The Mary Sue Interviews Game of Thrones Writer Bryan Cogman
HBO’s Game of Thrones is two seasons in and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down soon. Fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series know just how much detail the author puts into his books, and how much is left out of the television show. Thankfully, viewers can now see even more of what went into the making of the Emmy Award-winning series with the new book, Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones. The Mary Sue had the opportunity to speak with Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman, who spent countless hours putting the book together (really, you should thank him). See what he had to say about the project as well as his thoughts on the characters of Westeros.
[Editors note: This interview was conducted via email and we weren’t allowed to ask any questions about Season 3. SAD FACE.]
The Mary Sue: Bryan, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us. We really appreciate it. First, Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones is an absolutely gorgeous book, but then again, you had gorgeous material to work with. What was your favorite part of putting it all together and what was the hardest?
Bryan Cogman: Thank you very much, I’m glad you like it. Yes, the folks Chronicle Books did an outstanding job putting the book together. And, you’re right, it was embarrassment of riches to work with — we had thousands of photographs to sort through, the vast majority of which were taken by Helen Sloan, our enormously talented unit photographer.
I think my favorite part of putting all together was connecting one by one with our cast and crew. Of course, I work with them every day but it was nice to sit down and engage with them about their feelings and memories about the show. The hardest part was most certainly the time constraints — I only had a few months to get it all done and I was working on it in Belfast in the middle of shooting Season 2.
TMS: I remember when I first heard about HBO turning George R.R. Martin’s book into a series I thought, “There’s no way they can fit it all in.” And obviously they can’t, but this book shows fans a whole lot more than they were ever able to see on film. Are you glad for that? Is there something in particular you’re happy viewers get to see?
BC: If this had been a movie (and that was what was originally pitched to my boss, David Benioff) it would have gutted the story. Major characters and plotlines would have likely been jettisoned. I know some die-hard book fans are upset that, say, Jeyne Poole is gone — but how would they have liked a version of the story that omitted Daenerys? Or half the Stark children? Or Jon Snow’s entire storyline? That’s what a film version would have looked like. When David read these books he knew they had to be a TV series and he brought Dan [D. B. Weiss] onboard and that was the plan from then on.
TMS: Who’s your favorite character in the show and, if you have a different answer, who’s your favorite character to write? Is there a different favorite from the books?
BC: Very hard to choose — I’ve been living with them for so long, I have great affection for all of them (and the actors who portray them). I had a great time writing Theon in Season 2 and I’ve really enjoyed writing Jaime in Season 3. And I always like writing for the kids. There’s a character I love from the books — Aeron Damphair, who we haven’t seen on the show yet, but it’d be fun to get a crack at him. We’ll see.
TMS: Inevitably in adaptations, beats or entire plots are altered to enhance the story but sometimes it feels as if the changes are arbitrary to the point that hardcore fans wonder why they were made in the first place. Of course there’s the simple changes like Osha/Asha that were made so as to not confuse audiences, but then you have Daenerys’ time and actions in Qarth that were altered significantly from the novel. Do you ever consider how fans will react to such changes?
BC: With all due respect to the fans, there is never a single change on this show that’s “arbitrary”. Every change is debated and discussed at length and there’s always a good reason — be it creative, budgetary, etc. D&D [Benioff & Weiss] make decisions in the adaptation based on what’s best for the show. Of course, I’d love everyone to love every bit of the series, but you can’t please everyone all the time.
TMS: The Mary Sue is a geek girl culture site and we’ve had many heated discussions on the women inhabiting the world of Game of Thrones; their strength, how they’re treated, the power they hold, etc. We could probably get into a bigger discussion about this but how do you view the women of Game of Thrones?
BC: Hmmm… I’m afraid this answer will disappoint you, but I don’t really view them any differently from the male characters — I view them all as fascinating, multi-layered, dynamic characters to write for, all of whom are played by actors of the highest skill. George has done a brilliant job conceiving them and establishing their places in the world, their wants and needs, their flaws… I just try to serve that and leave the larger analysis to the critics.
TMS: [That answer actually didn’t disappoint us.] Thanks so much for your time, Bryan! I look forward to the start of Season 3, oh so far away. :)
BC: Thank you! I’m very excited for people to see it.
Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones is available in standard, special edition (next month), and ebook versions.
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