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David Benioff and Dan Weiss Talk 'Game of Thrones'' New Identities

By Cindy Davis | Game of Thrones | April 27, 2015 |






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Though they’ve arguably suffered the series’ most devastating losses, Game of Thrones’ Stark family impressively carries on. Two young girls, and an increasingly likable bastard son have managed to do more than just survive; they’ve learned how to adapt to their constantly changing circumstances, and to change their own identities as well. While the *powerful* Lannisters watch their world crumble around them, determined to carry on based on how they’ve always viewed themselves — even Tyrion continues to struggle to let go who he sees himself as (“yesterday, I was one of the richest people in the land…”) — the Stark siblings continuously shift gears and adapt. Those who count them out because of the family name or history (I’m talking to you, Stannis) are clearly underestimating Ned’s (*cough*) children. On the heels of “High Sparrow,” showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (along with writer, Bryan Cogman) spoke about the Arya Stark and Maisie Williams, about changes and changing identities, and the series’ fifth season theme.

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“If there’s one common denominator for all the characters this season, it’s that most of the protagonists find themselves as strangers in a strange land, whether literally they’re in a strange land or they’re thrust into a situation where they have to behave and act in ways they’ve never had [to] before. I think there’s also an exploration of fundamentalism this season in various forms, in just about every major plotline. What fundamentalist thinking can do to a society, to people. And a lot of main characters have been thrust into positions of power, or falls from power, and watching them navigate it is a big part of this season.” (Cogman)

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***Minor book-to-series change Spoiler noted in this next quote.***

On changing the identity of the Kindly Man, and replacing him with Jaqen H’ghar at the House of Black and White:

“We were very lucky to have Tom [Wlaschiha] in season two because he was a dead-on perfect Jaqen. And we were lucky enough to have a show last long enough to be faced with this choice — introduce another character in what is already the largest cast in TV by a large margin, or bend things slightly to bring back a loved character in whom they are already invested. And to do so in a surprising manner that tells us something about the very unusual organization to which he belongs. The choice was an easy one.” (Benioff and Weiss)

“They have a shared history together, so it gives it a dramatic weight. I think having that familiarity and that chemistry that we knew they already had, it just seemed like the right call. And he and Maisie [Williams] just fell right back in their rhythm. They’re wonderful together.” (Cogman)

On Maisie Williams’ and Arya’s evolution:

“She came to us as an actress. She was probably born as an actress. Being that outrageously good right out of the gate, at 12 years old, it’s just not something you can be taught. We saw hundreds of people for Arya. We saw one Maisie Williams. That said, the intense dedication with which she has applied herself to her craft just keeps making her better and better, able to do more and more with less and less. You never know how raw talent at anything is going to develop over the long run. The fact that she has developed into an actress of astounding subtlety, range, humor, and intensity is entirely due to her work ethic. We got hints of it in season one, when she insisted on learning all of her sword fights with her left hand, because Arya was left-handed in the book. And she has carried that approach to every aspect of the job. She is an amazing person.

…we stepped away from the books, and traced a way through Arya’s Braavosi story line that we felt was best for the show, and for the character that Maisie has created.” (Benioff and Weiss)


About choosing changes to characters from Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books (***Minor already-happened Spoiler about Tyrion Lannister):

“If you move one thread, then it all changes. You end up having the show universe and the book universe as a result. We’ve been doing that to a degree since season one. Tyrion’s battle in season one, I don’t regret that because it ultimately made Blackwater a bigger event. That ended up being one of the nice things that happened, that for Tyrion of the TV show’s journey, Blackwater being his first combat is better than if we’d had him in the Whispering Wood battle. So any change made is discussed, but it’s always about the story we’re trying to tell, and those characters, and how they behave. It ultimately comes down to, What’s this season’s story? And, of course, having in mind what we want to tee up for later. We’ve been teeing up stuff all the time, since season one. We’ve known answers to questions since season one, the fates of certain characters. We know we can finish the story, so we’re certainly writing with that in mind.” (Cogman)

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Speaking of adapting to changing circumstances, how great was Sansa Stark’s (and Sophie Turner!) response to finding out what horrible, sneaky, bastard-Bolton plans Littlefinger had hidden up his sleeve? In between fawning over the excitement of Arya’s mysterious adventures and Maisie Williams heartbreaking, I-Can’t-Quite-Let-Go-of-Everything moment with Needle, we’d be remiss not to discuss both Turner and Sansa’s growth. After allowing herself a flash of emotion and no more than a tear or two to steal down her cheek, Sansa took a deep breath and accepted the Baelish challenge to make her own justice.

“We really wanted Sansa to play a major part this season.

Sansa started as such a naive innocent. She’s been traumatized by what she’s seen and she spent almost a couple years in shell shock. At a certain point she’s either going to die or survive and become stronger. She’s chosen the latter option and she’s learned from an incredibly devious teacher in Littlefinger. The interesting thing about Littlefinger is he seems to have no almost no weaknesses aside from his affection for Sansa. He’s been obsessed with her since that early episode at the joust.

…the Stark sisters have from the very beginning been two characters who have fascinated us the most. We got very lucky in casting because it’s so hard to cast good kids. Even if they come in and do a great audition, it’s so hard to know if they’re going to quite literally grow into the parts…It was such a gamble and the fact that they’ve both become such great wonderful actresses is a bit of a miracle.” (Benioff)


I can’t wait to see the rest of the Stark story play out.


(via EW and Vulture)

**Please remember, no book spoiler discussion in the comments. Genny will have a book reader’s post up tomorrow!


Cindy Davis, (Twitter)


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