One of the biggest surprises among the 2019 Emmy nominations was that not only all seven Game of Thrones lead actors earn nominations for the fantasy drama’s final season, but several performers who self-submitted for the awards also received nods for the first time — such as Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) and Carice van Houten (Melisandre).

As Christie explained to THR, “When I read the script for the final season, I was delighted that Brienne had such a full storyline. I set about working the hardest I’ve ever worked to try to bring that to life, because it was happening for the last time. I just wanted the possibility of the opportunity [to be nominated]. It was useful to me, as a person, to take that step of putting it forward. I remember talking about it with my team and saying, ‘I feel like I just want to do it for me, for the character.’ And I said to them, ‘Don’t worry about me being disappointed. I genuinely do not expect it to amount to anything.'”

And speaking to IndieWire, Allen said, “I think my team and I just felt it was the right time to submit…” and added, “I think HBO submitted me way earlier on in Season 1 or Season 3 as the character’s journey developed more and more, but I think there’s just so many main characters in Thrones that if HBO were to kind of play that game of submitting everybody diplomatically, it would be really tough … I think the night at the Emmys is going to really have a sense of finality to it, and on such a positive note as well. It literally is like a dream come true that I get to go there and spend it with people that are really close friends of mine.”

Credit: HBO

Allen also quipped, referring to the Emmy submission fee, “[H]opefully HBO will reimburse me the $225.”

Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) were both nominated in lead acting categories for the first time. Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) also received her first-ever Emmy nomination, along with previously nominated co-stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark).

At the Television Critics Association’s press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., the cable network’s president of programming Casey Bloys explained why the network regularly submits some actors but not others.

GoT is unique because it has 27 series regulars — which is unusual,” he said. “We have someone who has worked at HBO who is an expert in awards; she will work with showrunners to figure out what the best chance of success. It’s a challenge for a series that big if everybody submitted themselves, everybody could cancel [each other out]. There is some strategic thinking… if someone decides to submit on their own, we will help them and their reps.”

All told, GoT received a record 32 Emmy nominations for season 8. The final season averaged more than 44 million U.S. viewers, according to HBO.

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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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