Game of Thrones is an American fantasy television series produced by the HBO cable network. It is based on the novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George R.R. Martin who serves as a producer, creative consultant and scriptwriter on the television series. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss created the television series and serve as executive producers, showrunners and the main writers.
To date, the series consists of three transmitted seasons comprising thirty episodes in total. A fourth season made up of an additional ten episodes has been shot and is now broadcasting. Two further seasons have been commissioned, taking the show up to a sixth year.
Production of the series is based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, mainly at the Paint Hall Studios. It is the largest and most expensive television production ever mounted in Northern Ireland. Filming for the series has also been conducted in Malta, Iceland, Croatia and Morocco.
See the production timeline for a more detailed history of the show's development and production.
David Benioff was sent a collection of the first four novels in the series (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows) by George R.R. Martin's agent. Initially sceptical of the fantasy genre, Benioff became a big fan of the books and invited his friend D.B. Weiss to develop the project with him for a screen adaptation. They initially considered a movie adaption, but realized this would mean losing most of the plot and characters from the books. Instead, they began working on an adaptation for television. They met with George R.R. Martin and spent several hours discussing the project. Martin was impressed with their enthusiasm and that they had already worked out the resolutions to several key mysteries in the books. He agreed with them that the series was a good fit for the cable company HBO, which Martin was already a big fan of.
HBO agreed to option the project in 2007 and active development of a pilot script began. However, this was delayed by the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. In October 2008 HBO exercised its option to buy the rights to the series and ordered a pilot episode a few weeks later. Casting announcements were made throughout 2009, with Peter Dinklage the first actor formally announced for the series. The pilot episode was filmed in Northern Ireland and Morocco in October and November 2009.
HBO officially greenlit the series on 2 March 2010. Filming of Season 1 began on 23 July, with Malta replacing Morocco for overseas filming. Several actors from the pilot were recast, requiring the re-filming of most of the first episode. The season wrapped filming on 15 December. HBO later confirmed that the first season had a budget of $60 million. The first season aired on HBO on 17 April-19 June 2011, garnering critical acclaim and steadily rising ratings. HBO confirmed after the transmission of the first episode that a second season had been commissioned.
Production of Season 2 began on 25 July 2011 and wrapped on 12 December. Malta was dropped as a filming location, replaced by Croatia, whilst additional filming took place in Iceland. The budget for Season 2 was 15% higher than Season 1, necessitated by the addition more ambitious effects sequences and the use of CGI creatures such as direwolves and dragons. The second season aired from 1 April to 3 June 2012, garnering additional critical acclaim and increased ratings. By the end of the second season, the show had become the third-most-successful series in HBO's history, behind only The Sopranos and True Blood. In addition, the DVD and Blu-ray set of Season 1 was released just prior to transmission of Season 2 and immediately became HBO's fastest-selling media release in its history.
Production of Season 3 began on 10 July 2012 and wrapped on 24 November. Morocco was added to the filming roster alongside Croatia, Iceland and Northern Ireland, with the complexities of filming requiring the addition of a third filming unit to the existing two. An additional scene was shot in Los Angeles for safety reasons, meaning that Season 3 was filmed in five separate countries on three continents. The season aired from 31 March to 2 June 2013. The penultimate episode The Rains of Castamere won widespread critical acclaim for its shock twist ending. By the end of the season the show had supplanted True Blood as the second-most successful HBO show in the United States and The Sopranos as its most successful series worldwide.
Production of Season 4 began on 8 July 2013 and concluded on 21 November. Production was more focused this season, with only two units used and filming restricted to Northern Ireland, Iceland and Croatia. This was to allow more of the budget to be concentrated on several major action and effects sequences late in the season.
A fifth season is anticipated, but will not be formally confirmed until after the fourth season begins transmission.
Future seasons, and catching up with the books
The initial plan
It is generally projected that the TV series will last seven or eight seasons, but no one is entirely sure.
As of 2014, five books have been published in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and author George R.R. Martin has predicted that there will be two more (though he is struggling not to let the final book run long, in which case it would have to be split, for a total of eight books).
The third novel, A Storm of Swords, was so long that it pushed the limits of how large a published book could physically be without pages falling out. Because the third novel was so long, the production team realized it would be impossible to condense it all into a single season, so the decision was made to adapt its contents across two seasons. While Season 3 ends with the Red Wedding, this actually happened in the middle of the third novel (similar to how Renly Baratheon suddenly died in the middle of Season 2). Jon Snow returned to Castle Black by the middle of the third novel. Daenerys Targaryen had not yet reached Meereen by the middle of the third novel. A few characters did advance further than this in Season 3, i.e. Bran Stark actually passed north of the Wall at the end of the third novel (he had so few chapters in the entire book that the TV producers didn't want to space it out for two full seasons).
As a result, while there are projected to be seven novels, splitting the third novel into two seasons should mean that the TV series will end with Season 8.
Even so the producers have never been sure about this, and often simply gave the figure of "seven or eight" seasons.
Seasons 5 and 6: Intercutting the fourth and fifth novels
What was originally planned as the fourth novel was even longer than the third novel, so Martin split it into two novels: A Feast for Crows (the fourth book) and A Dance with Dragons (the fifth book). The fourth and fifth books occur during a simultaneous timeframe: all of the chapters set in the Seven Kingdoms were moved to the fourth book, while all chapters set outside of the Seven Kingdoms (at the Wall or across the Narrow Sea in Essos) were moved to the fifth book. Though of course, despite splitting them because as one book they would have been longer than the third novel, Martin kept making additions to the fourth and fifth novels during the writing process, so both are nearly as long as the third novel.
