While many of us reporters at Comic-Con were looking for information and news about upcoming movies, the HBO "Game of Thrones" panel was unabashedly about sharing the past season with the 6000 fans packed into Hall H. They roared their approval for the shows two most popular stars, Emmy nominees Peter Dinklage and brunette Emilia Clarke. Showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff started things off with an In Memoriam clip (below), reminding us of all the characters we have already lost--and that there will be more to come when Season Four kicks off in Spring 2014.
Needless to say the infamous--and Emmy-nominated--"Red Wedding" episode was front and center in the discussion. And we saw dead people as Jason Momoa crashed the panel to plant a wet kiss on Emilia Clarke's cheek. She blushed red.
Moderator Elvis Mitchell called author George R.R. Martin, who is feverishly beavering away on the next "GoT" installment as the series catches up with him, a "heartless bastard."
George R.R. Martin: I have many characters, so killing a few, there's always more. I'm creating new characters, there's job opportunities for actors and actors. And I should say in my defense that David and Dan have turned everything up to 11, they've killed many characters who are still alive in the books. I'll only take some of the bloodthirsty blame.
Dan Weiss: We always knew that they were all going to die.
David Benioff: When we wrapped the 'Red Wedding' I remember hugging Michelle [Bailey] and Richard [Madden]. It was the last time we were going to work with them, ever. We work in Belfast, our tough Northern Irish crew, they were crying. It's a testament to Michelle and Richard that these fictional deaths had people on set who all knew what was coming in tears.
Richard Madden: I cried on the way home after the shoot. On the flight I was ordering multiple drinks. It was worth a cry after so many years since we started the pilot, so many friendships. I had many great friends I was sad to not be seeing. It's July, I feel I should be doing something. I'm missing that.
Elvis Mitchell: Do you read the books as you go along?
Michelle Fairley: No, I read the book to go with series. I knew how many years I signed for so I knew what was coming. Also, David and Dan don't always stick to the books. You read the book and it's a great reference to have, but your script is your Bible.
Benioff: Whatever they want. Some actors like to read ahead, some want to be surprised, to not know where it's going. We completely leave it up to the actors.
Peter Dinklage: In four or five years when this is all over I think I'm going to go back and read all books, to get some perspective on it. I want to know what has happened, and I want to know what is happening, but I don't what to know what's coming, I stay away from reading too far in the future.
Benioff: You become a dragon!
Dinklage: I would breathe fire in every scene if I knew that. And I can! (audience reacts)
Mitchell: Talk about the last episode when Jon and Rose say good-bye.
Kit Harington: It's a beautifully written scene. As actors in the show, I hate blowing smoke up David and Dan's ass. They're very good at writing dialogue. It's easy to deliver because of that. I had a lot of fun. Some of the most brutal scenes are the funnest to film.
Rose Leslie: She's devastated when Jon Snow left her, these characters are madly in love with one another, she was convinced that they were going to be a team. That devastation that he has betrayed her episode 9 rides away horrible realization hits her there and them: 'he's not going to get away this! I am going to hunt him down and hurt him.'
Elvis Mitchell: Emilia, congrats on that Emmy! Tell us about getting the news.
Emilia Clarke: Thank you. I was the night before hoping that David and Dan and that the show would get some kind of recognition but never in a million years---my alarm went off at 6 AM at the hotel, whilst trying to throw things at the alarm to turn it off I got call from HBO to tell us about the amazing news, and you yourself as well, that didn't register at all.
It's been a phenomenal season to film, amazing to get to go on the journey. You think that she's peaking in episode 5, with getting her army, and then the final episode was exhilarating to film, I remember going in and them lifting me up and breaking into this grin, and that was what they went for.
Weiss: When we read the books in 2006 we knew immediately, if we can make this happen and get this to that place and do justice to the holy shit of that moment and throw the book across the room of that moment, we would have done something right. It was exciting and terrifying, it was a difficult scene to pull off. David Nutter the director, the success was down to him and to the people sitting to my left.
Benioff: We have been waiting for it for so long, dreading it for so long. Four years ago we felt if we get to the Red Wedding we'd die happy. The phrase became a spoiler. When we were standing on the set watching Michelle do takes over and over again, when Michelle sees the chain mail, the look before he cuts the throat, the howl of rage and grief and do that 20 times or something, it was just a phenomenal performance. Richard too, the same, we were dreading it but to have it turn out better than we could imagine was one of the great moments of my life.
John Bradley: Sam's always been a hero. One branch of bravery is to stick up for yourself and ward off bad vibes. It's braver to sometimes to absorb punishment and just be the underdog all the time. Sam had a lot of that. Sam lived in his mind for so long, he's an academic. He absorbs information, he's got an amazing curiosity about how things work.
The one moment that turns his life around where he becomes the a hero, is one of complete gut instinct. Sam applied this knowledge that dragon glass that kills the white walkers? He didn't! His sword had been broken into a thousand pieces. He looked out and found the answer to a question people were searching for thousands of years. Sam just needs to get out of his own brain a bit. When he's placed under pressure and feels enormous responsibility he's a bit of a dude. (The crowd identifies with him.)
Harrington: Jon's trying to find a paternal figure, but he's always drawn to these big strong-willed men, and they find him appealing, they want to nurture him and raise him in their form. What's coming up is gets sick of that and turns into that person. It's going to be an interesting season to play, the one coming up.
Mitchell: Your arc this season is defining your relationship with your father vs. becoming a father yourself.
Dinklage: It's the mark of a great actor that you can't imagine any other actor playing that role, Charles Dance is that for me as Tywin Lannister. They're beautifully written scenes. He gives me a shoulder rub after each take to take to make sure we still love each other as fellow thespians. He's so frustrated with Tyrion, because his three children-- Jamie, Cersei and myself --are three different parts of a whole, and they're not in the right person. They each lack what the other has.
Tyrion has financial freedom. He can threaten Joffrey a bit. He can get away. He knows his father who is the true ruler feels the same way about Joffrey as I do. He just doesn't say it. You're only as good as the actors you work with and I'm lucky to be working with some good ones.
Clarke: Coming out of Season Two, her self confidence hit rock bottom. Her ability to trust had been abolished. Going into Season 3, ramping up to The Scene, she had a lot of self-doubt, it was eating her up. Taking the plunge, it was the first time she didn't discuss anything with her closest advisors about the risk she was taking. She put her trust into her dragons. She's testing herself, it's the biggest risk she's ever taken. If it doesn't work it's game over. And if it does, it's game on. And it does. She asks advice less and listens to herself more. I think about where she came, from Season One at the beginning, to that moment.
Audience member: George would you consider writing a prequel and bring Ned Stark back?
Martin: First I have to finish "The Winds of Winter" and "A Dream of Spring," that's going to take me a while. I have to write quickly here because David and Dan are catching up to me, like a locomotive catching up to me as I am still laying the tracks, I see the smoke on the next hill. I might set a story in Westeros. But I don't think I will do a prequel. That material is revealed through flashbacks. By the time I finish the last two books, you will know everything about that, the twists and turns and betrayals, the mysteries will be solved. I might go back earlier and write about Agon and his sisters, earlier, and Agon the Unworthy, a true scumbag of a king with nine mistresses. There's lots more material about Westeros, but I don't think I'll do the immediate precursor. No offence to Sean Bean, it's sad to see Sean die, he's a good actor, but he does die so well.