It's unlikely that we'll hear more about the Game of Thrones prequel TV show during the San Diego Comic Con 2019 schedule... but never say never. The expo is often full of surprises, and we wouldn't put it past HBO to follow up Game of Thrones season 8 with a brief, but first official look at one of the most anticipated new TV shows of the year.
We've already been given our first unofficial look at lead actress Naomi Watts in her full Westerosi get-up, suggesting production is well on its way, and potentially nearing completion. Meanwhile, author George R.R. Martin has promised (via Entertainment Weekly) that “the Starks will definitely be" making an appearance in the Game of Thrones prequel TV show, alongside Casterlys, direwolves, mammoths, and - yes - the White Walkers themselves.
Below, you'll find all the information you need to know about the Game of Thrones prequel TV show, continually updated with news on release dates, cast interviews, story information, and more. Trust me, once the battle for the Iron Throne finally comes to its bloody end, you're going to want more of HBO's dark political fantasy in your life, and this spin-off to the mainline series will hopefully provide exactly that, and then some.
- Game of Thrones prequel release date: TBC late 2020/early 2021
- Game of Thrones prequel cast: Naomi Watts, Josh Whitehouse, Naomi Ackie, Sheila Atim, Jamie Campbell Bower, Denise Gough, Georgie Henley, Ivanno Jeremiah, Tony Regbo, Alex Sharp
- 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 April 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.
HBO recently confirmed, however, that filming on the Game of Thrones prequel show is set to begin in the summer of this year, as recently stated by Programming President Casey Bloys in an interview Entertainment Weekly. That corroborates with a late 2020/early 2021 air date, but production schedules are fluid, so we'll keep our ear to the ground until HBO reveals anything more.
Who's in the Game of Thrones prequel TV show cast?
For months, only two cast members had been confirmed for the Game of Thrones prequel TV show: Josh Whitehouse and Naomi Watts. Both are set to play prominent roles, and while most people will know Watts from the likes of King Kong and Mulholland Drive, Josh Whitehouse is best known for playing Hugh Armitage on the BBC period drama Poldark.
Watts herself recently offered Variety some vague, nondescript comments about her role within the production, saying: "It’s a fantastic world, isn’t it? I think there’s so many brilliant elements to that series that make it very exciting, very appealing. [...] All I want to say is it’s very exciting… I’ll say that again and again and again — and nothing else.”
In January 2019, however, HBO rounded out the rest of the cast with eight new members, announced via Variety. Many are relative newcomers, and we don't yet know who they'll be playing, but we'll soon be seeing and hearing a lot more of them once the show begins to air. In no particular order, the announced recruits are Naomi Ackie, Sheila Atim, Jamie Campbell Bower, Denise Gough, Georgie Henley, Ivanno Jeremiah, Tony Regbo, and Alex Sharp.
Of those names, the most notable ones are Ackie, who is set to star in Star Wars 9, Atim, an Oliver award winning theatre thespian known for her work in the West End, Campbell Bower, who played the young Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Gough, the voice of Yennefer in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
In March 2019, Deadline also reported that five more cast members had rounded out the ensemble; Marquis Rodriguez (Iron Fist), John Simm (Doctor Who), Richard McCabe (Electric Dreams), John Heffernan (The Crown), and Dixie Egerickx (The Secret Garden), though - as with the others - we have no idea who they will be playing.
Alongside all this, HBO has confirmed the Game of Thrones prequel will follow its predecessor as a large ensemble show, so it could well be that more major casting news is yet to come. We'll keep you updated once we hear anything more.
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.”
In more recent news, Screen Rant reports that the Game of Thrones prequel TV show's working title on set is known as Bloodmoon, but it's likely this is just a placeholder for the project's real full name, so don't read too much into it. Working titles tend to be deliberately vague and innocuous to throw people off the scent of an in operation production, and the fact that Martin prefers The Long Night title for Game of Thrones prequel show 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.
Alongside the above recent casting news, HBO also revealed that SJ Clarkson, whose credits include Orange is the New Black, Jessica Jones, and The Defenders, will be coming aboard as the director for the show's pilot episode, as well as serving an Executive Producer role.
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.