It would be odd to spend an entire season with one set of characters while the rest do not appear, then reverse this in the subsequent season. So the TV series's plan is that Seasons 5 and 6 will be intercut to chronological present events in the order that they happened. This is comparable to how J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers actually consisted of two halves: the first half entirely follows Aragorn since the end of the first novel, then the second half backs up in time to follow only Frodo's perspective, but during the same timeframe since the end of the first novel. Peter Jackson's movie adaptation, however, chose to simply intercut between the two storylines to show events in the chronological order in which they occurred.
Thus "Season 5" will consist of the first half of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, and then "Season 6" will adapt the second half of A Feast for Crows intercut with the second half of A Dance with Dragons. The combined result will be the same: "two books worth of material" will be adapted by "Seasons 5 and 6", but simply, Season 5 will cover the first half of both books, Season 6 the second halves of both. David Benioff has also commented that while it was relatively easy to end Season 3 with the Red Wedding, and Season 4 with the actual ending of the third novel...Season 5 doesn't really have a clear "climax", because it will end in the middle of the storylines from the fourth and fifth novels.
How many seasons?
Given that there are currently five novels, and the third was split into two seasons, there is currently enough print material to adapt through the end of Season 6. Even so, Martin has told producers Benioff & Weiss the general outline of how the final two books are going to progress (so if a bolt of lightning strikes Martin, they'd still be able to finish according to Martin's general plan).
After Season 3 ended, there was considerable discussion about the future of the TV series, particularly the question what would happen if the TV series began to outpace the novels.
Soon before Season 4 began, in early March 2014 executive producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss made several comments that they actually felt Season 4 was the "midway point" of the TV series, which would probably last seven seasons. On March 11, 2014, they said in Entertainment Weekly:
- "It feels like this is the midpoint for us...If we’re going to go seven seasons, which is the plan, Season 4 is right down the middle, the pivot point...I would say it's the goal we've had from the beginning...It was our unstated goal, because to start on a show and say your goal is seven seasons is the height of lunacy. Once we got to the point where we felt like we're going to be able to tell this tale to its conclusion, that became [an even clearer] goal. Seven gods, seven kingdoms, seven seasons. It feels right to us.”
Even so, Benioff and Weiss had earlier used the figure of eight seasons, because the third novel was split into two seasons. Making seven seasons would short one of the later novels.
Moreover, George R.R. Martin originally planned the entire story of the A Song of Ice and Fire series to be a trilogy of books, but during the writing process the story massively expanded. He knew by the time that the first book, A Game of Thrones, was released that it would have to be far longer.
Martin's originally planned trilogy would consist of three novels: A Game of Thrones, A Dance with Dragons, and The Winds of Winter. He had to split to subsequently split these into different novels. The storylines originally planned for "Book 1: A Game of Thrones" were split across three novels: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords. Thus the ending of the third novel is actually the climax which was supposed to conclude "Book 1" of the original trilogy.
Originally, George R.R. Martin even planned to emphasize how much of a break this was by making a five year time-jump between the end of A Storm of Swords (the finale of Season 4) and the beginning of the next novel (Season 5), though he later abandoned the time jump because he felt it was irresistible so show what actually happened immediately afterwards.
However, because the third novel was split across two seasons, the finale of "Season 4" is what actually adapts the ending of the third novel, the climactic ending of the originally planned "Book 1".
Put another way, if the entire story can be divided into three classical "Act" breaks, they would be:
- A Game of Thrones - adapted as "Season 1" of the TV series
- A Clash of Kings - adapted as "Season 2"
- A Storm of Swords, Part 1 of 2 (ending with the Red Wedding) - adapted as "Season 3"
- A Storm of Swords, Part 2 of 2 - adapted as "Season 4"
- A Feast for Crows - first half adapted in Season 5, second half in Season 6
- A Dance with Dragons - second half adapted in Season 5, second half in Season 6
- The Winds of Winter - adapted as Season 7?
- A Dream of Spring - adapted as Season 8?
"The second half of the third novel" (adapted as "Season 4" of the TV series), is therefore not the "midway" point of the story, but the end of "Act 1 of 3".
Catching up with the books
Benioff & Weiss, as well as George R.R. Martin himself, then provided comments for the April 2014 issue of Vanity Fair (which was released about two weeks after Benioff and Weiss said in Entertainment Weekly that there might be only seven seasons).
Contradicting his statements made at the same time in EW that "we're going for seven seasons, it's been our goal since the beginning", Benioff instead repeated that the production team wasn't sure if the TVseries would last "seven or eight" seasons.
- "If we're a series and we're four seasons, five seasons in, and it's indefinite as to how long it's gonna go, then I don't think there’s as much pressure as far as, the end is coming, the end is nigh. So, for us, whether it ends up being seven or eight, it's right around there. I think we've always felt — we just completed the fourth season — this is the midpoint. And we're coming around the bend right now."
George R.R. Martin himself, in the same issue of Vanity Fair, addressed the major and related question which is frequently asked: what will happen if the TV series outpaces the remaining books? What if Martin cannot finish the next novel (the sixth, The Winds of Winter) before Season 7 has to enter production?
Martin stated that while he is trying to focus on writing the remaining novels, he is opposed to rushing them to finish to match the TV series, given that he wants his novels to stand the test of time for decades, like J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Thus while Martin is hurrying, he has accepted that it a real possibility that he cannot finish the next two novels in the four years between Season 4 and Season 8.
Martin also made two major points:
First: If the producers of the TV series are worried that they will outpace his books...why would they decrease the length of the TV series from eight to seven seasons? This would mean that material from the fifth (and current) book would have to be condensed, and ultimately, they'd use up all printed material even sooner. So if they don't want to outpace the books (for fear that they would lack direction), why would they rush to finish the TV series in only seven seasons? It makes more sense to try for eight seasons.
