie Campbell Bower (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), Ivanno Jeremiah (Black Mirror), Georgie Henley (The Chronicles of Narnia), Alex Sharp (How to Talk to Girls at Parties), and Toby Regbo (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald). Theater actress Sheila Atim was also added to the cast, according to ScreenRant, plus in late March 2019, Deadline reported that Marquis Rodriguez (Luke Cage, When They See Us), John Simm (Doctor Who, Life on Mars), Richard McCabe (The Audience), John Heffernan (The Crown), and Dixie Egerrickx (The Little Stranger) were also signed on as regulars. Who any of these people will be playing, we've yet to find out.
While close to no information is known about their roles, one can pull from all of these casting announcements that it seems as if a handful of the leading roles are spearheaded by women, which may make up for some of the controversial character development GoT caught flak for throughout the series, and especially in its final season.
We may know what it's potentially called.
In a personal blog post, George R. R. Martin casually slipped that the forthcoming series would be titled The Long Night when he shared the news that Naomi Watts joined the cast. It wasn't long after he hit publish, though, that HBO must have come knocking, because he shared in a later post that the title actually isn't set in stone. He wrote, "HBO has informed me that the Jane Goldman pilot is not (yet) titled THE LONG NIGHT. That's is certainly the title I prefer, but for the moment the pilot is still officially UNTITLED."
Or, it might be a slight variation of that. He told EW The Longest Night is also an option. He said, "I heard a suggestion that it could be called The Longest Night, which is a variant I wouldn't mind … That would be pretty good." So, close enough!
It's possible that Bloodmoon is also in the works, as UK outlet The Sun reported that could be the working title. Only time (or GRRM's openness) will tell!
GRRM's preferred title might hint at the plot.
Everyone makes mistakes, including George R. R. Martin. But luckily, when he accidentally announced what the maybe/maybe-not-confirmed title is, he inadvertently revealed what events the prequel could chronicle. As GameSpot pointed out, the Age of Heroes was 8,000 years before GoT and disrupted by a painfully brutal winter that ravaged kingdoms -- what is known as The Long Night -- and grew even more destructive when the White Walkers arrived for the first time to Westeros. But eventually, they were defeated once an unknown figure called the Last Hero joined forces with the Children of the Forest to see their demise.
Will the darker period that’s said to be coming in the series be the Long Night? And could Watts' character's secret be that she's the Last Hero? At this point, it's impossible to say, as this is all just speculation of what the Goodman-written show might cover -- but the events do line up.
We know a bit about what Westeros was like several millennia ago.
GRRM clarified to Entertainment Weekly that the show will be set around 5,000 years before the events of GoT and gave some context of what the Westeros we're now familiar with was like -- or rather, what it wasn't like. He said, "There's no King's Landing. There's no Iron Throne. There are no Targaryens -- Valyria has hardly begun to rise yet with its dragons and the great empire that it built. We're dealing with a different and older world and hopefully that will be part of the fun of the series."
At a later date, he gave EW a bit more insight as to what we can expect from this period in Westeros, explaining just how many kingdoms were in existence at the time and what familiar families and creatures were around.
While fans are most familiar with the Seven Kingdoms, he said that there was once many, many more. "If you go back further then there are nine kingdoms, and 12 kingdoms, and eventually you get back to where there are a hundred kingdoms -- petty kingdoms -- and that's the era we're talking about here," he said.
Of those kingdoms, since the Starks are descendants of the First Men, they'll "definitely be there" in some capacity. Although other GoT mainstays like the Lannisters might not be around yet, their home of Casterly Rock certainly is, and we'll likely meet the founding family who established the coastal locale. He said, "The Lannisters aren't there yet, but Casterly Rock is certainly there; it's like the Rock of Gibraltar … It's actually occupied by the Casterlys -- for whom it's still named after in the time of Game of Thrones."
Since we know that the Targaryens won't be featured, that means no fire-breathing, air-bound beasts, and begs the question: what mythical beings do exist? Martin continued to expound on the existence of the White Walkers, or what are called The Others in the books (which we already knew), plus "things like dire wolves and mammoths." Sounds like a somewhat prehistoric series with many rouge tribes and their hostile creatures going head-to-head, perhaps?
Where is the prequel being filmed?
Like GoT, a fair amount of production will take place in the OG series' faithful Belfast, Northern Ireland, as well as scenes in a number of other, currently undisclosed locations.
When is the 'Game of Thrones' prequel's release date?
The pilot began filming in early summer 2019, and Variety reported that it was completed by sometime in July. At the TCA summer press event in late July, HBO programming president Casey Bloys confirmed the pilot was moving to the next phase of production, saying, "Shooting has wrapped, it looks really good. The cast was amazing, Jane [Goldman] and SJ [Clarkson] are busy in the edit bay."
Bloys told THR that, considering the pilot was being shot summer 2019, "you can do the math and figure out when it would be on air." The answer to that equation? A 2020 release seems potential, given HBO has to pick up the pilot and then production would need to resume shortly after. He said, "What I'm not doing is working backwards by saying, 'This has to be on the air by this date.' We want to do the best show possible. This is a pilot, so we're doing it the old-fashioned way, which is shooting a pilot. My expectation is it will be great and we'll move forward and it'll move along on a regular TV timetable."
Wait, aren't there supposed to be at least five spinoff series?
Yes, and neither GRRM nor HBO have forgotten! In May 2019, the writer took to his blog to offer an update, saying, "We have had five different Game of Thrones successor shows in development (I mislike the term 'spin-offs') at HBO, and three of them are still moving forward nicely," Martin wrote. "The one I am not supposed to call The Long Night will be shooting later this year, and two other shows remain in the script stage, but are edging closer. What are they about? I cannot say. But maybe some of you should pick up a copy of Fire & Blood and come up with your own theories." Fire & Blood is about the history of the Targaryen family, so it seems likely that that will be at least in part be the focus of one of the forthcoming series, but little is known about the third in the works.
Despite these plans for additional scripts being out in the ether, though, HBO's Bloys made an effort to drill in the danger of getting too excited about them to THR by saying, "There are no plans currently to put anything more in development. We're not actively looking or going beyond what we've got in the current pilot." And definitely don't bet on seeing any of the characters from GoT in any sort of sequels because when asked about whether someone like Arya Stark, or anyone else who survived the finale might see a continuation of their story, he said, "Nope, nope, nope. No."
"I don't want to take characters from this world in [Game of Thrones] that [D.B. Weiss and David Benioff] did beautifully and put them off into another world with someone else creating it. I want to let it be the artistic piece they've got. That's one of the reasons why I'm not trying to do the same show over. George has a massive, massive world; there are so many ways in," he said.
So, really, truly, officially say goodbye those characters if you haven't already. Ultimately, it sounds like they're trying to be especially careful with whatever future projects drawn from GRRM's universe they might be working on, taking things one step at a time and not looking back on what they've already created.
Fans of Thrones are no strangers to waiting, though, so you can hold out for a bit longer. But in the meantime, check back for more updates as they're announced.