EMMYS: 'Game Of Thrones' Q&A With Showrunners David Benioff And D.B. Weiss

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?
BENIOFF/WEISS: Ignorance.

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.

  1. They did an amazing job bringing this show to life. Can’t praise these two (and the cast and crew) highly enough. Hope you win those awards!

    1. They deserve to win… I luv this show and I am hooked on it.. I only have have 1 complaint they shouldnt of killed Jason’s character. He is a beautiful man….

  2. I started to read the pilot and just didn’t get engaged, but when I watched it, I realized the failure had been mine: the actual show drew me in. I’m grateful to know they spent six years on this. The idea they dashed it off with such tight and inspired writing would have been terribly daunting.

  3. I saw it at a friends who told me of this new amazing show. I have been hooked on it ever since to the point that I have purchased the books and am half way through book 4 as I write this. I can’t wait for the next season!! It’s fantastic work! thanks :)

    1. I’m almost finished with book four (reading the whole series has been my August, basically). I have to say, it’s a bit of a slog compared to the others. He’s wandered off on a tangent that he doesn’t seem sure he wanted to go on to begin with. But it will probably still make a great Season Four.

  4. Great Show. Fan since the beginning. Bought the books after Season 1 ended… April 17th for Season 2? I feel like I’m going through Tyrion withdrawals!!

    Keep up the good work, guys! You’ve done us all proud!

  5. i will sorely miss Sean Bean – if i’m honest, i started watching this just for him. i have now a strong interest to find out what happens to his gutsy little daughter – i’ve bought the books! Also given rise to a strong desire to see Cersei et al get their just deserts for their callous disinterest in anyone other than them.
    Hope they manage to film the whole series, then i can buy it all on DVD to watch again!

  6. Even if the Oustanding Drama Series is more important, I always tend to see it as a warranty for quality, did you notice for example that Boardwalk Empire doesn’t have one ? I can tell you he won’t win for the Drama Series !

    1. The vast majority of the actors are British or Irish. There are a couple Germans and Dutch thrown in as well.

      Filming is in Belfast, Croatia and Iceland now. For Season 1, they filmed in Belfast, Morocco (pilot only I believe), and Malta.

  7. Great show.
    I can’t wait to see it in Italy (that will be in november 2011), so I can discuss episode with friends who didn’t see them so far.

  8. I think what Martin meant is that his books were un-movie-able, which they are. Too many stories, too many moving parts. Book series as TV shows wasn’t really on the radar yet.

  9. It’s awesome to feel the crew and casts growing closer to becoming family. Get the DVDs lads and lasses Mr Benioff & Mr Weiss deserve the extra currencies to produce more epicness in the show! Although it’s probably not an easy task to outclass season 1, being as awesome as it is. Great job lads!

  10. I absolutely believe this is the best show by far on TV today. I am completely drawn into this series. The writing is superior to anything I’ve seen before and the cast is amazing. Watching Darneryus go from this timid young girl to a force to be reckon with and Tyrion Lannister is the most amazing character, I just love him. Kudos to whoever cast Charles Dance as the head of the Lannister clan. He’s just perfect. Jamie Lannister is just so tragically looking for someone to love him for himself and beautiful to watch. Cersei and her son are a trainwreck waiting to happen and I want to be there to watch them fall. I’m rooting for Jon Snow and the Stark clan to bring the Lannisters down but not anytime soon. Can’t wait to see the Dragons this coming season. I’ve talked to many friends and family about watching this show. It’s not to be missed! For those who aren’t watching I’m so sorry and sad for you..for those who are watching I ask..isn’t it amazing?

  11. Amazing show. Every few years a show comes along that pushes the medium forward and Game of Thrones is that show. So delightful to watch and such inspired scenework. Can’t say enough about the brilliance in front of and behind the camera. Congratulations on a job extremely well done.

    Not that I’m gushing or anything.

  12. I love this show. I came in knowing zero about the series, and was floored with that fairly major moment towards the end of the series. Once finished, I picked up all the books, and just finished book five yesterday. What an amazing series, and looking forward to season 2!

  13. I hate flip answers in interviews about things I’m interested in. This read like a comedians bio page.

  14. I still remember meeting with Ralph Vicinanza at L.A. Con IV in Anaheim back in August ’06. We sat in a hotel lobby just a stone’s toss from where his fellow producer, Vince Gerardis, was coordinating a meeting between their client, George R.R. Martin, and screenwriters David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Ralph told me that David and Dan were pitching George on allowing them to adapt his books for cable television. I remember thinking at the time, “Awesome!” and “They better not mess it up.” Congrats to all involved on a masterful job.

  15. Have never read a book other than reference and studying for many years, after watching Game of Thrones I became each of the characters as they played, I have all the books now almost finished book 1
    (slow reader). Somehow I identify with the story, Westeros and all the noblemen/ladies, maybe because William the Conqueror is a direct descendant? Good on you George RR Martin and HBO for releasing this to the drama starved masses, kudos all.

    1. Hang tough Ralph, I’m a slow reader as well. Book 2 is fantastic, almost finished with it and ready to move on to book 3 after the hurricane moves on.

  16. Soooo….anybody know when season 1 comes out on dvd? I’ve been on these books like a crackhead since 1999 and want to own each and every one of the episodes

  17. These two guy shave guts to take on George rr Martin…..and they rocked it…best novel and best movie….cant stop reading, i m on second one….i reccomend to read it first….

    When u play game of thrones, you win or u die!

  18. I happened upon episode 3 I think. I began to watch (’cause nothing was on) I had no idea who the characters were, who they were talking about, half the time did not understand the dialogue or specific words and was not aware it was fantasy. YET I was COMPLETELY enthralled! Could not turn away! It was so good! The acting sublime and the set/costume/lighting so authentic to a medival time period, I was blown away! I ordered the entire series from my cable provider and fell in love with the show. I cannot wait for season 2. Bravo! Bravo!

  19. Guys you made a great work! But i beg you – dont suck on Blackwater! Its the main event of the second book and i cant even imagined that it would be less when 2 episodes and less then 30 millions worth of production! For Christ sake – its a sea battle!

  20. I have read all the books, I hope George doesn’t wait to long before finishing the next.
    first series extremely impressive , stick to the books story line and the series will keep flying. Can’t wait for series 2. Still don’t know why you would change Asha to Yara..that sinks.

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