Second: For that matter, the fourth and fifth novels were nearly as long as the third novel. They form "Act 2 of 3" for the overall story, when it took the TV series four seasons to tell the story of "Act 1 of 3". Martin's suggestion is therefore that instead of making two TV seasons out of books four and five, why not simply spread out the material more to make three seasons out of it? In this case, they would have enough print material to sustain through Season 7, before having to worry about adapting his final two, unpublished books. This would not mean they would have to pad out the material: on the contrary, a large amount of material from the books is cut for time from the TV series adaptation. Similar to splitting the third novel across Season 3 and Season 4, if they split the fourth and fifth novels across Seasons 5, 6, and 7, it would not only forestall outpacing the printed books, but also make for a more cohesive story that doesn't require drastic condensations. In this case, expanding to make yet another season, the TV series could potentially run for nine seasons.
In Martin's own words:
"The season that's about to debut covers the second half of the third book. The third book [A Storm of Swords] was so long that it had to be split into two. But there are two more books beyond that, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. A Dance with Dragons is itself a book that’s as big as A Storm of Swords. So there’s potentially three more seasons there, between Feast and Dance, if they split into two the way they did [with Storm]. Now, Feast and Dance take place simultaneously. So you can't do Feast and then Dance the way I did. You can combine them and do it chronologically. And it's my hope that they'll do it that way and then, long before they catch up with me, I'll have published The Winds of Winter, which’ll give me another couple years. It might be tight on the last book, A Dream of Spring, as they juggernaut forward.
Martin went on to suggest that anything is possible and if worse comes to worst, if the TV series doesn't want to outpace the books, they might simply take a year off the way Breaking Bad or Mad Men have done. Nor would this need to be a year with no actual new content: HBO could make a prequel miniseries or TV movie adapting other time periods in the history of Westeros, then return to the main "Game of Thrones" TV series after he has released the final two books.
It is entirely possible that HBO might make prequel projects based on the events of Robert's Rebellion (featuring young Eddard Stark and setting up the events of the main series), or going even further back to adapt Martin's Tales of Dunk and Egg prequel series set ninety years before the main series, which detail the adventures of Ser Duncan the Tall ("Dunk") and Prince Aegon V Targaryen ("Egg") - Aegon V being the younger brother of Maester Aemon. Martin even pointed out that his recent novella The Princess and the Queen, detailing the devastating civil war known as "The Dance of the Dragons" fought between Rhaenyra Targaryen and her half-brother Aegon II, would be an interesting project to adapt.
Subsequently, Martin half-jokingly told The Hollywood Reporter on March 19th, 2014, that the TV series might even need a major theatrical movie to serve as an ending, because the CGI budget would be massive. Or that HBO might consider making, Tales of Dunk and Egg theatrical movies, because they are relatively episodic and stand-alone novellas (or maybe just as TV-movies):
- It all depends on how long the main series runs...Do we run for seven years? Do we run for eight? Do we run for 10? The books get bigger and bigger (in scope). It might need a feature to tie things up, something with a feature budget, like $100 million for two hours. Those dragons get real big, you know."
Martin was then, however, interviewed by The Wall Street Journal a few days later on March 21st, 2014. He responded to the speculation his comments in The Hollywood Reporter had caused, which seemed to contradict Benioff and Weiss leaning more towards seven than eight seasons. The interview asked about his comments that the TV series could simply make up to nine seasons, by expanding the current remaining books instead of outpacing the ones he hasn't finished yet, or that it might even need a movie to finish:
- Question: "There’s been recent talk about a Game of Thrones movie to finish the series."
- George R.R. Martin: "Yes, I got in trouble for that." [laughs]
- Question: "What happened?"
- Martin: "This is all pie-in-the-sky stuff. People are asking me how the series is going to end. Is it going to be seven seasons? Is it going to be 10 seasons? Are there going to be movies? We talked about all these possibilities. But right now we have four seasons. That's all that's been ordered. HBO has not ordered Season 5, so we certainly don’t know about Season 7, Season 10, or any movies. But there's a lot of possibilities that are being kicked around, and it all depends on so many things. Will our ratings continue to go up? Will the show continue to be popular? Sometimes shows fall off. Sometimes people change. Executives change or something, and the new guy doesn't love the show. You don't know anything. I worked in Hollywood from 1985 to 1995, and the one thing I learned is nobody knows anything and it's a day-to-day process. So right now we’re enjoying Season 4 and we’re hoping we'll get an order for Season 5 within a month or so, and then we'll do that one. And then we'll see where that leads.
- As George R.R. Martin himself has pointed out, no one is entirely sure how long the series will run, because even shows that are very popular in their fourth season might get very low ratings in their sixth season and get abruptly cancelled. The future is unknown. HBO only actually orders the series one season at a time, so while the production team is beginning to work on Season 5 (as of early 2014) it hasn't been officially ordered yet. Nothing is guaranteed for years in advance, and HBO might cancel it later.
- No matter how many seasons Game of Thrones has, HBO as well as Benioff and Weiss have tentatively said that they are willing to subsequently make prequel projects focusing on other events from centuries' worth of Westeros's history. Specifically, they might want to adapt the Tales of Dunk and Egg prequel novellas set ninety years before the main series. Martin has pointed out that they might want to adapt other prequels such as the great Targaryen civil war known as "The Dance of the Dragons" (featuring large amounts of dragon versus dragon combat), or they might even want to make a flashback prequel project about Robert's Rebellion, showing Eddard Stark and Catelyn Tully as young teenagers, and setting up the events of the main series.
- HBO and the production team have pointed out that they cannot possibly make prequel projects at the same time as the main series, there simply isn't enough time to focus on it and ensure high quality, particularly when they physically cannot produce more than ten episodes of the main series a season. This is similar to the reason why, after book three was split into twenty episodes instead of ten, the two halves aired as two separate seasons, instead of a single massive season of twenty episodes produced in a single year - that would have been physically impossible.
