Inside HBO's Game Of Thrones Book: Bryan Cogman Q&A
The Season 3 premiere of “Game of Thrones” is more than half a year away, but while fans continue to wait for March 31, 2013, HBO has released a new book offering great insights into the first two seasons of the show.
Authored by Bryan Cogman, the show’s executive story editor, who is currently in Belfast working hard alongside his bosses (show executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) on Season 3, “Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones” is packed with mythology history lessons and behind-the-scenes commentary from the cast and crew.
In addition to on-set stories from well-known “GOT” talkers like Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Sean Bean (Ned Stark) and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), the book also features comments from actors seldom heard from in the press. Jack Gleeson (King Joffrey) admitted to Bryan he stays seated on the Iron Throne between takes, while Jerome Flynn revealed Bronn admires Tyrion, but may not have his back.
And those fake Theon Greyjoy death scenes the producers sent Alfie Allen as a prank are printed in a special chapter at the back of the book. During an interview with AccessHollywood.com earlier this week, Bryan explained why he had to put those in the book, and shared a few of the most interesting things he learned from the cast while interviewing them for the project.
AccessHollywood.com: Before we get into the book, ‘Game of Thrones’ won some Emmys recently. Are any of the statues on set?
Bryan Cogman: I think I saw one of the visual effects guy’s Emmys, so I got a chance to hold one… Yeah, we’re thrilled for our design team and our sound team and our effects team and our costume team. It really is just so well deserved. This show is just so vast in scope and such a huge mountain to climb… and those departments, and all of departments are just — every year — pushing the boundaries of what you can achieve on a weekly television series. I was so thrilled that they were recognized for their work.
Access: Before I even read the book I was immediately curious about one thing… You guys are all ‘Game of Thrones’ experts. Who fact checks the experts on a book like this?
Bryan: Well, I guess just me and of course, I’m embarrassed, there’s one mythological error that I somehow didn’t catch until I saw it in print which is horrifying. It says Dany’s dragons are the first in thousands of years, when in fact, it’s hundreds of years. So, that will be corrected in the next edition. You go through it and over and over with editors and you think you catch everything and of course you have it in front of you and you’re so proud and the first thing I saw was that and I wanted to crawl into a corner.
Access: It’s always the simple things.
Bryan: I did a pre-emptive strike and went on one of the message boards earlier on and went ‘By the way everybody, I know… So, don’t…’ I would never call myself a total expert. That I leave to people like my friend Elio [M. Garcia] from Westeros.org. But in terms of the crew and the writing staff, I sort of, by default, became keeper of the mythos… because I had to read the books over and over and over again when I first started out in order to prep adapting the first season.
Access: The actors share some insightful commentary – like Maisie Williams who talked about how Arya Stark cannot deal in ‘maybes.’ It’s ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Were any of the insights the actors shared particularly surprising to you?
Bryan: It’s funny, you’re referencing Maisie and she would be the first one on the top of my head when you asked that question — absolutely. That was one of the really fun things about writing the book… I know [the cast] really well, but it was fun to take a few minutes with each of them and hear from them, how they view the characters… And Maisie is just so astonishingly perceptive and intelligent for someone so young. It’s staggering being on set watching her work. What she can do with just a look is right up there with any veteran [of] the screen for 40 years. I think that’s evident when you see her going toe-to-toe with a veteran like Charles Dance [Tywin Lannister] in Season 2, every bit holding her own. I know he was absolutely stunned by her as well.
Access: Any others?
Bryan: Another insight that came to mind was John Bradley [Samwell Tarly] and his views on Sam and the friendship that he and Jon Snow have and how it’s not a typical hero/sidekick relationship and how he had that moment early on when he was shooting one of the first scenes with Kit and he’s down the ground and Kit says, ‘Oh, poor Sam,’ [calling John by his character name]. And [in that moment, John realized] what empathy this character [could create and how he] could really connect with an audience… It was just fun to hear them, what makes the characters live for them.
Access: It must have been really interesting to hear these stories.
Bryan: It’s food for thought too, because as we go on as writers on the show, we’re now writing not only for the characters, but for our actors and how our actors portray the characters… It was actually very useful… to connect with the actors about that. Another thing that was fun to learn — and this was after we killed him off — but it was fun to talk to Jason Momoa about his process of playing Khal Drogo and how he studied silverback gorillas [for some of those Season 1 stares]. That was fascinating.
Access: You got some of David Benioff and D.B. (Dan) Weiss’ humor in the book – they joked that they cast Richard Madden as Robb Stark because he won Most Stylish Scottish Male in 2009. (WATCH: Richard Madden Hits The Emmys Red Carpet)
Bryan: They’re really funny guys. Dan Weiss is one of the funniest guys I know and it’s good to sort of keep that sense of humor up when making a show that’s as heavy and as complicated as this. That’s one of the reasons I included that prank chapter at the end with the fake script pages [for Kit Harington as Jon Snow and the famous Theon Greyjoy fake death scene for Alfie Allen]. That kind of thing keeps us all from going crazy when we’re freezing our asses off in the middle of a field somewhere, shooting these very intense sequences. David and Dan keep a very light set and a very I think safe place for everyone to do their work.
Access: Are you a part of the pranks at all?
Bryan: They let me in on it once they wrote it…. Only the truly demented minds of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss could come up with those. But I do remember that day when they showed me the fake script page for Kit [where Jon Snow was set to be badly injured] and we were all really trying to keep our composure and David and Dan were trying to talk to Kit about it and telling him, ‘Oh, HBO feels the storyline’s getting a little too Harry Potter.’ And I knew I was gonna crack so I walked away, and sure enough about 30 seconds after I walked away, David cracked and Kit realized he’d been had. So it’s been fun. We haven’t done one for Season 3. I think now, unfortunately, everyone in the crew knows that one might be coming so it’s harder to do. Maybe we’ll take a year off and try again next year.
Access: Did any of the interviews you did for the book – and the insights you got from the actors who spend so much time focused on their own characters – affect your writing for Season 3?
Bryan: Oh, that’s interesting. It might have. I don’t know if I was conscious of it as we were working on Season 3. The closer I am to this cast and the more that I understand how each of them approaches the character, that can’t help but affect how you write that character. I suppose on a subconscious level it must have.
Access: It’s cool to have a coffee table book, but there’s a swanky special edition too with pull out maps?
Bryan: It comes in a nice box and it’s got maps, but the main thing that I’m really excited about and I hope fans will be able to enjoy is a second book [in that package] that features selects storyboards from the first two seasons. Our storyboard artist is a guy called Will Simpson who comes from the world of graphic novels and the storyboards are incredible. He did them all himself and they’re a huge part of the success of our show and they’re the closest, in a lot of cases, that people are gonna get to deleted scenes because there are storyboards of scenes we never ended up shooting. For instance, there’s a raid on a Riverlands village that was supposed to open up Episode 6 of the first season, and we were never able to shoot and there’s a storyboard for that, so I think real hardcore fans of the show, or fans of film in general will really enjoy that so that’s part of the collector’s edition.
-- Jolie Lash
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