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When is the first Game of Thrones spin-off on TV? What’s it about? Will any characters return?

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One of the mooted Game of Thrones spin-offs is finally starting to happen, with HBO currently shooting a pilot (though not yet a full series) for a new project set thousands of years before the events of the main series and starring the likes of John Simm and Naomi Watts.

At the moment the precise details of the plot are a mystery – but what DO we already know about what’ll happen in the new show, who stars in it and how it relates to Game of Thrones itself? Read on below to find out about the show that MAY be called Bloodmoon or The Longest Night…


What is the Game of Thrones prequel about?

Vladimir Furdik as the Night King

Vladimir Furdik as the Night King

The new prequel has been ultra-secretive so far so as to keep as much under wraps as possible.

“I’ve been living more or less in Belfast, where they filmed it, for the past six months,” Jonathan Ross, the husband of showrunner Jane Goldman, told the Mirror.

“I’ve never seen a bigger set, they built it in a car park and surrounded it with containers to block it off from view. But people could still see it as it was next to the Titanic Museum, which has an observation deck that oversees it – ‘Oh look, Naomi Watts’.”

Still, we do know a few things. According to HBO, the new series will be set around 5,000 years before the events of the main drama during a time known by Game of Thrones characters as the Age of Heroes, a period of history when iconic and near-mythical figures had all sorts of unusual adventures.

John Simm in Strangers episode 7

“Look there has been some stuff released – Naomi Watts & Miranda Richardson is in it. I am in it, other people are in it. We have already shot the pilot already. That is all I can say,” series star John Simm said.

“It is set about thousand years before [the main series].”

More specifically, HBO have said the series will chronicle “the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour.”

They added: “From the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history to the true origin of the White Walkers, the mysteries of the East, to the Starks of legend… it’s not the story we think we know.”

And George RR Martin, who wrote the original novels the series is based on and created Westeros, has revealed that the series will find a very different world to the one we know…

“Westeros is a very different place,” he told EW. “There’s no King’s Landing. There’s no Iron Throne. There are no Targaryens — Valyria has hardly begun to rise yet with its dragons and the great empire that it built. We’re dealing with a different and older world and hopefully that will be part of the fun of the series.”

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More recently, Martin went into a little more detail about the era of Westeros we’ll see in the prequel.

“We talk about the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros; there were Seven Kingdoms at the time of Aegon’s Conquest,” Martin told EW. “But if you go back further then there are nine kingdoms, and 12 kingdoms, and eventually you get back to where there are a hundred kingdoms — petty kingdoms — and that’s the era we’re talking about here.”

More recently still, it has been rumoured that the series will at least partially focus on the elf-like Children of the Forest (a group of magical beings who created the White Walkers in their battle against humanity), who previously played a part in Bran Stark’s storyline in seasons four and six. It’s unclear whether any of the actors cast (below) will play these characters, or whether any of the Children we met in Game of Thrones will reprise their roles.


Will any characters return?

The Night King and the White Walkers in Game of Thrones (HBO, HF)

The Night King and the White Walkers in Game of Thrones (HBO, HF)

It’s unlikely, considering the huge time gap between series. Still, the White Walkers have been confirmed to be a part of the prequel and who knows how long they live? Maybe one or two familiar rotting, frozen faces will pop up from time to time – and there’s always a possibility that the Children of the Forest have a long enough lifespan to appear twice.

“None of the characters or actors from Game of Thrones will appear in the new show,” Martin has insisted, for his part – though he has revealed that the Stark family, at least, will still be around, along with one or two familiar locations.

“The Starks will definitely be there,” he said.

“The Lannisters aren’t there yet, but Casterly Rock is certainly there; it’s like the Rock of Gibraltar,” he added. “It’s actually occupied by the Casterlys — for whom it’s still named after in the time of Game of Thrones.”

“Obviously the White Walkers are here [too] — or as they’re called in my books, The Others — and that will be an aspect of it,” Martin continued. “There are things like direwolves and mammoths.”

HBO boss Casey Bloys did reveal to Deadline that there will be “some references” to the characters and events from the Emmy-award winning series but these will not be “direct references”.


What will the Game of Thrones spin-off be called?