- No one is exactly sure what format such a prequel project would take: a short TV series, a miniseries, a made-for-TV-movie, or even a theatrical movie. The Tales of Dunk and Egg prequel novellas are episodic, so each one could either be a short miniseries or TV movie, released as an ongoing series across several years.
Outpacing the books:
- Because the third novel was so long, it was split in half and adapted as two seasons: Season 3 and Season 4. With seven projected books in total, with two left unpublished, this means that the TV series may continue up to Season 8.
- It is a very bold prediction to guarantee even seven seasons, and around the Season 4 premiere, Benioff and Weiss began leaning more towards saying they think it will run seven seasons, though when pressed they said "seven or eight".
- George R.R. Martin does not want to rush the final books out, lowering their quality, just to match the release of the TV series's final seasons.
- Martin is in extensive discussions with HBO, as well as Benioff and Weiss, that a possible solution might be to simply adapt the fourth and fifth novels as three seasons, instead of two, similar to how they adapted the third novel as two seasons. Given the extreme length of the novels this doesn't mean they would have to invent filler, but actually that they wouldn't have to condense as much material.
- Thus the series could run for anywhere between seven to nine seasons, depending on what the production team feels they are capable of, and far more importantly, if the TV series continues to be the highest rated series airing on HBO and winning the network major awards. If Season 6 has a sudden and massive drop in ratings, HBO may force the production team to make Season 7 the final one.
- Martin has suggested - as pure speculation - that apart from expanding books four and five into three seasons worth of material, HBO might want to simply take a year off from the main series and instead produce one of the prequel projects before, instead of after, the main series ends.
- HBO is indeed interested in making prequel projects, even after the main series ends.
With 250 speaking roles, almost 90 of them named, the cast was the largest ever assembled for the debut season of a HBO project. The cast grew even larger in the second and third seasons.
The cast includes Sean Bean as Lord Eddard Stark, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Mark Addy as King Robert Baratheon, Kit Harington as Jon Snow, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen, Richard Madden as Robb Stark, Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister, Aidan Gillen as Petyr Baelish, Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy, Conleth Hill as Varys, Rory McCann as Sandor Clegane, Jerome Flynn as Bronn, John Bradley-West as Samwell Tarly, Iain Glen as Jorah Mormont, James Cosmo as Jeor Mormont, Sibel Kekilli as Shae and Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo. The cast is also notable for including a number of teenage and child actors in prominent roles: Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark, Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran Stark, Art Parkinson as Rickon Stark and Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon.
Jennifer Ehle was initially cast as Catelyn Stark, but after filming the pilot HBO decided to recast the role with Michelle Fairley. No further details have been given for the reason behind this decision, except that it was amicable. In a similar manner, Tamzin Merchant was initially cast as Daenerys Targaryen, but after filming the pilot she was replaced by newcomer Emilia Clarke.
For the second season, a number of new characters were introduced, including Stephen Dillane as Lord Stannis Baratheon, Carice van Houten as Melisandre, Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth, Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Michael McElhatton as Roose Bolton.
For the third season, the cast was further swelled with additions, including Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell, Tobias Menzies as Edmure Tully, Clive Russell as Brynden Tully, Ciaran Hinds as Mance Rayder and Mackenzie Crook as Orell.
The series is set on a world where the seasons can last for years at a time. The main setting is the continent of Westeros, which was home to seven feuding kingdoms until they were united by the Targaryen family using dragons some three centuries ago. The dragons died out and the Targaryen Mad King was unseated in a civil war led by Lords Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark, seventeen years before the series opens. Robert has ruled as King ever since, but when the series opens his rule is increasingly undermined by other factions. At the same time, two surviving Targaryen children, having grown to adulthood in exile on the eastern continent of Essos, are now planning to return and retake the Iron Throne, and to this end are seeking a military alliance with other factions.
As both civil war and an external invasion threaten Westeros, another danger arises in the lands to the far north, beyond the vast Wall that forms the realm's northern border, where a supernatural threat believed to be mythical seems to be stirring after millennia of sleep. The only defence lies with the Night's Watch, an under-manned, under-funded order of soldiers once held in honor but now used as a dumping ground for criminals and exiles.
The Great Houses
Westeros is ruled by nine noble houses, who in turn command hundreds of lesser vassal houses. Each of the Great Houses rules a large region and commands significant armies and power in their own right. A list of the Great Houses and some of their more significant vassals follows:
- House Baratheon of Storm's End: rulers of the Stormlands and, since the civil war, the whole of Westeros. Led by King Robert Baratheon and his brothers, Stannis and Renly.
- House Stark of Winterfell: rulers of the North, the largest region of the continent. Led by Lord Eddard Stark.
- House Bolton of the Dreadfort: vassals of the Starks who rule over the eastern lands of the North. Noted for their love of flaying people alive. Led by Lord Roose Bolton.
- House Umber of the Last Hearth: vassals of the Starks who rule over the lands between Winterfell and the Wall. Led by Lord Greatjon Umber.
- House Karstark of Karhold: vassals of the Starks who rule over the north-eastern lands of the North. Led by Lord Rickard Karstark.
- House Glover of Deepwood Motte: vassals of the Starks who rule over the north-western lands of the North. Led by Lord Galbart Glover.
- House Mormont of Bear Island: vassals of the Starks who rule over Bear Island. Led by Lady Maege Mormont.
- House Reed of Greywater Watch: vassals of the Starks who rule over the southern-most parts of the North. Led by Lord Howland Reed.
- House Lannister of Casterly Rock: rulers of the Westerlands. Richest house in Westeros. Led by Lord Tywin Lannister.
- House Arryn of the Eyrie: rulers of the Vale of Arryn. A house noted for its chivalry. Led by the young Lord Robin Arryn.
- House Tyrell of Highgarden: rulers of the Reach, a vast, fertile region in the south of Westeros. The most populous region of the continent and able to field the largest armies. Led by Lord Mace Tyrell.
