Book readers of George RR Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ always seem to have one up on the loyal TV show audience for ‘Game of Thrones, but the author warns even he doesn’t know when some characters are going to be killed…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Each season during ‘Game of Thrones’, show creator George R.R. Martin comes in to write an episode as part of his involvement as a producer on the series. It only makes sense considering Martin created the entire Game of Thrones universe, with many of the characters dating back more than 20 years from when he first started working on the series in the early 90’s.
Martin’s book series titled ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ already had a rabid fan base long before the show premiered, so whenever he killed a character (or dozens of characters as he tends to do), the backlash from fans reading the material was virtually instantaneous. Now years later, Martin is reliving those moments all over again just like when the infamous Red Wedding episode happened during season three, and he was forced to live through the same outrage he did when the third book in the series was released in 2000.
In the latest season, Martin witnessed the death of King Joffrey during the second episode of season four, and while his demise was met with much more fanfare than outrage, even the creator of the books had a harder time watching one of his characters say goodbye. Not so much because he wishes he had done differently years earlier, but because once the actors and actresses brought the parts he wrote to life, Martin hated to see them exit the series.
“I think it’s a good thing that I wrote the books before we started making the show because when you make the show and you actually meet the actors, then it’s harder to kill them. Because then Jack (Gleeson) will be out of a job then,” Martin said when talking to Conan O’Brien on Tuesday.
“I’ve done all the killing years ago so I don’t have to worry about it.”
While Martin still serves as a producer and writer on the show, the final direction and decisions made for series lie in the hands of show runners David Benioff and Dan Weiss, who handled the day-to-day operations of ‘Game of Thrones’. The majority of the series has stayed fairly loyal to the source material, but there have been several deviations including killing off characters that are still kicking in Martin’s book series.
It can be shocking when Martin comes in to read the outline for an episode or the season as a whole and finds out that a character will be snuffed out much earlier than he intended, but it’s all part of the television process of making the show their own.
With that said, however, Martin warns fans that have read ahead in his book series that the TV show won’t necessarily follow the same path, which means more beloved characters that appear safe aren’t actually safe at all.
“To be fair, David Benioff and Dan Weiss who are the show runners, they’re killing characters who are still alive in the books, so as bloody as I am, David and Dan are always turning things up to 11. So really no one is safe. Even the book readers who say well this character’s safe, he’s not in any trouble because he’s still in book five, they have an unpleasant surprise,” Martin said.
“I usually know about it because I actually work on the show and write one episode per season usually, so I do have a little warning, but I do squeal when I get the outlines — ‘wait a minute, he’s not dead in the books! He’s still alive in the books!”
Television is a different animal with action beats and certain requirements to keep the show moving at a pace that can be much higher than what happens in the books. Of course there are always financial restraints as well.
“The actor asked for a raise we had to do something,” Martin joked about a character dying on the show.
Most fans who have read the books also know that ‘Game of Thrones’ is catching up to Martin’s source material very quickly, and could pass his already released books at some point next season. Because of the style with which Martin writes, some characters weren’t even really featured in certain books, but the TV show with contracts and commitments can’t just disappear a character for a season or two waiting for Martin to write about them again.
The sixth book in the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series titled ‘The Winds of Winter’ isn’t expected to be released until 2015 so it’s hard to say how much of the show will pass Martin’s book before it’s ever on store shelves and how many characters will be alive or dead by then.