At the moment, there’s still no official title – but George RR Martin already has a pretty good idea, stemming from the deadly war with the White Walkers die to be featured.

“My vote would be The Long Night, which says it all, but I’d be surprised if that’s where we end up,” he wrote.

“More likely HBO will want to work the phrase “game of thrones” in there somewhere.  We’ll know sooner or later.”

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Later, Martin seemed to confirm that The Long Night would be the official title before walking back his comments.

Even more recently, it was suggested that the prequel was currently filming under the working title of “Bloodmoon,” perhaps referencing the more elemental, magic-filled route it seems to be heading down. A leaked logo for the production would lend credence to this title becoming permanent, but George RR Martin is less sure.

“I heard a suggestion that it could be called The Longest Night, which is a variant I wouldn’t mind,” he said. “That would be pretty good.”

For now, basically, we still don’t know – so until we know more we’ll just keep giving it the catchy “Game of Thrones successor show sequel spin-off” moniker that trips off the tongue so well.


Who stars in the new Game of Thrones prequel?

John Simm in episode 4 of Strangers

A number of the spin-off’s cast have been revealed over the last few months, including John Simm, Jamie Campbell-Bower, Miranda Richardson and Naomi Watts, the latter of whom is the only figure to have some character information so far.

Watts is described as “socialite with a dark secret” and is set to lead the series, and it’s expected that more details about other characters will emerge in the coming months.

Other actors apparently set to begin filming the prequel pilot this summer are Marquis Rodriguez (Luke Cage), Poldark’s Richard McCabe, John Heffernan (Collateral, Dracula), Josh Whitehouse (Poldark), Naomi Ackie (Star Wars Episode IX), Dixie Egerickx (Patrick Melrose), Ivanno Jeremiah (Humans, Doctor Who), Denise Gough (Angels in America),  Sheila Atim (Harlots), Georgie Henley (Chronicles of Narnia), Alex Sharp (To the Bone), and Toby Regbo (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald).

In other words, yes, it looks like this show will have a cast nearly as big and sprawling as Thrones itself.

“As you know for Game of Thrones, we never even nominated anybody for lead actress or lead actor [during awards season] until recently; it was always for supporting [categories] because the show is such an ensemble,” Martin said.

“I think that will be true for this show too. We don’t have leads so much as a large ensemble cast.”

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Who’s writing the series?

Jane Goldman

Kick-Ass screenwriter Jane Goldman (who is married to British TV host Jonathan Ross) is making and showrunning the series with some help from George RR Martin himself, the author of the Song of Ice and Fire novels upon which Game of Thrones is based.

“I’ve consulted with all of the writers on all of the successor shows, and several of them have visited me in Santa Fe for long days of discussion, and we’ve gone back and forth in email, text, and telephone, so I have definitely been involved… but really, the accolades here should go to Jane,” Martin wrote on his blog.

“She has been an absolute thrill to work with… and my god, what a talent.”

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“[Jane’s] doing amazing,” Goldman’s husband Ross said in a recent interview.

“I’ve seen the pilot and it’s a great cast, including a couple of people I suggested.”


What is the Age of Heroes?

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The Age of Heroes took place many millennia before the events of the main series, and saw the distant ancestors of many Game of Thrones characters begin to build the version of Westeros we know today.

Among them were Bran the builder, a Stark who created Winterfell and the Wall, Lann the Clever, the first Lannister who managed to con his way into a fortune and lands and the Grey King of the Iron Islands, distantly related to the Greyjoys of Pyke.

This period also features legendary figures like the blind knight Symeon Star-Eyes, Garth Greenhand and the original Prince That Was Promised Azhor Ahai, who battled the White Walkers during their first attack on Westeros. In the current series, it’s believed Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen may be his reincarnation, destined to save the world all over again.

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“All of the successor shows we’ve been developing have been prequels, as I have mentioned before,” Martin said.

This one really puts the PRE in prequel, though, since it is set not ninety years before Game of Thrones (like novella series Dunk & Egg), or a few hundred years, but rather five thousand years before.


When will the Game of Thrones prequel be on TV?

Hard to say at the moment, but given that filming has only just begun on the pilot, we doubt it’ll be any time soon.

HBO have suggested they’re trying not to rush the spin-offs, and this series only has a pilot so far, so it could still be a few years before it sees the light of day.

