Game of Thrones will conclude this spring, yet another adventure set in Westeros is in the works at HBO. A GoT prequel is shooting a pilot in early 2019 and has a very good shot at getting a full series order. Here is everything we know about the project so far.
What’s the Title? Unofficially, it’s The Long Night. “My vote would be The Long Night, which says it all,” author George R.R. Martin has written. “More likely HBO will want to work the phrase ‘game of thrones’ in there somewhere.” HBO has not yet confirmed a title, however.
What’s It About: Here’s the official description: “Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: From the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history to the true origin of the white walkers, the mysteries of the East, to the Starks of legend… it’s not the story we think we know.” (More details about the storyline below).
Who’s Starring: So far only two names have been announced, though the cast is expected to be a large ensemble like the flagship series. Naomi Watts (King Kong, Mulholland Drive) will play a character described as “a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.” Also on board is British actor Josh Whitehouse (Northern Soul, Poldark).
Who’s Writing It: Screenwriter Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Kick-Ass) is serving as showrunner and clearly has experience making popular R-rated genre titles. Goldman won a rather unusual “bake off” between five different writers each tasked with drafting a different GoT prequel set in the Ice and Fire universe.
Is George R.R. Martin Involved? Yup. The novelist helped develop the concept with Goldman and is the show’s co-creator and executive producer.
Are The GoT Showrunners Involved? Nope. Emmy-winners David Benioff and Dan Weiss have elected to step aside from the franchise and work on a new series of Star Wars films rather than be involved in the prequel.
When Will It Air? The pilot shoots this spring. The project has quietly staffed up a writers room to flesh out a full season of scripts so if HBO greenlights a season they can resume production on the rest of the episodes right away. The earliest a show will actually air is 2020.
What About Those Other Prequels? The other four projects are not officially dead. Martin is hopeful another one or two will be ordered. At least one is about the history of the Targaryen family, which is chronicled in the author’s new book Fire and Blood.
Will Any GoT Actors Be Involved? Officially the answer is “no.” Since the new story is set thousands of years before the current series obviously, none of the current characters would be around back then (with the possible exception of The Night King). Even Melisandre is not that old. It’s always possible, through some kind of narrative twist, that some familiar actor might appear somehow.
When Exactly Does It Take Place? This is a little fuzzy. Originally the assumption was 10,000 years before the events in GoT, since Martin’s books say the Age of Heroes was around that time. But since then Martin clarified that it’s more like 5,000 years ago. “10,000 years is mentioned in the novels,” Martin noted. “But you also have places where maesters say, ‘No, no, it wasn’t 10,000, it was 5,000.’ Again, I’m trying to reflect real-life things that a lot of high fantasy doesn’t reflect. In the Bible, it has people living for hundreds of years and then people added up how long each lived and used that to figure out when events took place. Really? I don’t think so. Now we’re getting more realistic dating now from carbon dating and archeology. But Westeros doesn’t have that. They’re still in the stage of ‘my grandfather told me and his grandfather told him.’ So I think it’s closer to 5,000 years.” So, either way, a long time ago.
What Was Westeros Like Back Then? Martin pointed out to EW that he’s written very little about this period, which doesn’t give Goldman much of a roadmap but, on the other hand, makes it so there are a lot of ways to get creative. “Westeros is a very different place,” Martin 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.”
There Are No Dragons? Martin reiterated a couple times in our interview that this is the prequel project without dragons, though, of course, just anything is possible in a fantasy story. According to Westeros.org, dragons came about after The Long Night: “While Westeros was recovering from The Long Night, in Essos, the peaceful sheep-herding folk of the Valyrian peninsula find dragons lairing in the Fourteen Flames, an immense chain of volcanoes extending across the neck of the peninsula. The Valyrians tame the dragons with magic, which gives them the means to gain influence over the area. The Valyrian Freehold is established.” The rise of House Targaryen was even further along in the timeline, as the family didn’t gain significant power until after the destruction of Valyria and they were only dragonriders to survive. Here’s Valyria from Martin’s illustrated The World of Ice and Fire:
What Characters Can We Expect? Unclear. Some of the major names which could be characters in the new show include Bran the Builder (who founded House Stark and oversaw construction of The Wall and Winterfell, see below) and Lann the Clever (who founded House Lannister).
Where Will It Film? It’s looking like the show will employ GoT‘s sprawling and experienced production hub in Belfast, Northern Ireland (which is good news). Some footage, such as scenes in Essos, will likely be shot in other locations.
How Many Episodes? Unknown since there’s no series order yet, but one would expect HBO would want a return to longer seasons — so roughly 8 to 10 episodes seems likely.
And When Does GoT Return Again? April. Just six episodes. They won’t be two hours long, but are expected to average more than 60 minutes each. For more details on the final season, read our exclusive “The End of Game of Thrones” cover story going behind the scenes of season 8.