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Game of Thrones: HBO clarifies prequels, final seasons plan

Exclusive: Showrunners won’t be involved in prequels, will spend year and a half crafting epic series conclusion before any new GoT shows air

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Helen Sloan/HBO

HBO is offering some revelatory new details concerning the final seasons of Game of Thrones and its plan to find a prequel successor. Entertainment Weekly spoke to programming president Casey Bloys about his strategy to usher the worldwide pop culture phenomenon to an epic and satisfying conclusion and possibly launch new adventures in Westeros as well. Below the entertainment executive discusses the prequels, the level of involvement of author George R.R. Martin and Emmy-winning showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss, and tempers expectations for how long all this will take — the Game of Thrones final season and any prequel series (there are now five in development) might not air as soon as fans think.

“I want to put the prequels in context,” Bloys began. “It should go without saying I love having a show with this much intense interest around it. Even the smallest bit of information is a big deal and I appreciate that. But I wanted to make sure fans know this is a really embryonic process. I haven’t even seen outlines. In the press at large, everybody said, ‘there are four spinoffs’ and they assume that means each one is happening and we’re going to have a new Game of Thrones show per quarter. That’s not what’s going on. The idea is not to do four shows. The bar set by [Benioff and Weiss] is so high that my hope is to get one show that lives up to it. Also, this is a long-term plan. Our No. 1 goal is the seventh season this summer and getting the eighth season written and aired.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you talk about your strategy to develop multiple Thrones prequels at once? It’s a unique approach, particularly for a network that’s never made a spinoff or prequel series before.
CASEY BLOYS: You couldn’t do this with a lot of shows. In talking with the drama group here, and the nice thing is George has created an entire universe. The fact that there’s enough material to even contemplate making different prequels is crazy when you think about it. George has all these histories he’s thought about and that’s one reason why the books are so good.

The other reason, frankly, as I said, is the bar is so high. If you only developed one, everything would rest on that one shot. It’s such a special show. I want to make sure that [any prequel] feels worthy. We have some amazing writers who want to take a shot at this. They’re also looking at different times in the universe and all will have different feels. This increases our odds of finding one that’s unique.

What sort of timeline are you looking at for potentially launching a new Thrones universe series?
Making Game of Thrones as good as possible is the No. 1 goal, and then we’ll see about these scripts. You’re not going to see a situation where the next show in the Thrones universe launches off the back of this one. The show that Dan and David have created will get its proper send off first. We wouldn’t want to take away from that in any way.

I heard originally that one or more might be a limited series instead of a regular series. Is that anthology-style format possible?
At this point, everything is on the table. The idea is to find a series. It would be nice to find something that has the legs this one did. But if something works better as a limited series, sure.

On the Dan and David side of things, they told me that they’re not going to be involved in the prequels and instead are going to work on the final season for the next year and a half. Is that right?
Yep. I’m glad you asked that because that is one thing I want to clarify: By the time the final season airs, Dan and David will have been at this for 12 years. Which is an amazing fact. They didn’t go and do movies in between seasons, they didn’t set anything else up, they put everything — and are putting everything — into this show. They came into HBO with an idea for a show with a beginning, middle, and end, and they want to see it through. In conversations with them, they feel if their name is on the prequels — even in a passive way — it conveys some sort of expectation or responsibility. They want to enjoy the show as fans and don’t want to worry about the scripts or production issues. We were hoping to have their names on it out of respect for them, but we understand why they don’t want that.

So as of now, the final season could air in 2018 and/or in 2019 depending on their needs?
Yeah. They have to write the episodes and figure out the production schedule. We’ll have a better sense of that once they get further into the writing.

Creatively, it’s my understanding that the final season is going to be extremely cinematic — so much so that there was an urge behind the scenes for years to end the show with a movie. But it sounds like instead of doing that you’re effectively making six one-hour “movies” for HBO.
One of the hallmarks of the show has been how cinematic is it. The show has proven that TV is every bit as impressive and in many cases more so, than film. What they’re doing is monumental. When you see these battles in season 7, and what I imagine season 8 will be, it’s a big, big show. We’ve done a lot of great shows, but this one combines the complex characters we love with a huge cinematic scope. I think this is the first show to prove that can be done — and we’re the first people to pay for it.

I think it’s great HBO keeps giving the producers the resources they need to each season as strong as possible, no matter how many — or few — episodes there are.
And circling back to what I said earlier, that’s why I want to temper the expectation on the prequels. We want to focus on seasons 7 and 8. If any of these scripts come to pass, you’re not going to see anything air anytime close to the season 8 finale,

Martin is credited on two of the prequels, and he says he’s involved with all. Is he actively co-writing these pilots or is he more like the franchise’s creative advisor?
It varies project by project. The writers each have to decide how they operate with George. Some like to collaborate, some look at the source material and do their own thing. There’s no one way, but in all cases, George will be reading the scripts and weighing in.

And because they’re all prequels there is no expectation of any roles in the prequels for the original cast?
Nope.

Have you seen a cut yet of the Thrones season 7 premiere?
I don’t want to oversell, but I can’t imagine anybody being disappointed in this season. It’s amazing.

RELATED: Game of Thrones Stars Reveal Their Ultimate Spinoff Ideas

EW has released its annual Game of Thrones preview issue behind the scenes in Westeros and offering five collectible covers. Get a copy here and check out our gallery of exclusive photos.

Game of Thrones returns July 16.