July 28, 2015
Game of Thrones actors forbidden from reading the books
by Nick Davies
OK, not “forbidden,” really, but Huw Fullerton writes for The Radio Times that the showrunners for HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones have strongly discouraged actors from reading George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, so that their take on each script is fresh and not informed by the thousands of pages of source material.
In an interview with Fullerton, Iain Glen—who plays Jorah Mormont, knight and loyalist to Daenerys Targaryen—reveals that he read the first novel in Martin’s series when he was hired for the show, only to find that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss aren’t wild about cast members coming to set with preconceived notions of who their characters are or what will happen to them.
“I read the first one when they gave me the job,” he explains, “just to get a feel from it and a synopsis breakdown of what was going to happen to the character. But beyond that, the writers themselves, David and Dan, they didn’t particularly want actors coming to the scripts from the book, always suggesting what the book did and how it was different — I could see the glazed look in their eyes when that happened.”
It’s by no means a strict rule that Benioff and Weiss have set forth, but most of the Game of Thrones actors do follow it. Earlier this month, The Radio Times reported that only one of the cast members present at the Comic-Con panel about the show had actually read the books: Gwendoline Christie, who plays the very tall and very serious Brienne of Tarth. (In her case, it’s a wonder that she even agreed to be on the show, considering how thunderously dull the Brienne scenes tend to be in the books.)
Glen goes on to say that Benioff and Weiss prefer the cast to treat each script as a self-contained entity so that the performances are natural, not weighed down by the knowledge of what is to come (which makes sense, because what’s to come is usually very unpleasant). He says that the showrunners “were quite happy for us to move forward and treat them as screenplays with no history.”
The issue of reading ahead in Martin’s books is indicative of the tightrope that Game of Thrones has had to walk: there are fans of the books who love the show, and those who think it’s ruined everything, as well as fans of the show who refuse to read the books, the better to remain unspoiled. Now, Benioff and Weiss are in a unique situation, adapting the series at a quick enough pace that they’ve outpaced the author and will be telling his story—inasmuch as they remain faithful to his outline—before it’s published.
And what are Glen’s unspoiled hopes for the conclusion of the series? “I just want Jorah to be there when Daenerys finally succeeds in the end, and sits on the Iron Throne,” he tells Fullterton, “I’d like to be beside her.”
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.