Now that he's doing his promotional tour for latest TV adaption Nightflyers, George R. R. Martin has been dishing out fresh details on HBO's Game of Thrones prequel show, which is due to arrive sometime after the airing of Game of Thrones season 8 in April 2019. If the rumours are true, we may even have started watching it by this time next year.
In any case, we've noted down all the latest info, news, rumours, and speculation about the Game of Thrones prequel, including Martin's latest comments about the setting, time period, and story. With the main show finally bowing out for good next year, we'll need our Westeros fix more than ever before, so hopefully this will be the show to take over the reigns once the fight for the Iron Thrones finally finds its victor.
- Game of Thrones prequel release date: TBA 2019
- Game of Thrones prequel cast: Naomi Watts, Josh Whitehouse (more TBC)
- Game of Thrones prequel showrunner: Jane Goldman
When is the Game of Thrones prequel TV show release date?
With Game of Thrones season 8 not with us until 2019, don’t expect a Game of Thrones prequel release date until 2020 at the absolute earliest. Even then, a pilot will take a long time to set up – just read up on the Game of Thrones pilot you never saw for yourself to see how hard it can be – and a full series would still need to be commissioned. 2021, while a long way away, is the more realistic Game of Thrones prequel release date.
Geeks Worldwide, however, did recently report that production on the show is scheduled to begin as early as February 2019. That's next year, and HBO apparently plans to use the same stage location studio in Northern Ireland that has been the home of the mainline show for so many years, while also filming on location in several parts of the world. That makes a 2020 release date slightly more plausible, if not completely guaranteed.
Who's in the Game of Thrones prequel TV show cast?
As it stands, only two cast members have been confirmed for the Game of Thrones prequel TV show: Josh Whitehouse and Naomi Watts. Both are set to play prominent roles, but as with the original series, expect them to be sharing the spotlight with plenty of other characters. HBO’s President of Programming has confirmed “It’s an ensemble… There are a lot of very complicated leads”, so expect lots more exciting casting announcements to come - we’ll be keeping you updated right here as they arrive.
Josh Whitehouse is best known for playing Hugh Armitage on the BBC period drama Poldark. He’s also worked as a model for the fashion label Burberry, and starred in films including Modern Life is Rubbish and Alleycats, though he’s still relatively new to the entertainment industry.
Naomi Watts is definitely the more experienced of the two, and looks set to lend the show some star power. With a career spanning more than 30 years, you’ll almost certainly recognise her from at least one of her films - perhaps King Kong, Mulholland Drive, Birdman, or The Impossible. And recently she’s been increasingly stepping into the world of TV, with roles in Twin Peaks: The Return, Netflix Original Gypsy, and even a cameo as herself in Bojack Horseman, so it’s perhaps not surprising to see her joining the Game of Thrones prequel TV show cast.
As for who else will be starring… well, we’ll just have to wait and see for now, though a recent casting call has given us some slight clues. Discovered via Stage Pool, it was posted on Twitter by Joe Weaver.
Looks like Essos might be included in the prequel #TheLongNight #GameOfThrones @purple_dwagon @a_red_priestess @GoTlikeLocation @StarkyRed @javimgol @Frikidoctor @House_Razor @WiCnet pic.twitter.com/Yf415FUmepSeptember 8, 2018
With two “black actresses” and a “mixed race actor”, it suggests a diverse cast, potentially with characters hailing from Essos, the continent to the east of Westeros, and far-off Sothoryos, birthplace of Salladhor Saan and Grey Worm.
A further casting call from October 24 has added more fuel to the speculation fire, calling for an older black actor, Caucasian actors and actresses, and two "Scandinavian, Germanic, or Eastern European" actors. As in the original series, it all suggests that the action in the Game of Thrones prequel TV show will take place across multiple different continents, with characters of different nationalities - especially as, in the timeframe of the events of The Long Night, Westeros would have less ethnically diverse than what we've seen so far, as at that time the only humans settled there were the First Men, ancestors of the Wildlings and the various northern Houses.
Even more recently (November 24), a casting call spotted by GoT fan site Watchers on the Wall reveals HBO is looking for a pair of twin sisters in their twenties, and not for the sake of stunt doubling, but to specifically play the role of twins in the show itself. The same document also asks for a "genuine Scandinavian, Eastern European or German actor" in his seventies, referred to only as "A2." Goodness knows who any of these people will be playing in the show itself, but hopefully those twins won't be as troublesome or incestuous as a certain set of Lannisters...
What is the Game of Thrones prequel title?
Previous rumours, alongside word from George R.R. Martin himself, had us believing that the Game of Thrones prequel title is The Long Night, which gave fans plenty to go on in terms of the potential story and setting for HBO's spin-off series to its mainline fantasy serial drama. However, Martin recently took to his blog, the confusingly titled Not A Blog, to backtrack on any misconceptions, stating that a name for the show had not yet been agreed upon.
“HBO has informed me that the Jane Goldman pilot is not titled THE LONG NIGHT,” explains Martin, adding that it "is certainly the title I prefer, but for the moment the pilot is still officially UNTITLED. So… mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa. Elsewise, the pilot is coming along well, with casting falling into place. I could tell you more, but I am not supposed to. We also have a couple of other successor shows still in development, but I cannot tell you about those either.”