- House Tully of Riverrun: rulers of the Riverlands, the well-traveled central region of the continent. Led by Lord Hoster Tully.
- House Frey of the Twins: vassals of the Tullys who hold the only major crossing of the Green Fork of the Trident. Noted for their large numbers and tendency to always pick the winning side. Led by the ancient Lord Walder Frey.
- House Bracken of Stone Hedge: loyal vassals of the Tullys, noted for their prickly relationship with their neighbours, the Blackwoods. Led by Lord Jonos Bracken.
- House Greyjoy of Pyke: rulers of the Iron Islands off the west coast of the continent. The ironborn are fierce and independently-minded, but a recent attempt to rebel against the Iron Throne was defeated. Led by Lord Balon Greyjoy.
- House Martell of Sunspear: rulers of Dorne, the southern-most region of the continent. Separated from the rest of Westeros by extensive mountains and a sea, the Dornish mostly keep to themselves. Led by Prince Doran Martell.
- House Targaryen: the former rulers of Westeros before Robert's Rebellion. The family is now destroyed and its survivors are exiles in the far east, searching for support to retake their birthright. Led by Viserys Targaryen, the Beggar King.
This list of characters describes their location and status as of the first episode of the series.
- Main article: House Stark
- Sean Bean as Lord Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell.
- Michelle Fairley as Lady Catelyn Stark, originally of House Tully.
- Richard Madden as Robb Stark, Eddard's eldest son and heir.
- Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Eddard's eldest daughter.
- Maisie Williams as Arya Stark, Eddard's youngest daughter.
- Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran Stark, Eddard's middle son.
- Art Parkinson as Rickon Stark, Eddard's youngest son.
- Kit Harington as Jon Snow, Eddard's bastard son by an unknown mother.
- Joseph Mawle as Benjen Stark, Eddard's younger brother, First Ranger of the Night's Watch.
Retainers at Winterfell
- Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy, a ward and hostage for his rebellious father's good behavior.
- Ron Donachie as Ser Rodrik Cassel, master of arms.
- Jamie Sives as Jory Cassel, Rodrik's nephew, captain of the guards.
- Donald Sumpter as Maester Luwin, a maester of the Citadel.
- Kristian Nairn as Hodor, a simple stableboy.
- Margaret John as Old Nan, a retired servant and Hodor's great-grandmother.
- Susan Brown as Septa Mordane, a religious tutor and governess to Arya and Sansa.
- Esme Bianco as Ros, a prostitute working in Winterfell's outlying town.
Vassals and allies of House Stark
- Clive Mantle as Lord Greatjon Umber, Lord of Last Hearth, a loyal vassal of House Stark.
- Mark Coney as Lord Galbart Glover, Lord of Deepwood Motte, a vassal of House Stark.
- Steven Blount (Season 1)/John Stahl (Season 2) as Lord Rickard Karstark, Lord of Karhold, a vassal and distant kinsman of House Stark.
- Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Jojen Reed, the son and heir of Lord Howland Reed, one of Eddard Stark's closest friends and allies.
- Ellie Kendrick as Meera Reed, Jojen's older sister.
House Bolton and retainers
- Michael McElhatton as Lord Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort, a vassal of Eddard Stark.
- Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Snow, Lord Roose's bastard son.
- Noah Taylor as Locke, a vassal and hunter in Lord Bolton's service.
- Charlotte Hope as Myranda, a prostitute at the Dreadfort.
- Main article: House Lannister
- Charles Dance as Lord Tywin Lannister, the widowed patriarch of House Lannister and father of Jaime, Cersei and Tyrion.
- Lena Headey as Queen Cersei Lannister, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, twin sister of Jaime, mother of Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen.
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Ser Jaime Lannister, a knight of the Kingsguard, twin brother of Cersei.
- Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Cersei and Jaime's younger brother, called the Imp for his size.
- Ian Gelder as Ser Kevan Lannister, Lord Tywin's younger brother and closest adviser.
- Eugene Simon as Lancel Lannister, Ser Kevan's son, a squire to King Robert.
- Karl Davies as Alton Lannister, a distant cousin of the main branch of the family.
Vassals and allies of House Lannister
- Daniel Portman as Podrick Payne, a squire, a member of one of the Lannisters' vassal families.
- Fintan McKeown as Ser Amory Lorch, a loyal vassal and retainer of House Lannister.
- Rory McCann as Sandor Clegane, Prince Joffrey's bodyguard and sworn sword, long in the service of House Lannister.
- Conan Stevens (Season 1)/Ian Whyte (Season 2)/Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (Season 4) as Ser Gregor Clegane, Sandor Clegane's brother and the most feared knight in Westeros, known as 'Lord Tywin's Mad Dog'.
- Anthony Morris as the Tickler, a noted interrogator and torturer in the service of Ser Gregor Clegane.
- Vinnie McCabe as Lord Leo Lefford, a Lannister bannerman.
- Main article: House Baratheon
- Mark Addy as King Robert Baratheon, King of the Seven Kingdoms.
- Jack Gleeson as Prince Joffrey Baratheon, King Robert's eldest son and heir.
- Aimee Richardson as Myrcella Baratheon, King Robert's eldest daughter.
- Callum Wharry as Tommen Baratheon, King Robert's youngest son.
- Gethin Anthony as Lord Renly Baratheon, King Robert's youngest brother, Lord of Storm's End.
- Stephen Dillane as Lord Stannis Baratheon, King Robert's middle brother, Lord of Dragonstone.
- Tara Fitzgerald as Lady Selyse Baratheon, Lord Stannis's wife, originally of House Florent.
- Kerry Ingram as Shireen Baratheon, Lord Stannis's daughter and only child.
Vassals and allies of House Baratheon
- Carice van Houten as Melisandre, Lord Stannis's adviser, a red priestess.
