Female storylines 'not in any way a response' to last year's headlines
Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, and Gwendoline Christie
Credit: MARC HOM for EW

A report that Game of Thrones adjusted its approach to season 6 due to online criticism was not accurate, say the show’s Emmy-winning producers.

Last December, director Jeremy Podeswa, who has helmed four episodes of the series, was quoted as saying fandom outrage over season 5’s Sansa Stark storyline led to showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss making some adjustments in the new season. “They were responsive to the discussion and there were a couple of things that changed as a result,” the director was quoted as saying in a widely distributed story. “They did not want to be too overly influenced by that [criticism], but they did absorb and take it in and it did influence them in a way.”

The report seemed to differ from what Benioff and Weiss have said for years about how they approach making HBO’s international phenom — meticulously crafting the best story possible based on author George R.R. Martin’s original vision while steadfastly ignoring the worldwide blizzard of oft-conflicting outsider opinions. (“It completely confounds the normal creative process,” Weiss once said of reading Internet feedback.) For the upcoming season, the show’s core female cast members indeed take center stage in many respects, so we asked the duo about that report: Was this season’s plan influenced by last year’s criticism?

“No,” Weiss said. “Jeremy is fantastic. It’s hard to know what the context was — whether or not that’s exactly what he said or he said something adjacent to that and the words got shuffled around because whoever typed it up liked the way it sounded better. Who the hell knows? He’s made completely outstanding, wonderful episodes, and is also a wonderful human being. So I have no idea if he said those actual words, but that’s just not a factual statement.”

Given the highly intricate nature of the show’s narrative following more than a couple dozen signficiant characters, the showrunners map out storylines years in advance. What occurs in season 6 is expected to feel like a natural progression after everything we’ve previously seen (as HBO’s entertainment president Michael Lombardo described the stepping up of the show’s female cast: “It’s organic to the storytelling”).

“The thing that’s slightly frustrating is the idea that we’re responding to criticism from last year, so therefore we’re going to beef up the female roles — that’s blatantly untrue,” Benioff said. “What happens this year has been planned for quite some time and is not a response. We can take criticism — and certainly we’ve gotten our share of it — but hearing people look at a middle chapter of a story and make claims about the story as a whole … it’s not in any way a response to online criticism, or any other type of criticism.”

Added Weiss: “I can literally say that not one word of the scripts this season have been changed in any way, shape or form by what people said on the Internet, or elsewhere.”

Previously the Thrones writer-producers, who took home the Emmy for outstanding writing in a drama series for season 5, stated the new season is looking like the best yet in the series.

For more on Game of Thrones season 6, get the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, which goes behind the scenes in Northern Ireland and Spain, plus profiles six of the show’s female stars. Follow @jameshibberd for ongoing GoT coverage, subscribe to our Thrones email newsletter, and bookmark this page for our latest GoTstories.

Game of Thrones returns to HBO on April 24.

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Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.

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