'Game of Thrones' Comic-Con Trailer Teases Jon and Daenerys' First Meeting

“I believe you have a role to play, as does another,” says Melisandre (Carice van Houten) in a new look at the next few weeks of ‘Thrones.’

It took six full seasons (plus one episode) for Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) to return home to Westeros. Now that she’s back in the Seven Kingdoms, it’s only a matter of time before her story starts to intersect with everyone else’s.

With that said, at Comic-Con, HBO unleashed a new Game of Thrones trailer that ends on an incredibly exciting note for everyone waiting to see Dany interact with the show’s Westeros-based contingent. In the final scene, the Mother of Dragons meets up with Melisandre (Carice van Houten) in the great hall of Dragonstone. The Red Woman makes a grand overture: “I believe you have a role to play — as does another.”

She’s not doing a Yoda impression, but Melisandre’s words nonetheless boast shades of that epic Empire Strikes Back moment in which the old Jedi Master teases that there’s hope for the galaxy beyond just Luke Skywalker. And indeed, there’s a similar thread here in that there are more than just the one Targaryen: Daenerys aside, we also know Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has fire coursing through his veins, thanks to season six’s reveal that he’s the secret son of the late Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.

Author George R.R. Martin’s novels on which Game of Thrones are based come under the overarching title A Song of Ice and Fire, a name that still lacks an official explanation in the text. But fans have speculated for years that the true meaning of the title comes down to both Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen putting the ice and fire of their family names to good use in the great war ahead. Melisandre’s moment at the end of the new trailer speaks to that theory, strongly implying that Dany and Jon need each other if either one is to survive the dark and terror-filled nights ahead.

Just as Melisandre is about to put Jon Snow on Daenerys’ radar, the King in the North already has the Dragon Queen on the mind. In the season seven premiere, Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) discovers that Dragonstone sits atop a great mound of dragonglass, an instrumental substance in the war against the White Walkers. The previous preview for this coming week’s episode, “Stormborn,” already shows Jon entertaining the idea of seeking out Daenerys’ help. In this latest trailer, however, he specifically says her name: “Daenerys has dragon fire.”

Do yourself a favor and take a moment to geek out over hearing Jon Snow say the word “Daenerys” for the first time. We waited a long time to hear him say that word. Feels good, doesn’t it? Now imagine what it’s going to be like when we see Jon and Dany in the same scene together.

It’s alright. Take another minute. When you’re finished, watch the trailer again.

Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for news, interviews, theories and more all season long.

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'Game of Thrones': A Firsthand Account of the Comic-Con 'Winter Is Here' Activation

Comic-Con attendees, the Iron Throne is yours for the taking, assuming you can withstand an enemy even greater than the White Walkers: the long line.

Though San Diego is not known for its snowstorms, a small corner of the Gaslamp District will serve as the site of winter during the four-day Comic-Con weekend. Located across the street from the Omni Hotel, HBO’s Game of Thrones event, called “Winter Is Here,” sees attendees walking a mile or two in the shoes of Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), and the other characters who have either sat upon the Iron Throne of King’s Landing or battled White Walkers in the far north.

It also requires a tolerant attitude toward significant wait times. We’ll get to that.

A press preview of the “Winter Is Here” environment was held Wednesday night (July 19), ahead of the exhibit opening to Comic-Con badge holders the following morning. Admission is granted on a first come, first serve basis at the following times:

• Thursday July 20 and Friday, July 21 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Saturday, July 22 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Sunday, July 23 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Arrive early if your Comic-Con to-do list includes “killing White Walkers” and “praying in front of weirwood trees.”

Upon entering “Winter Is Here,” you’re given a Dragonglass RFID wristband that will serve an important role throughout the experience. It’s a snap bracelet, too, giving it an extra air of nostalgia for any and all attendees who lived through the 1990s. You’ll need to tap your wristband at the proper point of every station along the way through the environment. It’s associated with your e-mail address, which is how you’ll receive all the photos and videos you take over the course of the journey.

Near the entrance, attendees of legal drinking age are invited to sample a selection of official Game of Thrones beverages, including the three wines created by Vintage Wine Estates and winemaker Bob Cabral: a Cabarnet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley, a Red Wine Blend from Paso Robles, and a Chardonnay from the Central Coast. No Dornish Red, and no Arbor Gold, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on which side of House Frey you stand on. Also on offer: a new beer, Bend the Knee Golden Ale, from Brewery Ommegang. Given the wait times ahead, claiming two beverages at the start of your journey isn’t the worst idea.

