HBO EVP of programming, Michael Ellenberg, drove another nail into Jon Snow’s coffin today in Edinburgh. He told a packed house that the Game Of Thrones character, who met his demise in the Season 5 finale, much to the chagrin of fans, “is absolutely dead.” There were audible gasps inside the Convention Center here today, even though HBO president of programming, Michael Lombardo, uttered a similar phrase at TCA last month.
While discussing GOT’s now well-documented international success, a remark was directed to Ellenberg that all of the accents are British. “It’s period. British English is period. Even if it’s Russia in the 15th century, they speak British English, they don’t speak Russian,” he said to laughs from the British audience.
More seriously, he said, “The ability to produce here was vital,” to getting the show made. It shoots nearby in Northern Ireland. “To execute that show, it felt like it had to be done here,” he noted, adding, “It’s no secret the pool of actors here is sui generis.”
Ellenberg used his session to debut a sizzle reel of Westworld, the sci-fi western that stars Anthony Hopkins, James Marsden, Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright among many others. It’s based on the 1973 film that was written and directed by Michael Crichton, which Ellenberg said “was kind of” Chrichton “working out some of the ideas he later realized more fully in Jurassic Park.”
The network is “close to a completed cut” of Martin Scorsese’s Vinyl, a drama about the A&R scene in the 1970s. Ellenberg said it’s a collaborative process, but that HBO pretty much leaves Scorsese alone. “It would be hubristic to say he needs our feedback in some profound way.”
Turning to the hot-button issue here of diversity, Ellenberg was asked his view about the lack of disabled talent on screen and if HBO could help. “Can we do something about it? Yes, and we ought to. It is not discussed enough in diversity conversations.”
He added, “We’re having a very rigorous conversation inside about being much more robust and engaged with our showrunners and casting directors about how they look at people, how they come in, why they come in. I do think the more we as a broadcaster are engaging directly I think we could have a very sizable impact in a relatively short period of time. I also think it would be good for the disabled community to speak loudly about this issue.”