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What other prequels are there?

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 18: Co-Executive Producer George R.R. Martin arrives at the premiere of HBO's

Originally HBO revealed that there were FIVE prequel ideas in development, with various intriguing creative talents working on them – however, George RR Martin has more recently suggested that alongside the currently-filming series, only two others are still in development.

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“We have had five different Game of Thrones successor shows in development (I mislike the term ‘spin-offs’) at HBO, and three of them are still moving forward nicely,” he wrote.

“The one I am not supposed to call The Long Night will be shooting later this year, and two other shows remain in the script stage, but are edging closer.”

More recently, it’s been revealed that a prequel based on the dragon-riding Targaryens is in the pipeline, though at the moment the series hasn’t been filmed.

Game of Thrones' dragon

Game of Thrones Series 4. Sky Atlantic HD

Episode 6 “Of Gods and Men”

HBO

“The show stirring up all the internet headlines right now is one of the other [successor shows],” Martin wrote on his blog.  “Also a prequel. Set thousands of years after Jane [Goldman]’s show in the history of Westeros.

“And yes, it is based on material from one of my books,” he added, specifically referring to his non-narrative faux-history novel Fire & Blood, which poses as a chronicle of Westeros’ first Kings.

Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman (who usually wrote a couple of episodes per season, including this year’s acclaimed second episode) previously revealed that his idea was one of the two that was scrapped, though Martin has suggested the pitch was reworked into the Targaryen series he’s now working on.

“This is it for me in terms of Westeros,” Cogman told Variety. “It’s been a beautifully cathartic thing re-watching the series recently, it’s been ten years of my life.”

Kong: Skull Island screenwriter Max Borenstein was previously said to be kicking round an idea, with Man Men writer Carly Wray and LA Confidential screenplay writer Brian Helgeland also working on their own spin-offs.

But Warner Media executive Bob Greenblatt suggested that even with these prequels in the pipeline, we shouldn’t hold our breath for all of them to make it to a full series…

“The last thing you want to do is roll out a spin-off or two and they’re not up to the standard of the original show and then you’ve just sort of failed miserably,” he told The Wrap.

“But sure, it makes sense to try to sustain it if we can. You know, can you really do two spin-offs? I don’t know.”

He ominously added: “I mean, I’m not even sure you can do one. You know, so I don’t know yet is the big, long boring answer and I wish I did.”


What are the other Game of Thrones prequels about?

While we don’t know much about what’s coming from the prequels besides Goldman’s, on a red carpet Martin did let slip WHEN one of the prospective series would be set.

“We have five other shows, five prequels in development, that are based on other periods in the history of Westeros,” he told Variety.

“Some of them just 100 years before Game of Thrones, some of them 5,000 years before Game of Thrones.”

Clearly, the 5,000-year show is the project being worked on by Goldman – but the other idea, assuming it wasn’t one of the two ideas dropped, does offer some clues about what else we could expect.

You see, 100 years before the time of Thrones is pretty much exactly when Martin’s novella series Tales of Dunk & Egg is set, suggesting that one series could be following this particular period in history, or even this narrative itself. In a way, this makes a lot of sense – alongside Game of Thrones, the three short tales of lowborn “Hedge Knight” Ser Duncan the Tall and his secretly-royal squire Aegon are the only stories written by Martin set in Westeros, and so would be the logical next place to look for TV series – even if the lack of material does suggest that a full series would be difficult to populate.

Still, it’s not like there isn’t plenty of other stuff going on in this period as well. Around 100 years before Game of Thrones Westeros was in the grip of another civil war between the ruling House Targaryen and the family offshoot House Blackfyre, with the realm divided between those who favoured the red dragon and those who fought for the black dragon. By the time of Dunk & Egg the Blackfyre Rebellion’s first flare up had been mostly quashed, but a TV series could jump right in the middle of it, giving a fans a very different sort of conflict that existed within a familiar Westeros.

On the other hand, as we said above, it could be that this idea has already been shelved. But with a history as long and varied as Westeros’ it’s hard not to imagine there are an awful lot of similarly great ideas out there.

This article will be updated with more details as they arrive

Game of Thrones airs on HBO and NOWTV on Mondays

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