Once you’re settled with your drinks, it’s time to step into winter. The environment is laid out across a large space, divided by kingdoms, where you’re invited to capture some great moments in Westeros history. Up first: Winterfell, where you (or someone else in your group) will be crowned King in the North. You take a seat in front of a video camera, at the same long table where Jon Snow (Kit Harington) was sitting when his fellow Northerners swore their allegiance at the end of season six, with two seats next to you for additional guests. 

As the camera starts rolling, the cries from Houses Glover, Mormont and others ring out: “The King in the North! The King in da North! Da Kinginda North! Dakingindanorth!” The final video blends together the scene from season six, with your own reaction to being anointed King in the North. During our run through the environment, several attendees took their new duties as King very seriously. Others were scrolling through their cell phones as the camera pushed in. However you want to react to being crowned Kinginnanorf is entirely up to you.

Next, you and a group are brought in front of a great weirwood tree (one of many, as there are several such trees littered throughout the environment) where you see a vision of Daenerys Targaryen arriving at Dragonstone. When the vision ends, you’re brought into the next space, which is — you guessed it — Dragonstone. The space is marked with the new House Targaryen outfits worn by Dany and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in season seven, as well as the great table map of Westeros that Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and his allies consulted during their reign in Dragonstone. 

Attendees can take a picture on Dany’s new throne, before moving onto another throne: the Iron Throne. This is the third station, and the most straightforward, as the all-powerful seat speaks for itself.

Here’s where things get difficult, or at least where things went difficult during the preview event: the fourth station. Like the Valyrian steel weapon you’re potentially about to hold, this station cuts both ways. When you reach it, you will have the choice of outfitting yourself as a wildling or as a member of the Night’s Watch. You’ll then choose your weapons: dragonglass daggers, or Jon Snow’s sword, Longclaw. Finally, you step inside a 360-degree shooting space, where a camera swirls around you as you pose with your blades of choice. It is your finest opportunity to look like a true White Walker slayer — or if you’re me, you can become “Stark Wars Kid.”

As Davos once said: “I’ve never been much of a fighter. Apologies for what you’re about to see.”

It’s easily the most exciting and entertaining part of the environment, but it comes at the expense of an excruciating wait period, largely due to participants having to armor up and step into the elaborate rig. During preview night, the wait between stations three and four was easily 30 minutes, if not longer. At a certain point, the line was so backed up that admission into the exhibit was suspended. It comes down to a question, then: can you withstand a long line (and therefore a significant hit to your Comic-Con plans) if it means getting to swing a Valyrian sword at a camera for a brief but brilliant few seconds? If you plan accordingly (see: earlier note about beverages of choice), maybe it’s not so bad.

For those who last long enough to make it through the fourth station, there’s a fifth and final element to the environment: an epic battle against White Walkers. You’re given a dragonglass dagger (which is basically a video game controller, not unlike a Wiimote), and positioned in front of a vertical screen. White Walkers slowly stalk toward you, and you’re instructed to cut them down by aiming for their eyes. The longer you survive, the faster their approach, until there are ultimately too many enemies to survive any further. (Is this a hint at how the series will end, perhaps? Will no amount of fighting prevent us from certain ice doom? Jerry Maguire was right, we do live in a cynical world!) The average survival time is between 50 and 70 seconds. Guess who lasted 71 seconds? Four guesses:

That’s right: withstand the long lines of “Winter Is Here,” become a member of the Night’s Watch, and you too may find that you’re just a touch above average at killing White Walkers.

Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for news, interviews, theories and more.



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'Game of Thrones': Kit Harington Doesn't Think Jon Snow Will Become King

The actor, who joked about changing his name to Jon Snow, said that the series has sometimes gone too far with representing violence.

Jon Snow currently stands as King in the North, but don’t expect him to turn his eye toward ruling King’s Landing.

Appearing in Italy at the Giffoni Film Festival, which is a festival entirely dedicated to kids and teenagers, Game of Thrones star Kit Harington picked up an award on Wednesday and met with the young festival goers to answer their many questions about his role as Jon Snow on the hit show. Among the topics covered, Harington weighed in on Jon’s recent rise to power, and why he doesn’t think the new Lord of Winterfell has southern ambitions for the Iron Throne.

