We’re halfway through the third season of Game of Thrones, a year that’s seen the elevation of female characters—and consensual sex—suggestions that one religion, the worship of the Lord of Light, could be gaining precedence and validity in Westeros, and some of the best swordfighting the show’s ever seen. I talked to executive story editor Bryan Cogman about how the show’s handled changes in characterization from the page to screen, how he wrote those steamy sex scenes in last week’s episode, and how the action choreography of the show comes together. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
To get started: halfway through the third season, Game of Thrones remains largely true to George R.R. Martin’s novels, but there are diversions in both plot and characterization. As the story editor, I’d be curious what the conversations about those changes look like. And in the case of characterization changes, do they tend to be driven more by the actors cast in the roles? The need to pace the story? Or a mix?
Oh, good you started with an easy one! Well, for one thing, now that we’re in Season Three — a lot of the changes stem from changes/alterations we made in previous seasons. Now, Margaery Tyrell, as we’ve talked about before, is an important character in the novels in terms of plot but she isn’t a point of view character and you don’t really get to know her until later in the saga. And even then, she’s not really driving her own storylines. Now, in Season Two, we always planned to go behind the curtain, if you will, with Renly and his relationships, but even with that, Margaery was still planned to be (more or less) a minor character. Now, Natalie Dormer was original considered for another role. I’m not sure who’s idea it was to have her be Margaery, but casting her immediately changed the character and the possibilites for her before we even started writing. It allowed us to move up the Cersei versus Margaery dynamic–that’s a big part of a later book).
And this solved a few problems we needed to deal with as we started adapting A Storm of Swords. If you break down A Storm of Swords, there isn’t a ton of King’s Landing story in the first half of the book, and virtually nothing for a few characters (Cersei, Littlefinger, Varys) to do. So having Margaery be a greater presence on the show (coupled with her arrival of grandmother, Lady Olenna) allowed us to dramatize the arrival of the Tyrells and their effect on the Lannisters (and Cersei, Joffrey) in particular. And the idea of Margaery as a sort of Princess Di type was very interesting–and that’s definitely in the books–her popularity with the people is mentioned, we just took that ball and ran with it.