Feature film writer David Benioff (Troy, The Kite Runner) and novelist D.B. Weiss found mega-success as co-showrunners of their very first TV show, HBO’s freshman medieval fantasy series Game of Thrones. It hauled in 13 Primetime Emmy nominations, including honors for top Drama Series and Writing for an episode they co-penned. That’s more nods than any drama series except Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire. Deadline TV contributor Ray Richmond talked to Benioff and Weiss via email about how they’re dealing with overnight success and where Thrones will go in Season 2:
DEADLINE: So has the early success of Game of Thrones surprised you? This is probably a difficult question to answer honestly: If you say ‘No’ it sounds immodest, and if you say ‘Yes’ it appears insecure.
DAVID BENIOFF and D.B. WEISS: We, the insecure, say ‘Yes.’ We always believed the show would find a loyal audience, but our fear was that it could be an audience of 40. Both the number and the passion of the viewers stunned us.
DEADLINE: The author of the Thrones books, George R.R. Martin, once said that he considered his novels un-filmable. What convinced you both they could be filmed after all?
DEADLINE: What’s the pressure to satisfy the famously picky fans of Martin in particular and the fantasy genre in general?
BENIOFF/WEISS: We’re more concerned with making a good show than trying to please all the people all the time. As far as pressure goes, we put our careers on the line with this series. After nearly six years invested, if the show had failed we would have thrown away a hefty portion of our working lives. Hollywood screenwriters tend to have the longevity of NFL running backs. So the truth is no one can put more pressure on us than we put on ourselves.
DEADLINE: Were you worried initially that the story might overwhelm viewers unfamiliar with the larger tale?
BENIOFF/WEISS: Yes. Some of our initial anxieties about whether anybody will watch this show have dissipated. But others have sprung up to take their place. They are shaped like direwolves, and they hunt us in the night.
DEADLINE: How has it been working with HBO? Anything you’ve wanted to do creatively that you haven’t been able to?
BENIOFF/WEISS: So far, nothing we’ve considered important to the show has been axed for creative reasons as opposed to financial reasons. That may change this coming season with the ‘2 Dothraki, 1 Cup’ scene in Episode 7.
DEADLINE: Has the budget been sufficient for what you’ve needed to do creatively or is there simply never enough money on these things?
BENIOFF/WEISS: HBO has been generous and there’s never ever enough money. There will always be a creative tension between a production and the network, where the production is yelling ‘¡Más!’ and the network is yelling ‘¡No más!’ But in the grand scheme of things, they have given us ‘¡Más!’ and let us run with it.
DEADLINE: Do you sense Game of Thrones has become appointment viewing to non-fans of the fantasy genre?
BENIOFF/WEISS: We do sense this. But it’s within the realm of possibility that our perspective may be skewed. You meet and hear about people who haven’t engaged with the genre in the past who love the show, and that is hugely gratifying. But you tend not to hear from the people who say, ‘Hey, I never liked fantasy before, but I saw your show and man…I still don’t like it!’
DEADLINE: Which makes you prouder: the Emmy nomination for Outstanding Drama Series or Drama Series Writing?
BENIOFF/WEISS: In some ways Drama Series. Because that nomination rewards everyone we’ve worked with on the show – a crew of passionate, talented people who have built this series with us. And in some ways Writing, because first and foremost we’re writers.
DEADLINE: How will Season 2 of Thrones differ creatively from Season 1?
BENIOFF/WEISS: More characters. More locations. More dragons. Less sleep. Less Ned. Less frequent bowel movements.