“He never expected it or wanted it,” said Harington. “There are so many people in the story who looked to move up. And Jon never looked to move up. That’s one of the things I really love about him is that his ambition is less than others, and yet he gets further.”

“He’s gone as high up as he can get. I don’t think he’ll be king,” he added, much to the dismay of the audience present. 

Harington spoke of his character’s ambitions as being very different from the other characters on the show, who are always angling for a chance at the throne: “One of the reasons we like Jon is he feels that it’s his duty to stand up for those who are being bullied,” he said. 

Turning away from the topic of crowns, Harington looked back at his earliest days as Jon Snow and how much he’s grown as an actor alongside Jon’s evolution in Westeros.

“I think Jon Snow, because I’ve lived alongside him for eight years, is now a part of me,” said the actor. “It’s a strange thing to have fame come about when you’re attached to such a specific character. In some ways, I live this double life and I was thinking about just changing my name to Jon Snow to make things a bit simpler.”

He added that he feels especially close to Jon at times, to the point that his own mood has crossed over into playing the character. “When I’ve been very unsettled in myself and I’ve been depressed,” he said, “that has bled into my performances, for good or bad.”

At another point, the discussion turned to Game of Thrones‘ depiction of violence, which has been criticized at times throughout the drama’s run. “I think the thing that you risk when you’re trying to make something which is new and bold and dangerous, you risk going too far,” said Harington, discussing the show’s violent nature. “You’re always going to take that risk. In Thrones, I think we have gone too far at times.” 

Harington defended the series, saying he feels the characters of Thrones are more well-rounded than the ones typically found in the fantasy genre, even taking a quick shot at the Lord of the Rings franchise.

“Jon Snow seems very real to me. I think that’s the thing about Thrones, is that everyone in it seems like a real, fully rounded character in the real-world situation. They don’t feel like Frodo Baggins,” he said. “They feel like Cersei Lannister. There’s a difference. It’s a fantasy based in reality, and I’ve always found that that’s maybe what people responded to with Thrones.” 

Watch the video below for the Game of Thrones cast’s preview of season seven’s battles.

Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones all season long for news, interviews, theories and more.

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Sophie Turner Picks Best 'Game of Thrones' Character to Have on Her Side in a Fight

The actress also tries to decide who is the better fighter: Jon Snow or Arya Stark?

Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to reveal some intimate truths about herself in a game of First, Best, Last, Worst.

Turner said the first TV show she ever fell in love with was SpongeBob SquarePants and the first film was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

When asked to choose the best Game of Thrones character to have on her side in a bar fight, the decision was not as easy. “Arya or Jon,” she hesitated, before deciding, “Arya” and then changing her mind to “Dragon!”

As for her worst guilty pleasure, Tuner confessed it is reality series Keeping Up with the Kardashians — “I hate it, but I love it.”

New episodes of the seventh season of Game of Thrones air Sundays on HBO. 

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'Game of Thrones' Bosses Reteam With HBO for War Drama 'Confederate'

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will exec produce the series, which centers on the third American civil war.

With the end of Game of Thrones in sight, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have set their sights on their next TV project.

The award-winning duo will re-team with HBO for the drama series Confederate, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The drama chronicles the events leading to the third American Civil War. The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone – freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.

Benioff and Weiss will write the project and serve as showrunners. Nichelle Tramble Spellman (Justified, The Good Wife) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire) are also attached as writers. The four will exec produce with Carolyn Strauss (Game of Thrones) and Bernadette Caulfield (Game of Thrones, Big Love). Production on Confederate will begin after the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, which is expected to air in either 2018 or 2019.

“As the brilliant Game of Thrones winds down to its final season, we are thrilled to be able to continue our relationship with Dan and David, knowing that any subject they take on will result in a unique and ambitious series,” said HBO president of original programming Casey Bloys. “Their intelligent, wry and visually stunning approach to storytelling has a way of engaging an audience and taking them on an unforgettable journey. Confederate promises to be no exception, and we are honored to be adding the talented team of Nichelle and Malcolm Spellman to the mix.”

Confederate joins original dramas Westworld, which just nabbed 22 Emmy nominations, as well as the forthcoming David Simon period drama The Deuce, set to premiere in September. While the pay cabler has expanded its comedy offerings with recent entries like Insecure and Divorce, its drama offerings have dwindled in recent years with the recent third and final season of The Leftovers and the upcoming end of Game of Thrones, by far the channel’s most watched series ever.

