HBO's popular global phenomenon Game of Thrones shuffled off the cable giant's programming coil with finale "The Iron Throne," which left fans with enough to debate and discuss until one of the show's prequel series finally makes it to air. With The Long Night (tentative title) currently filming its pilot in Northern Ireland (reportedly until working title "Bloodmoon") and fans eagerly awaiting George R.R. Martin's sixth "Ice and Fire" novel The Winds of Winter, the author sat down with the fine folks at Entertainment Weekly to reasure readers that reactions to the television series – good or bad – will not impact the journey that the novels will be taking.
Not that it can't be a little tempting sometimes…
"The internet affects all this to a degree it was never affected before. Like Jon Snow's parentage. There were early hints about [who Snow's parents were] in the books, but only one reader in 100 put it together. And before the internet that was fine — for 99 readers out of 100 when Jon Snow's parentage gets revealed it would be, 'Oh, that's a great twist!' But in the age of the internet, even if only one person in 100 figures it out then that one person posts it online and the other 99 people read it and go, 'Oh, that makes sense.'
Suddenly the twist you're building towards is out there. And there is a temptation to then change it [in the upcoming books] — 'Oh my god, it's screwed up, I have to come up with something different.' But that's wrong. Because you've been planning for a certain ending and if you suddenly change direction just because somebody figured it out, or because they don't like it, then it screws up the whole structure. So no, I don't read the fan sites. I want to write the book I've always intended to write all along. And when it comes out they can like it or they can not like it."
Last week, Martin offered up new info on the highly-anticipated prequel series:
● If you though Seven Kingdoms had a tough time getting along… imagine 100 kingdoms:
"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."
● Starks, direwolves, and mammoths… oh yes! Just don't go looking for dragons…
"Obviously the White Walkers are here — or as they're called in my books, The Others — and that will be an aspect of it. There are things like direwolves and mammoths."
● While we might not be getting much of a Lannister presence – at least initially – we do get to meet and learn more about their castle's previous owners:
"The Lannisters aren't there yet, but Castlery Rock is certainly there; it's like the Rock of Gibraltar. It's actually occupied by the Casterlys — for whom it's still named after in the time of Game of Thrones."
● While Naomi Watts, Naomi Ackie, and Denise Gough have been referred to as the series' "leads," Martin view the series more as an ensemble:
"I hesitate to use the word 'lead.' As you know for Game of Thrones, we never even nominated anybody for lead actress or lead actor [during awards season] until recently; it was always for supporting [categories] because the show is such an ensemble. I think that will be true for this show too. We don't have leads so much as a large ensemble cast."
● While there's been some debate over the show's title, it appears "The Long Night" might be the winner – except a small, self-inflicted "problem" might result in a slight adjustment:
"I heard a suggestion that it could be called The Longest Night, which is a variant I wouldn't mind. That would be pretty good."
Why go from "long" to "longest"? It's a matter of avoiding confusion: "The Long Night" is also the title of the eighth season's third episode.
Watts (Twin Peaks: The Return, Showtime's The Loudest Voice) shared her thoughts on the upcoming series and her involvement in it with The Associated Press earlier this month. The following clip shows Watt's is clearly aware of the series finale's fallout and understands the responsibility behind taking on a project like this, and is quite confidant in the team assembled to tackle the prequel:
— AP Entertainment (@APEntertainment) June 18, 2019
Taking place 5,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series will chronicle 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 fans think they know.
The prequel's official overview above is pretty much in line with what Game of Thrones mastermind George R.R. Martin confirmed to Entertainment Weekly in late 2018:
"10,000 years is mentioned in the novels, 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."
Showrunner Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class) and Martin co-created the project and wrote the story, with Goldman also writing the teleplay. Martin and director S.J. Clarkson will oversee production. Goldman and Martin executive produce alongside Daniel Zelman, James Farrell, Jim Danger Gray, and Vince Gerardis (Game of Thrones), with Chris Symes co-executive producing.
In October 2018, Martin took to his Not A Blog site to announce his excitement over Watts' casting: "I could not be more excited. Welcome to Westeros, Naomi."
Game of Thrones prequel pilot The Long Night also stars Naomi Ackie, Denise Gough, Miranda Richardson, Josh Whitehouse, Sheila Atim, Jamie Campbell Bower, Ivanno Jeremiah, Toby Regbo, and Alex Sharp.