David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and Bryan Cogman on book changes and Arya’s story arc

With Season 5 picking up steam, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss recruit writer Bryan Cogman to talk to Vulture about book changes, Arya’s arc and The Butterfly Effect.

One of the most popular topics of conversation in regards to Season 5 is the separate paths ASoIaF and GOT are now taking. With any book to screen adaptation, changes have to be made. D&D and Cogman comment on why these changes were essential and overall for the absolute best of the show.

When asked how they decide which is kept and which is not:

Honestly, it’s a very difficult question. In the planning/outlining phase, we immersed ourselves in those sections of the books for the third or fourth time, and thoroughly steeped ourselves in George’s vision. And then we stepped away from the books, and traced a way through [Arya’s storyline, specifically] that we felt was best for the show

Bryan Cogman, who serves (Valar Dohaeris) as writer and producer for the series:

Thankfully, we have it all outlined, because it’s a juggling act. And then George reads the outline every year, and gives his notes and thoughts. When we’re breaking the show, we tackle each character one at a time, and then the next step is the blending and placement of them in an episode.”

GRRM has spoken out before on “The Butterfly Effect” when changes are made in the show that differ the books and ripple through the entire series.

Cogman: “Those are always the big conversations, because you’re absolutely right: If you move one thread, then it all changes. You end up having the show universe and the book universe as a result.”

Episode 3 of Season 5: “High Sparrow”, showcased the impressive acting abilities of Maisie Williams as Arya’s story arc progresses. D&D commented on the young actresses maturity and respect for her craft.

“She came to us as an actress. She was probably born as an actress. Being that outrageously good right out of the gate, at 12 years old, it’s just not something you can be taught. We saw hundreds of people for Arya. We saw one Maisie Williams.”

 

 

Cogman comments on Arya’s possibility of becoming an assassin:

“Without confirming or denying who she does or doesn’t kill, I think viewers are acclimated to the world of the show and the themes. Most viewers get that this is a gray world and will go with it.”

So hopefully we can take that as “Arya will be crossing some names off her list”.

When asked some of the challenges in filming “High Sparrow”:

D&D: “The House of Black and White is a location we’ve been looking forward to since we started. Many of the scenes haven’t aired yet, so we don’t want to spoil them, but it’s a unique place in the world

Cogman: “And the Faceless Men, it’s going to be an incredible thing! We had a lot of fun designing it and mapping out this plotline. This season’s crazy. [Laughs.]”

Head on over to Vulture for the full interview!

It’s a busy day for behind the scenes news as HBO also dropped the first Anatomy of a Scene from “The Wars To Come” (only two episodes behind, no big, HBO).

Michael Slovis (who directed the episode) gives an in-depth look at THAT scene with Mance Rayder.

Thanks for reading! Let us know what you thought of the interview and the Anatomy of a Scene in the comments below!

And also head over to the official Game of Thrones Youtube channel for more behind the scenes content!

 

54 responses

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    1. They are doing a great job.
      GoT is really taking over the books. Not that there will be any books left to take over soon, anyway.

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    2. Does this mean that Arya will have decent screentime this season? Please!

      Also, it’s nice to see Maisie’s acting appreciated. Especially for that Needle scene.

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    3. Maisie Williams is indeed awesome this season. The scene at the pier was so amazing. I’d wondered how they’d translate all that inner monologue about Needle representing her family in a visual medium. Maisie’s emotional acting and the Winterfell theme did the trick!

      The Dragon Demands,

      Very much like your comment! How curious.

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    4. I actually found the confirmation of exactly when George is part of the writing of the season to be informative.

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    5. oracle86,

      That front facade with the doors, you mean? That was built in an area called Duilovo. At first we’d heard it was part of a Meereen set, but then later it turned out to be HoBaW. The set was built and then extended with CGI.

      http://watchersonthewall.com/new-prop-images-house-black-white/
      http://watchersonthewall.com/split-pillars-confirmed-meereen-game-of-thrones-filming-continues-toome-today/
      http://watchersonthewall.com/game-thrones-season-5-production-moves-duilovo-pillars-klis-fortress-closed-visitors-preparation/

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    6. oracle86:
      Can anyone tell me if the House of Black and White is an actual historical building or a set created for the show?

      I believe it is a specially built set with a facade that is that is one storey high and the rest CGI’d. This is at Duilovo beach, Split

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    7. Arya will definitely have decent screen time. there is so much stuff happening for her.

      As For Mance’s scene…I don’t think they’ll include certain plot twists. Brienne is definitely taking over Abel’s Role from the books.

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    8. King Tommen:
      I actually found the confirmation of exactly when George is part of the writing of the season to be informative.

      I did, too…even more so given they’ve really started going off-book with this season.

