EW sat down with HBO programming chief Casey Bloys to talk about the network’s plan for the final season of Game of Thrones as well as its prequel pilot (plus Westworld and J.J. Abrams’ upcoming space drama Demimonde). As usual, Bloys kept his cards close to his vest, but we still got at least a few intriguing hints out of him…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Game of Thrones final season: I realize editing is ongoing but my understanding is that all the episodes are likely between 50-90 minutes — it’s not like a season of two-hour episodes, in other words.
Casey Bloys: Not two hours? Yes, they are not going to be. Not that I’ve seen, anyway.
When will we see a final season trailer?
That’s a good question that I don’t know the answer to.
I would guess so, but I don’t know.
What was your reaction just personally to reading the final scripts? What excites you about the finale?
I think it’s epic. I think fans are going to love it. I think it’s a fitting way for one of the greatest shows in the history of television to go out and that people are going to be very happy. There’s going to be a lot of conversation.
Any possibility of doing any big screen screenings for the final season, like you’ve done previously with IMAX?
We talked about it over the years. It ends up being a marketing discussion. My feeling is anything we do with Game of Thrones is that our subscribers should be the first to see it.
The show has done such a good job of keeping its plot under wraps — so far, this time, anyway. What are you doing differently on the network side to keep things locked down?
Our security measures have gotten higher and higher over the years due to various hacks and leaks. We’re at a pretty heightened security level. Obviously, when you’re in production there’s a higher chance of things getting out. But in terms of us at HBO our precautions are pretty high as is.
For the prequel pilot, author George R.R. Martin has suggested the title The Long Night. Do you have a working title, at least?
No, we’re keeping it all … we’re obviously excited about the script and the story.
I heard Max Borenstein’s prequel script also had some interest. Is there any chance of a second GoT prequel pilot greenlight this year or are those on the shelf until you see how this turns out?
No. The development process was very positive. Other people got busy, things didn’t come together … It’s fair to say we’re excited about this pilot, we’re hoping to shoot it in the first quarter of ’19, I don’t anticipate any movement on any other prequels until we [see what this one is].
You picked the prequel script by Jane Goldman, the one female showrunner among the five in development, what’s her perspective on Westeros like compared to the show we all know?
The story’s time period, another 8,000 years before [the events in GoT], it’s far enough away so it feels like a different story, a different world, because it is — the kingdoms do not exist at this point. So it felt distinct. We’re not trying to do Game of Thrones Part II. No one is going to duplicate what [GoT showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] did. By setting it when we did, there’s a lot going on, a lot of dynamics that are related to Game of Thrones, but it’s different enough with its time period and characters its duplicative.
As you pointed out earlier, that prequel’s October start date rumor was bogus. But do you plan to shoot in Belfast and utilize the crew and production facilities you’ve built up there?
It’s very likely we’ll end up there, Belfast is very high on the list and makes a lot of sense. But there’s nothing 100 percent yet.
Switching to Westworld. Is season 3 looking like 2019 or 2020?
I don’t know.
Is 2019 even possible at this stage?
Anything’s possible. [Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy] took a well-earned vacation but the nice thing about them is they’re married so when they go on vacation I know they’re talking about the show. They’re taking some time to talk about creatively where to take it but they haven’t come back with a definitive plan. So at this point, anything is possible.
The J.J. Abrams space drama Demimonde, what excites you about that story?
It’s epic. It’s a family story. What’s attractive about it is it’s a huge canvas but ultimately it’s about what you do for your kids.