Long before “Red Wedding” became a meme and Dany’s dragons took flight, “Game of Thrones” stars and producers have been sharing their thoughts on HBO’s Emmy-winning phenomenon.
Culling from dozens of interviews over the first seven seasons, we’ve assembled standout quotes from stars and producers who sometimes foreshadowed events, and other times missed the boat.
A selection of quotes, chronologically arranged, as viewers prepare for the six-episode final season (April 14, 9 EDT/PDT):
Before the show’s 2011 premiere, Sean Bean marveled at the George R.R. Martin books on which the series is based.
It is an “incredible collection of stories and ideas. It just twists from one place to another,” he said. “He created this world that’s very believable, strangely.”
Little did Bean know that “Thrones” would become a cultural phenomenon, propelled partly by the shocking first-season death of his lead character, noble royal adviser Ned Stark.
On the eve of Season 2, Lena Headey, whose Cersei Lannister now rules Kings Landing, envisioned powerful futures for Cersei, Catelyn Stark and Daenerys Targaryen, all widowed in the bloody inaugural season.
“They’ve all survived their husbands. I think they’re all going to get stronger,” Headey said. “Whether or not that lasts is a bit different for each woman.” Two out of three ain’t bad.
Emilia Clarke, whose Daenerys rises to become the Mother of Dragons and Khaleesi (queen) to her expanding following, admired the women’s strength in a world that treated them harshly.
“The world we’re describing is not the world we’re living in today. In my mind, it’s loosely based around medieval times, where women weren’t even close to being thought of as equal to men,” Clarke said before Season 2. “When you put it into perspective and look at what these women have accomplished and what they are capable of doing against all odds, I definitely think it’s empowering.”
She also acknowledged the show’s emphasis on female nudity reflected an overall imbalance in movies and TV.
“You turn on the television, and nine out of 10 times, you’re going to see more naked women than naked men,” she said. “I cannot wait for the day when that is very different.”
Author Martin thought it was “pretty cool” that a fantasy show had become a cultural phenomenon.
“Maybe it’s a sign that fantasy and science fiction are finally gaining a wider cultural acceptance and not just being this little insular thing for geeks.” Martin said ahead of the show’s third season, adding that book fans had responded enthusiastically to the TV show. “I think most of them love the series. There’s always a small percentage who get upset at any divergence from the books, but I think they’re a minority.”
Executive producer D.B. Weiss foreshadowed the significance of Dany’s dragons, but was surprisingly hesitant about the show’s future.
“The dragons are growing into weapons of war, but they’re not yet game changers on the battlefield,” Weiss said. The third season is more about intrigue and deception than all-out war. All-out war is next season, if we get a next season.” If?
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister, explained the danger of treating foes harshly, which has played out often in a story full of savagery and viciousness.
“If you start killing too many people, there are families and friends that will never forgive that,” he said in Season 4. “That could very well come back and haunt you.”
After the body counts of the Red Wedding (Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark and hundreds of Stark forces) and the Purple Wedding (King Joffrey), Natalie Dormer, whose Margaery Tyrell was Joffrey’s Purple Wedding bride, assessed the state of marriage in the Seven Kingdoms.
“Who wants to go to a wedding in Westeros, right? They never end well,” she joked.
Although the Joffrey-Margaery marriage was a power merger, marrying for love – as Robb Stark did – isn’t always a preferable alternative. “Look what happened to him.”
Kit Harington addressed his melancholy character, Jon Snow, in Season 5: “He doesn’t see the bright side of life, and he doesn’t have much to be happy about. He’s not naturally a happy person.”
And this was before his (temporary) death at the end of the season.
Gwendoline Christie weighed in on the “glorious irony” of Brienne of Tarth, the bravest warrior in Westeros who can’t officially be a knight because she’s a woman.
“It shows so much about our modern world, in the gender inequality that we still experience,” Christie said. “Brienne of Tarth has always said, ‘I’m no lady,’ and she is the one female character that doesn’t subscribe to conventions of femininity at all.”
Brienne showed her strength when she appeared to vanquish the formidable Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, although viewers never saw him die.
“Surely, Brienne killed him,” she said, laughing. Mmm, maybe not.
Then-HBO programming chief Michael Lombardo offered this definitive assessment regarding Jon Snow’s murder in the Season 5 finale: “Dead is dead. He is dead. Yes, everything I’ve seen, heard and read, Jon Snow is indeed dead.”
Technically correct, depending on your definition of is.
Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams addressed the hard-earned maturity of their characters, sisters Sansa and Arya Stark.
Sansa evolved from smitten princess-to-be to wise, damaged and powerful young woman after surviving an abusive betrothal to King Joffrey, a forced marriage to Tyrion, flight from King’s Landing and a wedding-night rape by Ramsay Bolton.
“I can’t begin to think of how much she’s changed,” Turner said in Season 6. At the start of the series, “she’s vulnerable, naïve and sees the world through rose-tinted glasses. Now, she’s hardened. The only way to survive now is to be her own woman and a leader in her own right.”
Murdered loved ones spurred sword-wielding Arya to vengeance.
“She definitely experiences more than any 12-year-old, more than any human, should have,” Williams said. “She’s got this (kill) list and she’s carried the pain of losing her family members. It changes a person.”
Iwan Rheon is as personable as Ramsay, his character, is vile. Fortunately, fans can differentiate between him and the “genuine sociopath.”
“I’ve not had anyone who genuinely believes I’m Ramsay. People quite jokingly say, ‘I wish I could punch you in the face.’ There is that separation,” he said. “I hope.”
Carice van Houten endured fan whiplash: hatred after Red Priestess Melisandre advocated the gruesome burning of Stannis Baratheon’s daughter, Shireen, and love after raising Jon Snow from the dead.
“Were they mad at me? They were like, ‘Kill (her). Die, b—-,'” after Shireen’s immolation, van Houten recalled. Then, when the priestess revived Jon, “I’m very popular. It’s like, ‘Melisandre for President!’ It really makes me laugh.”
After Sansa’s rape triggered an angry reaction from fans, with some pledging to abandon “Thrones,” Turner began working with a non-profit group that helps women in war-torn countries, including victims of sexual assault.
“To a certain level, I expected that controversy, but … I was thinking, ‘Why is there so much backlash when this is happening to women all over the world?’” Turner said before Season 7. “So I decided it would be a great idea to use this kind of attention … and divert (it) onto real topics about real women suffering from this.”
Because an acting role on “Thrones” is never a guarantee of job security, Jerome Flynn offered his best hope for the survival of his character, mercenary Bronn: his jaunty wit.
“In the midst of all the darkness and the tragedy, Bronn’s humor is good comic relief,” he said. “So that’s what I’m pinning my hopes on. Keep cracking the jokes, Bronn.”
Liam Cunningham doesn’t envy the position his character, Davos Seaworth, faces as Jon Snow’s adviser when new lovers Jon and Daenerys learn she’s his aunt.
“I’ll tell you something, it’s going to be an awkward cup of coffee when it comes out who he is and what they have just done,” he said as Season 7 ended.
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