- Liam Cunningham as Ser Davos Seaworth, a former smuggler, now Lord Stannis' most loyal vassal.
- Kerr Logan as Matthos Seaworth, Ser Davos's son.
- Oliver Ford Davies as Maester Cressen, Lord Stannis's maester.
- Lucian Msamati as Salladhor Saan, a freesail in Stannis's employ.
- Gordon Mahn as Ser Imry Florent, a knight sworn to Stannis's service.
- Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth, a fierce warrior from the Stormlands.
- Robert Sterne as the Royal Steward, a courtier in the service of Robert Baratheon in King's Landing.
- Rhodri Hosking as Mycah, son of a butcher in King Robert's retinue.
House Arryn and retainers
- Main article: House Arryn
- Sir John Standing as Lord Jon Arryn, Lord of the Eyrie and the King's Hand.
- Kate Dickie as Lady Lysa Arryn, originally of House Tully, Catelyn Stark's sister.
- Lino Facioli as Robin Arryn, Lord Jon's only surviving son and heir.
- Brendan McCormack as Ser Vardis Egen, the captain of the Eyrie's household guards.
- Ciaran Birmingham as Mord, the Eyrie's chief gaoler.
- Jefferson Hall as Ser Hugh of the Vale, Lord Jon's former squire.
- Rupert Vansittart as Lord Yohn Royce, one of the Arryns' most stalwart vassals and supporters.
- Paola Dionisotti as Lady Anya Waynwood, one of the Arryns' vassals.
- Alisdair Simpson as Ser Donnel Waynwood, the Knight of the Gate.
House Tyrell and retainers
- Main article: House Tyrell
- Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Lord Mace Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden and the Reach. The son of Olenna Redwyne and the father of Loras and Margaery.
- Finn Jones as Ser Loras Tyrell, Lord Renly Baratheon's former squire and a famous tourney knight.
- Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell, Loras's sister.
- Dame Diana Rigg as Olenna Redwyne, nicknamed the Queen of Thorns, the mother of Mace, grandmother of Loras and Margaery and matriarch of the family.
House Greyjoy and retainers
- Main article: House Greyjoy
- Patrick Malahide as Lord Balon Greyjoy, Lord of Pyke, father of Theon Greyjoy.
- Gemma Whelan as Yara Greyjoy, the only daughter of Lord Balon.
- Forbes KB as Lorren, a noted raider and reaver in the service of House Greyjoy.
- Ralph Ineson as Dagmer, a noted raider, reaver and ship captain in the service of House Greyjoy.
House Tully and retainers
- Main article: House Tully
- Tobias Menzies as Ser Edmure Tully, the son and heir of the ailing Lord Hoster Tully and the brother of Lady Catelyn Stark.
- Clive Russell as Ser Brynden Tully, Lord Hoster's younger brother, a famous knight known as "The Blackfish".
- Gerry O'Brien as Lord Jonos Bracken, Lord of Stone Hedge, a vassal of House Tully.
- Kevin Keenan as Kurleket, a man-at-arms to House Bracken, a vassal of House Tully.
- Ryan McKenna as Ser Willis Wode, a sworn sword of House Whent, a vassal of House Tully.
House Frey and retainers
- David Bradley as Lord Walder Frey, Lord of the Twins, an old and prickly vassal of House Tully, past ninety years of age.
- Kelly Long as Joyeuse Erenford, Walder Frey's newest wife.
- Tim Plester as "Black Walder" Frey, the great-grandson of Walder Frey and a noted warrior with a hot temper.
- Alexandra Dowling as Roslin Frey, one of Lord Frey's youngest daughters.
- Elizabeth Webster as Fat Walda Frey, one of Lord Frey's granddaughters.
House Martell and retainers
- Main article: House Martell
- Pedro Pascal as Prince Oberyn Martell, popularly known as the Red Viper. The younger brother of the ruling Prince Doran Martell of Dorne.
- Indira Varma as Ellaria Sand, Oberyn's paramour and mother to several of his children.
- Daniel Rabin as Lord Blackmont, a senior vassal of the Martells.
In the Riverlands
- Main article: Riverlands
- Susie Kelly as Masha Heddle, the innkeeper of the Crossroads Inn.
- Jerome Flynn as Bronn, a sellsword met at the Crossroads Inn.
- Emun Elliott as Marillion, a singer and troubadour met at the Crossroads Inn.
- Sibel Kekilli as Shae, a camp-follower and prostitute attached to the Lannister army.
- Mark Lewis Jones as Shagga, a warrior clan chief from the Mountains of the Moon.
- Oona Chaplin as Talisa Maegyr, a battlefield doctor.
- Paul Kealyn as Weasel, a worker at Harrenhal.
- Paul Kaye as Thoros of Myr, a red priest, warrior, famed drinker and friend of King Robert.
- Philip McGinley as Anguy, an exceptionally-skilled archer.
- Anton Lesser as Qyburn, a disgraced maester.
In King's Landing
- Aidan Gillen as Lord Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish, the Master of Coin on the king's small council.
- Julian Glover as Grand Maester Pycelle, the master of wisdom on the king's small council.
- Conleth Hill as Varys, the Master of Whisperers on the king's small council.
- Ian McElhinney as Lord Commander Barristan Selmy, the head of the Kingsguard.
- Ian Beattie as Ser Meryn Trant, a knight of the Kingsguard.
- James Doran as Ser Mandon Moore, a knight of the Kingsguard.
- Wilko Johnson as Ser Ilyn Payne, the king's headsman and executioner.
- David Michael Scott (Season 1)/Richard Dormer (Season 3) as Lord Beric Dondarrion, a young lord and popular tourney knight.
- Dominic Carter as Commander Janos Slynt, the commander of the City Watch.
- Miltos Yerolemou as Syrio Forel, a master swordsman from Braavos.
- Andrew Wilde as Tobho Mott, a master armorer and smith.