The fact that Martin prefers this title for Game of Thrones prequel show, however, all but confirms that this famous chapter of GoT history will be the basis for its story. With that in mind, let's have a look at why The Long Night is such an interesting and important part of the Game of Thrones universe...
When is the Game of Thrones prequel show set?
HBO's original plot synopsis (see below) suggested the Game of Thrones prequel will take place "thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones", but recent remarks from Martin himself have offered more clarity on the exact time period of the story. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Martin said that the show will take place around "5,000 years" earlier to what we've seen on TV so far.
"Westeros is a very different place", Martin continues, "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."
The previous odds had the timeline at 10,000 years B.G.T (before Game of Thrones), and Martin - who is closely involved with the prequel's development - has effectively halved that estimate with this recent insight. Then again, as we've seen with the Game of Thrones prequel title drama, the man has been known to unintentionally spread misinformation in the past, so take this news with pinch of Iron Islands salt.
What's the Game of Thrones prequel TV show story?
HBO's first story synopsis for the show says: “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.”
Between that description and the potential title, The Long Night, it's possible to make some pretty solid inferences about what the Game of Thrones prequel TV show will be about. During this period in Westeros history, 8,000 years before the time of Robert's Rebellion, the continent was inhabited by the First Men, living alongside the mysterious and magical Children of the Forest. When a years-long winter suddenly descended, the two groups for the first time came under attack by the Night King and his army of White Walkers and Wights.
Threatened with destruction, the First Men and the Children of the Forest joined forces and, using the discovery that Dragonglass can kill a White Walker, pushed the enemy back north - a conflict known as the War for the Dawn. Bran the Builder, ancestor of the Starks (we'd bet a pouch of Gold Dragons that he'll be a prominent character in the show), then erected the Wall to stop their hated foes ever returning, and the Night's Watch was founded to man it forevermore.
Likely to be a source of conflict in the Game of Thrones prequel TV show is the fact that the White Walkers were actually created by the Children of the Forest to protect themselves from warlike humans, as revealed in the main series. The Night King was a First Man impaled in the heart with a Dragonglass dagger by the Children, mutated into an icy demon by their magic - he eventually escaped their control and turned on them, kicking off the Long Night.
Overall, it sets the stage for a more fantastical setting than the Game of Thrones we're used to. In the main series, creatures such as giants, dragons, and the Children themselves are near-extinct, and many humans believe them mythological. But in the time of the Long Night, magical creatures are still commonplace - or at least as numerous as the Game of Thrones prequel TV show's CGI budget will allow. Magic itself is more powerful and accessible too - only with supernatural abilities was it possible for the Wall to be built, for example, and we know the Children had powerful wizards among them called Greenseers (whose tradition of farsight and prophecy Bran Stark inherited).
Whether the more traditional epic fantasy story this all suggests will be as compelling as the grim-and-gritty approach that's made the original Game of Thrones series so successful remains to be seen, but we're glad at least that it'll be trying something new and different, rather than slavishly remaking what's worked before. There's also plenty of room to play with the historical 'facts' here - these events have largely faded into myth by the time of the main series, and any number of elements could have been misremembered, giving the show's creators space to change things to suit their story needs.
As mentioned before, it also seems like we'll be finding out what other nations were up to while Westeros was under siege, if the rather diverse casting calls are anything to go by, which should help add variety and texture to the series. With The Long Night taking place 8,000 years in the past, expect the peoples of Essos and Sothoryos to be very different than those we've seen in the main series. That line in the synopsis about "the mysteries of the East" seems to support this - both Essos and Sothoryos are east of Westeros.
Who is the Game of Thrones prequel TV show showrunner?
Jane Goldman will be heading up the Game of Thrones prequel as showrunner. As one of five candidates set up to produce a Westeros prequel, Goldman has a knack for writing action adventures with character and charm: Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service and X-Men: First Class are all part of her resume. Goldman will oversee the pilot and act as series showrunner. Fun fact: she's married to British late night host (and mega Game of Thrones fan) Jonathan Ross.
What's happened to the other Game of Thrones prequel TV shows?
Once upon a time, HBO commissioned five writers to have a crack at their own Game of Thrones prequel, with some of the finest talent around ready to present their vision of Westeros. Inevitably, only one was chosen.
So, what about the other four? Martin has actually been kind enough to update us all with a blog post clueing us in on all things Game of Thrones prequels. In it, he says that, of the five prequels (minus the Jane Goldman show, of course), one has been shelved, with three more in "active development".
Even recently, the author has expressed his interest to create another Game of Thrones show called Spear Carriers, inspired by the Tom Stoppard play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. "[It] would actually be set during the events of Game of Thrones", explained Martin in an interview with The New York Times, "but it wouldn’t be following Dany, Tyrion, and Jaime."
"They would all be there in the background like Hamlet, and it would be more like, 'Here’s a story about a guy in the City Watch; here’s a story about a prostitute at one of Littlefinger’s brothels; here’s a story about a mummer who’s in town to do juggling and tricks.' And they all get caught up in the events. I think that kind of show would be a lot of fun to do. Maybe I’ll be able to convince them to do it!” It sounds amazing, George, but best of luck getting HBO to greenlight that one!
For more Game of Thrones goodies, check out the biggest Game of Thrones theories you need to know about heading into the final season.