Welcome to Westeros Valley High, home to deception, scheming, and backstabbing—but without the beheadings (hopefully)—and the setting for a new parody Web series, School of Thrones.
The online series, which launches March 10 on YouTube, takes characters from Game of Thrones and puts them in a modern-day high school setting for a lighthearted YouTube production. Just like the George R.R. Martin novel series (on which the HBO drama is based), characters including Theon Greyjoy, Stannis Baratheon, Rob Stark, and Daenerys Targaryen battle for the throne … only this time it’s for Prom King and Queen. (Instead of the often-repeated motto “Winter Is Coming,” the Web series changes it to “Prom Night Is Coming.”)
Each of the houses in Game of Thrones has been translated to a high school clique for the Web series: The Baratheons are the jocks. The Greyjoys are loner water-polo players. The Stark siblings are hipsters. Dani Targaryen is the new girl in school but is still obsessed with dragons.
“A lot of our thoughts about high school are shaped by classic thoughts about high school such as The Breakfast Club and Mean Girls,” co-producer Whitney Milam told The Daily Beast. “We wanted to see how the characters would fit into these established conceptions of what high school is because that’s where the humor is.”
In addition to helping produce the series alongside creator Zach Grafton, director Matt Mercer, and producer Alex Creswick, Milam also makes a cameo appearance as Margaery Tyrell, whom she describes as a snobby rich girl who finds herself in a love triangle with Renly, the high school quarterback, and her brother Loras. Milam is also one of the many YouTube personalities appearing in the production. Joey Richter from Team Starkid, known for the Very Potter Musical productions, plays the Speedo-loving Theon Greyjoy. Dani Targaryen is played by wig-wearing Ashly Burch from the Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? YouTube channel. Maxwell Glick and Mary Kate Wiles from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries—a popular vlog adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice—also stars in School of Thrones.
In an email exchange with The Daily Beast, Wiles explained that her character, Sansa Stark, is relatable to anybody who has been a teenager in high school.
“Sansa is really trying to figure out her own sense of identity and where she fits,” she wrote. “There’s a lot of pressure put on her by her brothers and what everyone tells her she’s supposed to be.” As for the prom-queen race, Sansa is excited because “she has a giant crush on Joffrey, but she also needs that as a way to validate who she is. She's probably going to learn a lesson or two through it.”
Beginning March 10, School of Thrones will release a short episode on YouTube each week, leading up to the Season 3 premiere of Game of Thrones on HBO. The three episodes will be a self-contained arc ending at Prom Night and will serve as a prologue for the rest of the series. While the three initial installments were independently produced, there is outside interest in creating and distributing future episodes.
By expanding the series, School of Thrones hopes to explore more of the vast world of Westeros. “There’s so much to work with there, and a lot of it is so compressed in the TV show that I think there is definitely a market of Game of Thrones fans who would love to see more,” said Milam. “We are giving sidelined characters like Sansa, for instance, a chance to shine along with the fan favorites. I think it will appeal to viewers of the show and readers of the books in that it’s something familiar and new at the same time.”
School of Thrones already has a well-established following ready for its debut. The series has been active on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, thanks to its social media-savvy stars, who often post Instagram photos and Vine videos from the set. The School of Thrones YouTube channel already has more than 3,000 subscribers, despite the fact that no teaser footage has been uploaded to the channel in advance of the premiere.
“Internet fans are passionate about what they watch on the Internet, and it’s great to be a part of that passion, to interact with the people who are viewing things you created,” Milam said. She also hinted that interactive components, including side video blogs for certain characters, are in the works.
Transmedia elements are just one of the many benefits that literary YouTube adaptations such as School of Thrones and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries offer fans. For Wiles, appearing in Web series has been an enriching experience. “I love Web series,” she said. “I had no idea my life would become so centered around them this last year. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has been a wonderful and life-changing experience for me. Lydia Bennet has grown so dear to my heart; it's going to be very hard to let her go. I was glad to have School of Thrones as another thing to look forward to as Lizzie Bennet is drawing to a close.”
Milam expresses a similar sentiment, dismissing the misconception that Web productions are substandard to traditional media. “Honestly, I think it’s true that the Internet is the new creative frontier. There is so much innovation, so much creativity out there. It’s just astonishing what you can do with a few thousand dollars and a digital camera.”
School of Thrones premieres Sunday, March 10, at 12 p.m. PT on YouTube.