- Joe Dempsie as Gendry, Mott's apprentice.
- Antonia Christophers as Mhaegen, a prostitute.
- Sahara Knite as Armeca, a prostitute.
- Emily Diamond as a prostitute.
- Josephine Gillan as Marei, a prostitute.
- Will Tudor as Olyvar, a male prostitute and spy.
- Pixie Le Knot as Kayla, a prostitute and contortionist.
- Eros Vlahos as Lommy Greenhands, a dyer's apprentice.
- Ben Hawkey as Hot Pie, a baker's apprentice.
- Andy Beckwith as Rorge, a street criminal imprisoned in the Red Keep.
- Gerard Jordan as Biter, a street criminal imprisoned in the Red Keep.
- Hugo Culverhouse as a stableboy in the Red Keep.
- Tom Wlaschiha as Jaqen H'ghar, a prisoner in the Red Keep.
- Roy Dotrice as Wisdom Hallyne, the head of the Alchemists' Guild.
- Simon Fisher-Becker as the High Septon, the head of the Faith of the Seven.
- Tony Way as Ser Dontos Hollard, a knight in service to the crown.
- Mark Gatiss as Tycho Nestoris, a representative of the Iron Bank of Braavos to the Iron Throne.
In the Night's Watch
- Main article: Night's Watch
- James Cosmo as Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, commander of the Night's Watch.
- Owen Teale as Ser Alliser Thorne, in charge of training new recruits.
- Peter Vaughan as Maester Aemon, Lord Mormont's closest adviser.
- Brian Fortune as Bowen Marsh, the First Steward of the Watch.
- Dennis McKeever as Othell Yarwyck, the First Builder of the Watch.
- Jeffrey O'Brien as Ser Jaremy Rykker, an officer in the rangers.
- Francis Magee as Yoren, a recruiter for the Watch.
- John Bradley-West as Samwell Tarly, a nobleman's son, a fresh recruit to the Wall.
- Josef Altin as Pypar, a fresh recruit to the Watch, a former actor.
- Mark Stanley as Grenn, a fresh recruit to the Watch.
- Luke McEwan as Rast, a fresh recruit to the Watch, arrested for rape.
- Rob Ostlere as Ser Waymar Royce, a newcomer to the Watch, a skilled knight.
- Dermot Keaney as Gared, an experienced ranger.
- Bronson Webb as Will, an experienced ranger and scout.
- Ben Crompton as Eddison Tollett, a squire, noted for his pessimistic sense of humor.
- Simon Armstrong as Qhorin Halfhand, an elite scout from the Shadow Tower and one of the Watch's most respected rangers.
- Burn Gorman as Karl, a ranger.
- Natalia Tena as Osha, a wildling warrior-woman.
- Stephen Don as Stiv, a former member of the Watch who has turned his cloak.
- Robert Pugh as Craster, a wildling whose keep provides a safehaven for rangers of the Watch.
- Hannah Murray as Gilly, one of Craster's daughters.
- Rose Leslie as Ygritte, a wildling warrior-woman in the service of Mance Rayder.
- Edward Dogliani as Lord of Bones, a famed wildling warrior and leader of men, a fierce enemy of the Night's Watch.
- Mackenzie Crook as Orell, a sinister wildling with unnatural powers.
- Kristofer Hivju as Tormund Giantsbane, a charismatic wildling leader.
- Ciarán Hinds as Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, the leader of all the wildlings by acclamation.
- Yuri Kolokolnikov as Styr, the Magnar of Thenn.
In Pentos and Vaes Dothrak
- Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen, an exiled Targaryen claimant to the Iron Throne.
- Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, Viserys's younger sister.
- Iain Glen as Ser Jorah Mormont, a knight of Westeros, exiled by Lord Eddard Stark.
- Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo, a warlord of the Dothraki.
- Roger Allam as Illyrio Mopatis, a magister of the Free City of Pentos.
- Dar Salim as Qotho, one of Drogo's bloodriders.
- Ivailo Dimitrov as Mago, a Dothraki warrior.
- Elyes Gabel as Rakharo, a Dothraki warrior in Daenerys's service as a bodyguard.
- Steven Cole as Kovarro, a Dothraki warrior.
- Amrita Acharia as Irri, a handmaiden gifted to Daenerys.
- Roxanne McKee as Doreah, a servant and adviser gifted to Daenerys.
- Sarita Piotrowski as Jhiqui, a handmaiden gifted to Daenerys.
- Rania Zouari as a Pentoshi servant in Illyrio's manse.
- Simon Lowe as a wineseller in Vaes Dothrak.
- Nonso Anozie as Xaro Xhoan Daxos, a merchant lord of Qarth.
- Ian Hanmore as Pyat Pree, a warlock of Qarth.
- Laura Pradelska as Quaithe, a priestess of the Shadow Lands resident in Qarth.
- Nicholas Blane as the Spice King, the leader of the spice merchants of Qarth.
In Astapor and Yunkai
- Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei, a slave and translator working in the city of Astapor.
- Dan Hildebrand as Kraznys mo Nakloz, a slave-trader and immensely rich merchant in Astapor.
- Ramon Tikaram as Prendahl na Ghezn, a mercenary commander.
- Ed Skrein (Season 3)/Michiel Huisman (Season 4) as Daario Naharis, a charismatic mercenary.
- Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm, a warrior-eunuch of the Unsullied.
- David Benioff - writer/executive producer.
- D.B. Weiss - writer/executive producer.
- George R.R. Martin - writer/executive producer.
- Guymon Cassidy - executive producer.
- Carolyn Strauss - executive producer.
- Ralph Vincinaza - executive producer.
- Vincent Gerardis - executive producer.
- Frank Doelger - producer.
- Mark Huffam - producer
- Thomas McCarthy - director (pilot).
- Sean Bobbitt - director of photography.