HBO’s other upcoming series include Succession from Adam McKay (The Big Short), Today Will Be Different starring Julia Roberts, the Amy Adams-led Sharp Objects and family drama Here, Now from True Blood and Six Feet Under boss Alan Ball. Like with Ball and The Wire’s Simon, HBO has worked repeatedly with several of its most acclaimed creators, making a second collaboration with Benioff and Weiss all the more logical.

In anticipation of Game of Thrones’ upcoming final season — the seven-episode seventh season launched on July 16 — HBO is already hard at work on four (potentially five) possible successor shows, with different writers attached to each project. Benioff and Weiss, however, will not have any role in any future Game of Thrones projects, opting instead to focus on ending the original series and now seemingly, Confederate.

For Benioff and Weiss, Confederate would mark only their second TV series, the first being Game of Thrones. The Troy scribe and Lucky Wander Boy author, respectively, found enormous success with the adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s beloved book series. They have each won four Emmys, including two for best drama series for Game of Thrones. 

“We have discussed Confederate for years, originally as a concept for a feature film,” added Benioff and Weiss. “But our experience on ‘Thrones’ has convinced us that no one provides a bigger, better storytelling canvas than HBO. There won’t be dragons or White Walkers in this series, but we are creating a world, and we couldn’t imagine better partners in world-building than Nichelle and Malcolm, who have impressed us for a long time with their wit, their imagination and their Scrabble-playing skills.”

Both are repped by CAA, Management 360 and Hansen Jacobson.

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New 'Game of Thrones' Photos Tease a Dangerous Confrontation

HBO has released six new photos from “Stormborn,” the second episode of season seven, including one that pits two enemies against each other.

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'Game of Thrones': What the Hound's Story Says About Season 7's Future

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the season seven premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones, “Dragonstone.”]

Heading into the season premiere, who could have predicted so much screen time for the Hound? After all, Rory McCann’s cynical Sandor Clegane only very recently returned to Game of Thrones after more than a year away from the series. In season four, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) beat Clegane almost to death, and Arya (Maisie Williams) left him to rot on the side of a mountain (imagine that), all but finishing the job.

But the job wasn’t finished: Clegane rose from the ashes in season six, having spent the past season and change focusing on change. He was still the same man in terms of vulgar language and brute strength, but his days of hurting and killing all obstacles in his path were at an end… until a group of bandits came along and murdered all of the people in Clegane’s new life, leading him back to his old one. Luckily, the regression didn’t last long. Clegane meted out appropriate levels of justice alongside the Brotherhood Without Banners, a group he hadn’t seen since he killed Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) in season three. Of course, that death didn’t stick. Not only is Beric still alive, he offers the Hound a role within the Brotherhood, who are on their way north for a very important mission.

“Cold winds are rising in the north,” says the Lightning Lord. “Good and bad, young and old. The things we’re fighting will destroy them all alike. You can still help a lot more than you’ve harmed.”

The Hound might have trouble buying into that last part, but thanks to the fires of prophecy, he knows all too well about the rising cold winds. Here’s a closer look at the powerful prophecy scene, and what it might mean for the Hound, the Brotherhood and more as the season moves forward.

The Prophet

First of all, season seven isn’t the Hound’s first brush with prophecy. Back in season four, when he first encountered the farmhouse that houses him in season seven, Clegane gets into a big fight with Arya over his brutal treatment of the farmer. He defends his actions by making a prediction about the farmer: “He’s a good man, his daughter makes a nice stew, and they’ll both be dead come winter.” How’s that for a guess? It doesn’t actually mean the Hound is and always has been prophetic, but the sad irony of that long ago prediction shouldn’t be looked over now.

The Gravedigger

Before digging in a little bit deeper, let’s begin with some digging. The scene in which the Hound buries the farmer and his daughter is a powerful one, but it’s also an Easter egg for fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels on which Thrones is based. In the fourth book, Brienne visits a place called the Quite Isle, where she sees a large man digging a grave. Readers long suspected this man was the Hound, and the events of season six, while different from the events of the book, more or less confirmed the theory. The season seven premiere makes it official: Sandor Clegane is the gravedigger. “It was a wonderful moment,” McCann previously told THR about the wink-and-nod.

