Sure, you drink… but do you also know things?
Game of Thrones winning the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for the second time was truly an awesome thing, but also a stark (hah!) reminder that we’ve still got a crazy long wait until the series returns for its eighth and final season.
To help satiate your hunger for all things Thrones, to tide you over through the long fearful winter, we’ve compiled a rogues gallery of facts and tidbits about the blockbuster series from all angles of adoration. There’re odds and ends about the books, the genesis of the show, some behind-the-scenes show shenanigans, and entertaining Easter eggs.
Think you’re the wisest in all of Westeros? Do you drink and know things? Check and see how many of these Game of Thrones facts — listed in no particular order — you were already aware of and how many blew your mind. Dark Wings, Hard Facts!
It’s not uncommon for TV pilots to get the reshoot treatment, often after things get test-screened for clarity, but the original unaired Game of Thrones pilot not only featured a few different actors in key roles, but also a bit of murkiness when it came to the actual relationship between Cersei and Jaime Lannister. Yes, it seems test viewers didn’t understand that they were supposed to be brother and sister, so that element had to get emphasized strongly in the finalized version. 90% of the original pilot was re-done and a bunch of scenes were scrapped – like Jon Arryn dying on screen, Bran sparring with Tommen, a Mad King flashback, and more!
Changes to the original pilot came in all forms, some big and some small. The larger shifts involved the complete re-casting of two core roles: Daenerys Targaryen and Catelyn Stark. Salem’s Tamzin Merchant was the original Dany while Jennifer Ehle (Sunshine, Zero Dark Thirty) played Catelyn. No official reason was given as to why Merchant was replaced but Ehle is reported to have left the show because she didn’t want to commit to a long-running series.
Because of the varied atrocities that had to be endured by the young characters on the series – from the Stark children to the Baratheon brood to Daenerys – everyone got an age boost from the George R. R. Martin books. Sansa and Arya were 13 and 11 on the show, instead of 11 and 9 in the books, while Joffrey leaped from 11 to 16. Yes, all the young characters got a touch older – with the most important, perhaps, given her initial storyline, being Daenerys, who aged up from 13 to 16. Of course, it didn’t fully stop these stories from being utterly horrific.
Dothraki, spoken by the nomadic Dothraki on the series, is a real language. Which is to say, it’s a real constructed language developed for the show by linguist David J. Peterson, who used the words and phrases from GRRM’s books to form and evolve a spoken system, described as a mix between Arabic and Spanish. You can even purchase audio language courses for it online.
The Tyrion… and Only
Had Peter Dinklage turned down the role of Tyrion Lannister, the show would have found itself out to sea a little bit. See, Dinklage was the one and only actor ever envisioned for the role. Martin thought of Dinklage when he was writing Tyrion, for years, and then executive producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, when casting the series, were also very single-minded about it. Dinklage was the first person to be offered a part on the show, which was done without him auditioning at all, and the first person to say “yes.”
Iwan Rheon, who fans know as the sinister and sadistic Ramsay Bolton on the series, actually auditioned for the role of Jon Snow during the initial development phases of the series. Rheon came in to read for Dany’s brother, Viserys, and was then asked to come back to read for Jon Snow. In the end, Rheon believes it may have come down to either him or Kit Harington for the esteemed Knower of Nothing role.
Despite not having any scenes with each other between Season 1 and Season 7, stars Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams have maintained a close BFF-style friendship throughout the entire series. The two became fast friends right as the show began and have been pretty inseparable as the years went on. Turner even asked Williams to be a bridesmaid in her wedding to Joe Jonas. The two also have matching GoT tattoos — which read “07.08.09” — marking the day they were cast on the series.
The series holds another behind-the-screams friendship — that of Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey. Not only were the two friends before working together on the show, but Dinklage actually suggested Headey for the role of Cersei Lannister when he was in talks with producers Weiss and Benioff. Making their buddy-buddiness all the more grand is the fact that their characters loathe one another on screen.
It’s a Nice Day for a Wildling Wedding
We suppose the ultimate friendship, the apex pairing, to come out of the series is the romance between star Kit Harington and actress Rose Leslie, who played the wildling Ygritte on the show for a few seasons. The two got married in 2018! Not too shabby considering their tumultuous on screen relationship came to a tragic end during the Battle of Castle Black.
The various Direwolves, introduced in the pilot episode, didn’t wind up having the strongest track record for survival, but star Sophie Turner wound up adopting her wolf – a Mahlek Northern Inuit dog named Zunni – after its on screen counterpart Nymeria was killed off early in Season 1. Years later and Zunni is still a proud, furry member of the Turner household.
As Game of Thrones skyrocketed in popularity, so did the unique names of the show’s characters. All of a sudden, parents from all over the world were naming their newborns “Khaleesi,” “Daenerys,” “Arya,” “Tyrion” and more. A ton of Thrones-based names, like Lord of the Rings names a decade earlier, popped up on national registries, and spiked hard between 2013 and 2015.
A Song of Ice and Fire series author George R. R. Martin has actually written the scripts for four episodes of the TV series – Season 1’s “The Pointy End,” Season 2’s mega-battle “Blackwater,” Season 3’s “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” and Season 4’s Purple Wedding “The Lion and the Rose.” Since Season 4 though, Martin has retired from GoT series writing so that he can focus on finishing the sixth book in the series, The Winds of Winter.