- Sean Guest - 1st assistant director.
- Tatiana S. Riegel - editor.
- Gemma Jackson - production designer.
- Michele Clapton - costume designer.
- Marisa Clayton - digital post-production.
- Julia Frey - production supervisor/location scout (pilot).
- Robert Stromberg - VFX supervisor (pilot).
- Ramin Djawadi - music (series).
- Buster Reeves - stunt work (pilot).
- Corvus Corax - music (Winterfell feast scene).
- Nina Gold - London casting director.
- Amy Berman & Carrie Frazier - Los Angeles casting directors.
- Michelle Taylor Spellman - Los Angeles casting associate.
- Kerry Barden & Paul Schnee - New York casting directors.
- Allison Estrin - New York casting associate.
- David Benioff & D.B. Weiss: episodes 1-3, 5, 7, 9-12, 15, 17-18, 20-21, 23-24, 26, 28-31, 33, 35, 37-40.
- Bryan Cogman: episodes 4, 13, 25, 34 and 36.
- Jane Espenson: episode 6.
- George R.R. Martin: episodes 8, 19, 27 and 32.
- Vanessa Taylor: episode 14, 16 and 22.
- Thomas McCarthy: pilot episode (unscreened).
- Tim Van Patten: episodes 1-2.
- Brian Kirk: episodes 3-5.
- Daniel Minahan: episodes 6-8, 21-22.
- Alan Taylor: episodes 9-12, 18 & 20.
- Alik Sakharov: episodes 13, 26, 36-37.
- David Petrarca: episodes 14-15.
- David Nutter: episodes 16-17, 29-30.
- Neil Marshall: episodes 19 & 39.
- David Benioff: episodes 23 & 31.
- Alex Graves: episodes 24-25, 32-33, 38 & 40.
- Michelle MacLaren: episodes 27-28, 34-35.
- The Paint Hall Studios in Belfast is being used for all primary interior sets.
- Location filming for the prologue and the discovery of the direwolf cubs took place at Tollymore Forest Park near Newcastle in County Down.
- Location filming for some exteriors near Winterfell, including the execution in Season 1 Episode 1 of Will, who fled the Night's Watch, took place at Cairncastle in County Antrim.
- Location filming for some courtyard scenes at Winterfell, including Tommen and Bran's practice bout, took place at Castle Ward in County Down.
- The Clanranald Trust's 'Combat International' team have confirmed they will be taking part in the production for some scenes that will be filmed at a castle in Scotland. Doune Castle, used for some scenes in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is being used for some scenes involving guardsmen displaying the livery of House Lannister, suggesting that it will be used to depict the courtyard of Winterfell. Filming of the pilot began at Doune Castle on 24 October.
Morocco (pilot only)
- Morocco was used for the filming of the scenes involving Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen in Pentos. Some of the castle sets constructed for the movie Kingdom of Heaven were also reused for the project.
- Atlas Studios and some other locations at Ouarzazate are the primary locations where filming took place in Morocco.
- The pilot was originally expected to be filmed between 12 October and 6 November 2009, but there was a two-week delay in pre-production. A read-through of the script was held on 12 October 2009. Production and on-location rehearsals began on 24 October. Filming commenced on 26 October and concluded on 19 November.
- Scenes at Doune Castle were filmed on 26–27 October 2009 and are believed to include the Winterfell feast to celebrate King Robert's visit. Some filming was also done in the courtyard.
- The prologue was filmed on 29 October 2009 at Tollymore Forest Park.
- Filming at Cairncastle took place on 2 November 2009, including the scene of Gared's execution and finding the dead direwolf in the snow.
- Filming of the scene between Ros, Tyrion and Jaime in King's Landing was filmed on or prior to 3 November 2009, possibly at the Paint Hall studios.
- Filming at Castle Ward took place on 5 November 2009, including the scenes of Tommen and Bran sparring and Sandor and Joffrey insulting Rodrik and Robb.
- The UK filming bloc was expected to last for 18 days, suggesting that it would finish around 12 November 2009. George R.R. Martin confirmed on his blog that after this date production would move to Morocco for the remainder of the shoot.
- Daenerys and Khal Drogo's wedding was filmed on 16 November 2009.
- Production of the rest of Season 1, including reshoots on the pilot, commenced on 23 July 2010 and ran through 18 December 2010. Filming took place in Northern Ireland and Malta.
- Production of Season 2 ran from 25 July 2011 to 12 December 2011. Filming took place in Northern Ireland, Iceland and Croatia (replacing Malta).
- Production of Season 3 ran from 10 July to 24 November 2012, with Morocco added to the filming roster. An additional scene was also shot in Los Angeles, meaning that filming for Season 3 took place in five countries and on three continents.
- Production of Season 4 ran from 8 July to 21 November 2013. Filming took place in Northern Ireland, Iceland and Croatia, with Morocco dropped. Filming in Iceland was expanded to encompass locations in the south of Westeros as well as beyond the Wall, and took place earlier in the schedule to allow for more filming time.
- Winter is Coming - a blog dedicated to covering all developments on the production as they happen.
- Westeros.org - a subset of the Westeros.org website which covers developments on the series.
- Game of Thrones Tour Belfast - A tour of filming locations in Belfast Northern Ireland.
- Game of Thrones on Wikipedia
- Game of Thrones on A Wiki of Ice and Fire
- ↑ The Hollywood Reporter
- ↑ Entertainment Weekly, March 11th, 2014]
- ↑ Vanity Fair, April 2014
- ↑ Vanity Fair, April 2014.
- ↑ Vanity Fair, "George R.R. Martin Has a Detailed Plan For Keeping the Game of Thrones TV Show From Catching Up To Him.
- ↑ Multiple 'Game of Thrones' Movies Eyed by George R.R. Martin
- ↑ The Wall Street Journal, George R.R. Martin interview, March 21st, 2014.