The Dead

There’s added weight with the dead man and his daughter, in how it echoes the Hound’s own past. When he first visited this farm, he was traveling alongside Arya. As much as he would be reluctant to admit it, the Hound grew close with Arya over the course of their travels. In losing against Brienne and coming so close to death’s door, the Hound felt he failed Arya, and when she abandoned him moments later, it must have felt like the final twist of the knife in an already painfully lonely existence. Of course, it wasn’t the final twist of the knife, since the Hound is still very much alive. But in revisiting the farm, the Hound is somewhat metaphorically able to pay respects to how he failed his own daughter figure of sorts.

The Mountain

The Hound’s vision of the future includes the sight of “a mountain,” which is a very loaded term, given the nickname for the other Clegane brother. For years, fans have been hyping up a final showdown between the brothers, affectionately known as the Clegane Bowl. The fact that both characters are still alive (or alive-ish) on the show only further fuels the hype, as does any slight trace of foreshadowing. So while Sandor probably isn’t seeing the Mountain in the flames, the mention of a mountain is at the very least A-level trolling of the audience, if not a wink and nod toward the battle we all want to see.

The War

Speaking of battles, the Hound finally sees through the fires what Beric and Thoros (Paul Kaye) have been warning him about: cold winds rising in the north, and a great battle right where the Wall meets the sea. The place he describes sounds an awful lot like Eastwatch by the Sea, the same unfortified castle that Jon Snow (Kit Harington) sent Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and the wildlings to take over. Previews for season seven have shown scenes of a deadly battle in the snow involving Jon, Tormund, and at least Beric (and his flaming sword), if not the whole Brotherhood. The building blocks for that frosty fight are now firmly in place, thanks to Jon’s orders to Tormund and the Hound’s vision of the future.

The Purpose

“Clegane, we’re here for a reason. The Lord of Light is keeping Beric alive for a reason. He gave a failed drunk priest the power to bring him back for a reason. We’re part of something larger than ourselves.”

Thoros spoke those words in season six, and they have only become more resonant since the Hound’s look into his fiery future. There’s no doubt that he crossed paths with the Brotherhood for a reason. Heck, there’s little doubt that the Lord of Light gave the Hound the power to kill Beric once before for a reason. These three men are intertwined somehow. The only question is… well, how? 

As it regards Beric, we have a prediction for what’s happening next: the Lightning Lord will sacrifice himself to save Jon Snow, whose instrumental role in the great war can’t end until the whole song and dance of ice and fire is over. For Thoros and the Hound, are their purposes as simple as assuring Beric remains alive long enough to save Jon? Will they somehow give up their own lives in order to protect the King in the North, or to otherwise hold down the fort (if not the door) and stop the White Walkers from bypassing the Wall?

There’s a fatalistic quality about the Brotherhood’s journey. It feels like the final ride for Beric at the very least, if not also for Thoros and the Hound. But at least as far as Clegane goes, perhaps there’s more life in him yet. Perhaps he’s being driven north so he can one day make amends with Arya, not to mention Sansa (Sophie Turner), with whom he shares history as well. Is the Hound destined to give his life saving humanity from the White Walker threat, or is destiny pulling him north so he can find redemption in serving alongside House Stark for the rest of his days? If only we had a magical fire we could peer into for all the answers.

Watch the video below for the Game of Thrones cast’s preview of season seven’s battles.

Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones all season long for news, interviews, theories and more.

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'Game of Thrones' Premiere Enlisted Jon Snow to Help Prevent Spoilers

Ygritte, aka actress Rose Leslie, ended Harington’s announcement during the event with her famous line-turned-meme: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

To help prevent spoilers from spilling after the July 12 premiere of Game of Thrones‘ seventh season at Walt Disney Concert Hall, HBO enlisted its own A-list talent. After intros by programming president Casey Bloys and creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Kit Harington’s voice boomed from the speakers.

“Lords, ladies, wildlings, bastards and CAA agents,” he intoned as Jon Snow. “To join our order, you must swear our sacred oath. Night gathers, and now my Watch begins. I shall take no photos, hold no phones, spread no rumors on social media. I pledge my life and honor to tonight’s Watch for this night and all the nights to come. Until Sunday [July 16, when the premiere aired]. The good people at HBO take this vow very seriously. I know you will as well.”

