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Stephanie Ogrodnik [Cathode Ray Mission 07.23.12]



During the "Game of Thrones" panel at SDCC, George R. R. Martin seemed giddy as a moderator and was sometimes more interested in chatting with the cast about his own personal queries than in the 6,400 patron audience. Nevertheless, he and the cast kept thousands of viewers entertained as they discussed the morality of diverse characters, the development of the story and show, and, of course, sex.

Regardless of his more unusual queries and comments, it was almost iconic seeing George R.R. Martin heading the podium. After all, without the New York Times bestselling author and his hit book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" the show could not have existed. The panel itself consisted of some of the show's most beloved main characters: Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark), Richard Madden (Robb Stark), Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) and Rose Leslie (Ygritte). Executive producer Carolyn Strauss, one of the minds responsible for pulling the show together on air, also joined the panel.


The discussion took off as Martin spoke with Alfie Allen about the numerous women his character has had sex with on the show. Martin also joked that for all the times he's gotten Theon laid, he never received a "thank you." This was an interesting opening to say the least, as even Allen appeared surprised, stating that he should note that his character is far from a playboy—most of the girls he's had sex with are prostitutes. He also stated that his excursions with whores relates to his character's gray sense of morality. In fact, the discussion of morality became a significant theme in this panel.

Emilia Clarke spoke with great conviction on behalf of Daenerys, when asked if she felt her character's actions in season one were morally justified, particularly her decision regarding her baby. Not only did she state confidently that they were, but everyone on the panel seemed to agree that each character on the show is well rounded in a way that no decision is good or bad but purely circumstantial. Alfie Allen also agreed that Theon would never look upon himself as a villain or an antagonist, but stands firmly behind his judgments. This is partially where having Martin on the panel was enriching, as he stated that this was the kind back and forth discussion he hoped to accomplish, giving people a variety of ways to debate the morality and decisions of his characters.

Much of the cast, including Martin, discussed the matter of "gray characters." Just as Theon to himself is not a villain, none of the characters on the show are strictly black and white. There are no simple heroes or straight villains. Martin intended to create a world with complex characters, each with their own set of motivations and ethics. Each episode deals with relevant themes of family, death, war, etc., that can only be communicated properly through characters that aren't simply tropes, but complex, human individuals. A strong example is Michelle Fairley's character, the proud matriarch, Catelyn Stark. As she balances her opinions regarding her son Robb's decisions, she must also be aware that he will lose respect of his men if they believe she is forcing Robb's hand. However, she still maintains the figure of a strong woman who is not afraid to make decisions even when they end poorly. When asked if performing with such dark material takes a negative toll, Fairley said no. She loves the emotional work because she loves giving herself depth. She says she likes to feel like she is that person.

On a lighter note, Martin asked Allen how he felt about dying. Again, Allen seemed more confused than anything. After a brief back and forth and a snarky comment from Allen that of course he read the season one script and didn't recall dying, Martin finally let us in on the joke. Apparently Allen had been given a gag script from David and D.B. Weiss, including a scene that detailed Theon's death. Allen said it seemed that they were hoping for more of a rise out of him. He was shocked at first but he was able to take some time and accept it. When the writers finally asked him how he felt, he simply stated that it's there show and they should do what they feel is best. They then proceeded to tell him that there was another part lined up for him—the part of a zombie. A naked zombie. A naked zombie with no dialogue! It was at this point that Alfie Allen said he realized that they were putting him on.

Much of the discussion also gravitated toward life on set. As the show is shot on four separate locations—Northern Ireland, Croatia, Belfast and Iceland--they chatted briefly over the different environments, with Martin affectionately describing the Iceland crew as the "Freeze-Your-Ass-Off Unit." Richard Madden laughed about how many people ask him about working with the direwolves. In reality he says, he doesn't really have a great deal to say about it, as it primarily requires him speaking into a silver ball at the end of a stick. Emilia Clarke, however, does receive her own replica dragons, over which she became pretty protective on set. When an audience member asked how the costumes affected the way each person gets into their role, Richard said that it truly affects everything. Not only is it a dream to fully get into character, in such an empowering costume but it also adjusts the way he walks and breathes. All the cast members praised Michele Clapton, the costume designer for the series and the level of work she puts into bringing their characters to life on camera. They said that though we are unable to see it on film, they are always impressed by the level of detail in each costume, right down to the intricate embroidery.

Carolyn Strauss was asked how an epic fantasy even came to exist on HBO, but she stated confidently that when looking at the material of such a fascinating, dramatically layered story, it was clear that this was undoubtedly a show for their network. She said that obviously, some made some changes were made to the original script, but it still stayed great and continues to do so. Now, it looks like that while season two has deviated more from the original material than season one (it will be interesting to see how Robb's love interest plays out as it is Talisa, rather than the book's Jeyne Westerling), the true substance of the stories have been maintained and the popularity of the show continues to rise. Martin said he doesn't like it when people turn his books into a direct allegory-he does not think of them that way. He said he believes in William Faulkner's quote that "the human heart in conflict with itself" is the only thing worth writing about. His books are about that-the human heart in conflict with itself-and that's what he keeps in mind.

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Craig (8 years ago) Reply

Great write up, thanks for that. Love the show.


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