Culture

‘Game of Thrones’ Prequel Series: Release Date, Cast, Trailer, Plot, and More

HBO's ‘Game of Thrones’ spinoff will delve into the Long Night. Here’s what we know so far.

Game of Thrones final season premieres April 14 and in those last six episodes the combined forces of Westeros—Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Jaime Lannister, Tyrion Lannister and Tormund Giantsbane—will make their final stand against the armies of the dead.

But the Others, and their leader the Night King, aren’t just a threat that unites Westeros, but one that unites the past and present. The Night Walkers invaded Westeros once before, thousands of years before the current series is set.  And as Game of Thrones ends, a new prequel series is in the works, one delving deep into the darkest days in Westeros’ long history.

HBO’s Game of Thrones Prequel Release

Talk of a Game of Thrones prequel series stretches back to at least 2016, with HBO’s president of programming Casey Bloys telling Entertainment Weekly, “There are areas we are exploring, but I wouldn’t point to any one and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’”

The prequel became more than just talk in April 2017, when George R.R. Martin announced he was signing a new development deal with HBO. A month later, there were five potential Game of Thrones spinoffs in the works, one originally pitched by Martin himself. HBO assembled writers for each: Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island), Jane Goldman, Brian Helgeland (Robin Hood, Green Zone), Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) and Carly Wray (Mad Men, Westworld). Martin described the writers visiting him in Santa Fe, where they spent days discussing the history of Westeros and the wider world described in The World of Ice & Fire and The Lands of Ice & Fire

“The one goal that EVERYONE involved shares here is to make these new shows just as good as Game of Thrones,” Martin wrote on his blog, Not a Blog. Without revealing plot details, Martin confirmed none of the series were based on his Dunk & Egg novella or set during Robert’s Rebellion, the war that precipitated the events of Game of Thrones.

Over a year later, in June 2018, HBO ordered a pilot for a Game of Thrones prequel series written and showrun by Goldman, whose screenplay credits include Stardust, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Woman in Black and Kick-Ass. It would be set in the Age of Heroes, during the Long Night, a bloody era that was one of the darkest chapters in the history of Westeros.

What Will be the Title of the Game of Thrones Prequel Series?

The prequel series doesn't have an official title yet—George R.R. Martin wants to call it The Long Night, but it's not clear if HBO agrees. “HBO has informed me that the Jane Goldman pilot is not [yet] titled The Long Night,” he wrote on his blog in November 2018. “That’s certainly the title I prefer, but for the moment the pilot is still officially untitled.”

What is the Plot of the Game of Thrones Prequel Series?

The series won't be like most prequels: it won’t feature younger versions of characters from Game of Thrones. Instead, it's set a full 10,000 years earlier (though given Westeros' nebulous timeline, you can never be sure). “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,” Martin said, describing the setting.

In the world of Game of Thrones, winters can last for years, sometimes decades. Some 8,000 years before Daenerys Targaryen’s ancestor conquered Westeros there was the Long Night, a winter that lasted a generation. The Others came from the north bringing slaughter and famine. Old Nan, a servant at Winterfell, recounted the story of the Long Night to Bran Stark in the novel A Game of Thrones.

"They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every creature with hot blood in its veins. They swept over holdfasts and cities and kingdoms, felled heroes and armies by the score, riding their pale dead horses and leading hosts of the slain. All the swords of men could not stay their advance, and even maidens and suckling babes found no pity in them. They hunted the maids through frozen forests, and fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children…”

game-of-thrones-prequel-series-white-walkers "Their pale dead horses" on "Game of Thrones." HBO

The people of that era are called the First Men, and they displaced the native Children of the Forest. A figure called “the last hero” sought out the Children of the Forest and, according to legend, made an alliance against the White Walkers. Bran learned from the Three-eyed Raven that it was the Children of the Forest who had originally created the White Walkers to protect them against the encroaching First Men, but it seems they lost control.

game-of-thrones-prequel-series-children-forest-cast-plot Will we learn the identity of the first White Walker, created by the Children of the Forest, in the "Game of Thrones" prequel series? HBO

As was rediscovered in Game of Thrones, the First Men found that dragonglass worked against the invading army of the dead. The first members of the Night’s Watch finally defeated the Others and ended the Long Night at the Battle for the Dawn, after which Brandon the Builder, legendary founder of House Stark, raised up the Wall, with help from the giants and the magical assistance of the Children of the Forest.

game-of-thrones-prequel-series-first-men-children-forest The children of the forest, who carved the faces in the weirwood trees, were driven into hiding by the bronze weapons and horses of the First Men. HBO

We don’t know what portion of that history will be depicted in the prequel series, but HBO did share a brief description: “Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: 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.”

For now, HBO has only ordered a pilot for the series set during the Long Night.

Who Will Star in the Game of Thrones Prequel Series?

Naomi Watts was the first cast member announced, in October 2018. While Watts' character doesn’t yet have a name yet, Variety describes her character as “a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.”

“I could not be more excited,” Martin posted online. “Welcome to Westeros, Naomi.”

Other announced cast members include Josh Whitehouse (Poldark), Naomi Ackie ( Star Wars: Episode IX, Lady Macbeth), Denise Gough (Angels in America), Jamie Campbell Bower (Sweeney Todd ), Sheila Atim (Harlots), Ivanno Jeremiah (Black Mirror), Georgie Henley (The Chronicles of Narnia), Alex Sharp (How to Talk to Girls at Parties) and Toby Regbo (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald).

game-of-thrones-prequel-series-cast Naomi Ackie, Denise Gough, Jamie Campbell Bower, Sheila Atim. HBO

game-of-thrones-prequel-series-cast-2 Ivanno Jeremiah, Georgie Henley, Alex Sharp, Tony Regbo. HBO

We don’t yet know who any of these actors will play, but legendary figures mentioned in Game of Thrones including Bran the Builder, Lann the Clever (founder of House Lannister) and the Iron Island’s Grey King. Azor Ahai and his wife, Nissa Nissa—whose heart he plunged his sword into—also hail from this era.The Long Night series pilot will be directed by S.J. Clarkson, whose credits include Jessica Jones, Succession and Orange is the New Black. Shooting on the pilot will start this summer. (Clarkson was previously attached to the follow-up to Star Trek Beyond, but that project was cancelled in early 2019.) Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won't be involved, but it will make use of the Game of Thrones production hub in Belfast.

When Is the Game of Thrones Prequel Release Date?

While the exact release date hasn't been announced, insiders say not to expect it before June 2020. 

“My guess is it would be at least a year before you saw anything else [after the finale]," Bloys told The Hollywood Reporter.  HBO doesn't want to draw attention away from GoT's final arc, he explained, "which I think is going to be epic and amazing, and somehow have the distraction of a new Game of Thrones airing right after that. It’s best to separate it and that’s what we’ll do.”

Of course this is just the beginning of HBO’s expansive post-Game of Thrones plans—up to three other series are in various stages of development: In July 2018, a Game of Thrones wiki detailed another alleged prequel series, called “Empire of Ash,” that was to be written by Borenstein. It would follow the Targaryen clan in the early days before the volcanic super-eruption called the Doom of Valyria. George R.R. Martin’s fictional history of the Targaryens, Fire & Blood, covers the centuries following this era, beginning with Aegon’s Conquest of Westeros. 

We'll update this feature as more information is revealed. 

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