If Snow weren’t enough, then came the voice of his one-time sparring partner, Ygritte, dishing out her most memorable line, one that became a viral meme many times over. “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” quipped Ygritte aka actress Rose Leslie. 

THR has learned that Benioff and Weiss — both repped by CAA hence the nod to the agency in the opening line — penned the voiceover script together with HBO insiders handling the logistics of locking in both Harington and Leslie.

Added bonus: Both actors were in attendance at the world premiere, despite the fact that Leslie’s character was killed in season four, episode nine. She still managed an invite, arriving hand-in-hand with real-life beau Harington.

A version of this story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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'Game of Thrones' Director Recalls Ed Sheeran's One Request on Set

[Warning: this story contains spoilers for the seventh season premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones, “Dragonstone.”]

Winter is here, and for a minute, so was Ed Sheeran.

The singer-songwriter made a brief appearance in the season seven premiere of Game of Thrones, appearing as … well, Ed, a Lannister soldier with a heart of gold and the voice of … well, Ed! Midway through the episode, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) encounters Ed and other Lannister loyalists sitting around a campfire, enjoying the young man’s tunes and feasting on game meat. It’s a brief moment of peace for Arya, fresh from butchering House Frey at the Twins, now on her way toward King’s Landing to do some more killing.

How did the Sheeran cameo come together? Director Jeremy Podeswa doesn’t have the answers to that exact question, but he can certainly attest to the man’s demeanor on set. Here’s what Podeswa (who returns later this season to direct the finale) said about that scene and some of the other most notable moments from “Dragonstone.”

What do you know about how the Ed Sheeran cameo came together, and what was it like working with him?

When I got involved in the show, they told me that Ed Sheeran was going to be doing it. I thought, “Oh! Cool. Interesting.” I can’t tell you specifically how it happened because, strange as it seems, I didn’t have those conversations with anybody on the show and what their relationship was prior. But he was certainly known to the producers and some of the cast. He’s certainly a big fan of the show. When they needed somebody who could sing for a little part, and he’s been acting lately, they just thought he was the right guy for those things. It was great. He was lovely to work with. He was lovely on the show. I think he fit right into that world. He’s so down to Earth and really, really lovely. If you didn’t know that he makes hit records, you would have no idea from meeting him. He could not be more kind. He just wanted to do a good job. He was very cute. The only thing he asked is if he could change the key of the song he was singing, and he asked it very tentatively. (Laughs.) He wanted to do a good job and was very concerned about that. He hung out with everybody on set all day, with all of the other guys sitting around the campfire. He was a team player. I swear to god, he was really just like one of the guys. He was lovely.

The first scene of the premiere is a cold open that responds to the Red Wedding, and also acts as the tone-setter for the season. What were your first ideas when approaching the scene?

So many things, but the first was I wanted to honor the great writing. As soon as I read it, I thought it was such an awesome scene. Maisie is so incredible and David Bradley is so amazing, so I just wanted the scene to be great and live up to its full potential. As we got more into it, you knew the audience would have questions coming right into the scene, knowing Walder Frey is dead. So, what is this? Is it a flashback? Is there something else going on here? It’s about playing that line of audience surprise and curiosity and how they read the scene. David’s performance is so fantastic where there’s a moment you can almost feel Arya inside of him. It’s even before the dialogue betrays who he is. There’s something about the performance that’s just very calculated. I saw it with an audience at the Walt Disney Hall before the broadcast premiere, and the audience immediately reacted to that. There was a moment where you could feel it rippling through the audience: “Oh, god, it’s Arya!” It was so great. When you’re directing it, you hope that moment happens in an interesting way that gives the audience pleasure. Maisie’s performance at the end and says what she says to Walder’s wife… I had chills when we shot it and I hoped I would have chills when we cut it, and I did. I knew it was a great scene from the moment we shot it, really.

After the opening credits, there’s an extended shot of the White Walkers and their army of the dead walking toward the camera. How complicated was this to create?

It was a very complex shot to create, but conceptually, it was an image that [showrunners] Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff] had, which was very clear. We knew it would be one shot. Nothing fancy in terms of camera work. But it’s a shot that very slowly reveals itself over time, and we take that time. Then it was a matter of me conceptualizing it with the storyboard artists and visual effects department. How long can we have this play? You almost want it to be indistinct at the beginning, but then they pass the camera. It was a matter of calculating it and calibrating it, figuring out how they would reveal themselves through the haze of snow and wind. The idea of ending on the eye of the giant, to be honest, I’m still not sure at what point we decided that was what we’re going out on. I don’t believe it was in the script. I’m pretty sure we developed that with the artists involved. It was quite complicated with green screens and makeup and the special FX team doing their magic. Many layers of action that you’re compositing to make it look like the full army of the dead.

