It’s only been two months since Game of Thrones’ final episode aired, but fans won’t be starved for more content for too much longer.
According to HBO president of programming Casey Bloys, shooting on the pilot for the first planned Thrones spin-off—a prequel starring Naomi Watts—has wrapped in Belfast, and the footage is “amazing.” There still is no news on when—or, while it’s hard to imagine otherwise, if—the series will air. But backlash to the final season of Thrones hasn’t affected any plans for future Thrones content going forward. (Although Bloys would not offer any updates on other rumored spin-offs.)
Details have been slowly trickling out about the spin-off, which was first described as being set 1,000 years before the Game of Thrones series, chronicling “the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour.” HBO’s official description added: “From the horrifying secrets of Westeros’s history to the true origin of the White Walkers, the mysteries of the East to the Starks of legend, only one thing is for sure: It’s not the story we think we know.”
The famously loose-lipped author George R.R. Martin had also teased to Entertainment Weekly that Westeros in this prequel will not be like the one we’re used to seeing. “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,” he said. “We’re dealing with a different and older world and hopefully that will be part of the fun of the series.”
There will be Starks, Martin said, but the Lannisters have not yet surfaced—though Castle Rock will be there. You can expect White Walkers, too. As for the era the series will be set in: “We talk about the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros; there were Seven Kingdoms at the time of Aegon’s Conquest. But 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 also voiced his preferred title: The Long Night.
The pilot is being directed by S.J. Clarkson (Marvel’s Jessica Jones), and stars Watts, John Simm, Jamie Campbell-Bower, Miranda Richardson, and Denise Gough. The Belfast Telegraph reported last month that it already had begun shooting in Northern Ireland. Screenwriter Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass) penned the pilot, with Martin consulting.
Enthusiasm for the prequel doesn’t seem to have been hampered at all by the headline-making fan and critical disappointment with the series’ final season. Even with fans and critics vocal about their frustration, the show earned a record-setting 32 Emmy nominations earlier this month, besting the previous number for a series in a single year set by NYPD Blue in 1994 with 27.
At Comic-Con last week, Conleth Hill, who played Lord Varys in the series, called the backlash a “media-led hate campaign.”
As for the backlash, Bloys said it’s par for the course when a show as big as Thrones comes to an end. “There are very few downsides to having a hugely popular show,” he said. “But one I can think of is when you try to end it, many people have big opinions on how it should end...I think that just comes with the territory.”
That petition? “I think [it] shows a lot of enthusiasm and passion for the show.”