Can you take us through the two sides of the Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) scene: shooting these little flashes in the pan, so to speak, and stitching it all together in the editing?

It was an amazing experience, actually. It’s a really complex montage. I had done it in a previous season with the corpse washing montage with Arya at the House of Black and White. That’s something we all felt really good about. In David and Dan’s minds, they made a connection between me and montages, even though tonally these two are very different. But I love doing it, generally. It’s something where you go into the cutting room with an idea of what it might be, and then it’s really finessed and made manifest for real in the cutting room. It was very complex both tonally and practically because there were so many different sets and component pieces. Many of these sets only appear really for this montage: the mess hall, the infirmary, the privy, the washing room … so many different elements that had to be built. It was quite an extravagant achievement, and an extravagant thing to even contemplate going in. It advances the story somewhat, but it was very much a character piece, really. It’s a very much uncharacteristic for the show, but one that was very satisfying to play with and try. We wanted it ot be very telling about his life and what the Citadel is all about, and also to be funny and to play with that tone a bit. The editor did a first assembly of the scene, which was about seven or eight minutes, because there was so much material. It was too long but it was hilarious. (Laughs.) I was very pleased that it was so funny and that it did everything it needed to do. It said a lot about the Citadel and Sam’s life, but it had that extra thing that gives the audience that extra bit of pleasure.

The episode ends at Dragonstone. I know some of it was shot on stages in Belfast, but so much was shot on location in Spain. How awe-inspiring was it to behold in person?

Actually, very little was shot on stage. The only thing shot on stage were the gates at the top of the stairs that leads to the long winding pathway up to the castle. Everything else was shot on location, in a number of different locations: Zumaia Beach in Spain is where she lands and walks up the stairs and gets to where the gates are. Another place — San Juan — is the place where that amazing staircase that doesn’t look real and looks like a CG creation, but it’s not, that’s a spectacular location going up to Dragonstone castle. What is shot on stage, of course, are the interiors, which are all-new and designed by Deb Riley. It’s a very new look for the show, I think. It has a fascist architecture feel to it, in a way, but it also integrates elements of the actual location in terms of the striated rocks you see on the beach, which is married into the interiors in a beautiful way. Plus, we had a new version of the map room. It’s slightly redesigned and revamped from what we had seen with Stannis. It was a very big sequence and very exciting to shoot — every single aspect of it, cinematographically, was amazing. There was so much to work with on location and in those fabulous sets. Creating this new geography was a very big challenge, but a good one.

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How 'Game of Thrones' Designed Daenerys' Homecoming

[Warning: this story contains spoilers for the season seven premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones, “Dragonstone.”]

Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) has enemies in every direction, but right now, it’s the one in the east she should fear the most.

The season seven premiere of Game of Thrones featured one of the most anticipated moments in the show’s history: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) making landfall in Westeros. Her arrival comes at the end of the episode, in the form of an extended dialogue-free sequence in which the Mother of Dragons surveys her new home — and, really, her old home — of Dragonstone.

Quick history lesson: Dragonstone was originally settled by the Valyrians, and eventually became the home of the last Valyrians: the Targaryens, lucky enough to evade the mysterious doom that destroyed the Valyrian Freehold. The legendary Aegon the Conqueror used Dragonstone, located just east of King’s Landing, as a base of operations during his takeover of what would soon become known as the Seven Kingdoms. For centuries after the conquest, Dragonstone remained a prized possession for House Targaryen, up until its surrender to House Baratheon during Robert’s Rebellion. In the final days of the Targaryen regime, Dragonstone served as the birthplace for a certain Khaleesi, born in a raging storm — hence one of her many monikers, Daenerys Stormborn. As of season seven, the storm has returned to its rightful home, and not a moment too soon.

Much in the same way that Dragonstone is both a new and old quantity for Daenerys, it’s also a new and old quantity for Game of Thrones as a show. Dragonstone was previously featured in seasons two and three of the HBO juggernaut, albeit in bits and pieces: a war room here, a dining hall there, some sacrificially burned bodies on a dark beach for good measure. For its return in season seven, both the castle and island of Dragonstone experienced a significant makeover in order to lend more gravity to Daenerys’ homecoming. 

“What I’m really fascinated by is the psychology of space,” production designer Deborah Riley tells The Hollywood Reporter about the work that went into bringing Dragonstone to life. “As the art department, I like us to try to imagine what it would be like to be that character walking into that space and scene, and have the set somehow reflect those emotions. For Daenerys, who has been wandering for so long, to walk into that very powerful space, hopefully it’s something where as an audience you can imagine what it might be like for her to go home.”

In order to understand what it would feel like for Daenerys to return home, Riley wanted to make sure they found a location that matched the magnitude of what the Dragon Queen would be setting her eyes on. They found just the thing in Zumaia, a small town in the Basque Country region of northern Spain. It’s best known for its awe-inspiring beach and the unusual rock strata unique to the region.

“Geologists from all over the world will come and study it,” says Riley. “There’s so much power and strength in the very structure of the rock, so it felt like an appropriate place to house Dragonstone.”

Riley and her team used the Zumaia rock formations to inspire the Dragonstone sets they subsequently built on sound stages in Belfast, including the breathtaking audience chamber located inside the castle. Riley wanted to stay true to Dragonstone’s cavernous aesthetic established during the days of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), while also adding a more regal quality that’s true to Dany’s ancestry. 

“I wanted to marry the two ideas,” she explains. “With the audience chamber, I wanted to create a space that was almost standing on its toes, so that it came out of the cave. Then you come into the audience chamber proper, which is this big, soaring, cathedral-like place with all of the power and strength you would want a Targaryen space to have.”

The idea extended to the great throne in the audience chamber, which went unnamed by the production. “Whenever we talk about the Iron Throne, we talk about the Iron Throne,” says Riley. “But we didn’t have a particular name for the Dragonstone throne.” Even without a name, it’s an impressive throne by all accounts, arguably even more eye-catching than the coveted King’s Landing seat. Riley wanted Dragonstone’s throne to be “attached to the earth,” as if it was birthed by the powerful material pulsing throughout the island.

“It occurred to me that the idea of the castle being built on this massive, strong and powerful strata, the throne itself should also be of that same strata,” says Riley. “It’s like that power and strength is built into the very DNA of the building.”

The power and strength baked into Dragonstone’s design also exists within the story now, too, given what Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) discovered near the end of the premiere: the castle sits atop a great mine of dragonglass, an invaluable resource in the war against the White Walkers. In light of that revelation, it’s easy to see why Jon Snow (Kit Harington) will take an interest in Daenerys: her new stronghold is literally a weapon, one that’s utterly crucial in the great war to come.

“That’s a really good way of putting it,” says Riley, remarking on how the ethereal and almost alien quality of Dragonstone reflects its status as a weapon. “There’s really nowhere else you can compare with Dragonstone. Even from a real world perspective, that geology is incredibly rare. It’s only an eight kilometer stretch there [in Zumaia] … it was one of those happy things we came across that we could use in so many ways to show the significance of Dragonstone, and its importance to the overall story. When we go inside the Dragonstone caves and you see the dragonglass, it’s baked into the veins of that rock. The castle is sitting on such a powerful thing.”

At the world premiere of season seven, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss praised Riley and the production designers for their work on the season, including one of the premiere episode’s sets, which they described as among the very best in the show’s run. Although they didn’t call out Dragonstone by name, the unforgettable location and its unique interior design certainly fuel the argument that Dany’s new home is one of the most impressive sights ever seen in Thrones. Finding Zumaia and using the area as inspiration to build the Dragonstone sets was challenging enough on its own, but Riley says the difficulty factor was increased all the more given everything else that needed to be built for the expansive season seven — including Silence, the great war ship of Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek), which was built at the same time as the Dragonstone sets.

“Time was the thing we struggled with in season seven. We had to build so many things, and we had to build them all at once,” says Riley. “You have to divide and do as much as you can, with as many of your team as you can, and be as effective as possible.”

Mission accomplished, then: Daenerys’ homecoming was very effective — and affecting — indeed. 

“Hopefully it’s filled with a lot of emotions for her,” says Riley. “It’s something that we can do as the art department. We can help with the storytelling and help convey that sense of character.”

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