      As for Gendry, I have nothing to really back this up, but I think we’ll see him this season. The fact they managed to do all that filming with Tom Wlaschiha and no one caught a single picture of him (I mean, even though it got out he was coming back, still there was not a single siting), makes me think they could have filmed with Joe Dempsie and kept it under wraps. Yes, it may be just wishful thinking, but I don’t think it entirely impossible.

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    9. Luka Nieto,

      No, I think he is right. D&D almost never get into the heart of the subject. All they ever say is “ultimately, we had to do what we thought worked best for the show” or “X is such a great actor/actress, so we had to give them Y storyline”.
      All I want to say to them is : NO SHIT. Thank the Seven that they do what they think is best for the show, what the hell kind of showrunners would do what they think is NOT best for their show ? D&D never get into WHY they thought something was best, or what their actual aim is with a given story, aside from just giving actors good material and improving the show, which is the aim of literally every decision ever made ever by any competent showrunner.

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    10. Why the hate? I think Arya could use a back up. At first I liked Jaqen but this season He is giving me a more calculating vibe, like he wants to use Arya for his own advantage.

      Asami:
      Pj,

      Hopefully far away from Arya and stays that way.

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    11. It’s funny how Arya-centered articles tend to get hateful comments.

      And by funny, I mean not funny at all. Pathetic is a better word.

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    12. Luka Nieto: I’d wondered how they’d translate all that inner monologue about Needle representing her family in a visual medium

      I’ll give Weiss the benefit of the doubt that he was in quick feedback mode in his “Making of GoT” segment, but when he described Arya’s Needle-hiding scene as a way to “maintain her revenge” I was a bit irked. If one thinks Arya/Cat-o-the-Canal’s Needle-treasuring is solely about “maintaining her revenge”, then one hasn’t been paying attention.

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    13. Mark,

      Not sure exactly what you’re looking for but it’s not a showrunner’s (or any artist really) responsibility to outline every single reason why they construct the show the way they do. It’s not realistic for the audience to think they will. Go ask Matt Weiner to explain his motivations behind any scene on Mad Men and guess how far that will get you.

      For the most part, many of the decisions made when it comes to the adaptation decisions on GoT come down to production realities and those are things that no one in the business is going to divulge to the general public because it’s stuff that’s kept in trust amongst the cast and crew.

      I happen to think that D&D (with the Inside the Episode clips and DVD commentaries) give a lot more than most showrunners do when it comes to explaining what they were thinking about in a lot of the scenes that air on the show.

      And if you’re looking for a “we didn’t think Martin wrote that part particularly well and we thought we could do better” soundbite (which is what I suspect a lot of the book fans want so they can start ripping on the producers) you just aren’t going to get it. Ever.

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    14. King Tommen,

      All I am looking for is a little bit of insight into what make them think that something is better for a given character. For example, for the omission of the Tysha reveal, I would have liked for them to explain why they felt that cutting it out strengthened the scene or Tyrion’s arc, or whatever they felt it strengthened. Or a substantive reason for why they felt like making Jaime’s encounter with Cersei in the Sept less consensual than it was in the books (if you think it was rape in the books as well that’s fine but let’s not get into that, I’m just giving an example of what I’m looking for). Contrary to what you’re implying, I’m not looking for them to justify everything to me, nor do I think they are adapting poorly. I also expect that a whole host of decisions will become much more logical to us once we have the full story.
      I would just like for them to give an answer more substantive than “we did what we thought was best for the show” when they are asked about a change in particular. A little insight is all I would like, not an essay on their creative process.

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    15. Hodor’s Bastard,

      I’ve read elsewhere (yeah, I admit, I went to read and giggle about people losing their minds over the change to “Edd, fetch me a block”) people reacting very negatively to Weiss saying the reason Arya kept Needle was because it was her “revenge,” except, well, that’s not really what was said. Here’s a direct transcript:

      “Arya’s gotten very good at letting go. She’s been forced to let go of everything that means anything to her in this world, and she does a great job at getting rid of that costume, and getting rid of her money, and getting rid of the coin, but Needle was a very, very special gift. She sees herself as an instrument of revenge in many ways in this world, and that sword is the way she is going to exact the revenge on the people who wronged her family; it’s the instrument of that revenge. Letting go of Needle would really be letting go of Arya Stark, and the fact that she can’t let go of Needle makes it clear to us that she’s not at all ready to be No One.”

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    16. Maisie is amazing and she was criminally under-used last season. Hope they give her more scenes from now on because she always nails them.

      Is hard to believe she had no acting experience before GOT.

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    17. I couldn’t stand Arya’s storyline in the books from this point on-ended up skim reading her chapters. Hopefully the show can make it a bit more appealing to me.

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    18. Nymeria Warrior Queen,

      Sure…like I said, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. As you know, everything about that sword represents the Stark code to her…it is right there in AFfC:

      “Needle was Robb and Bran and Rickon, her mother and her father, even Sansa. Needle was Winterfell’s grey walls, and the laughter of its people. Needle was the summer snows, Old Nan’s stories, the heart tree with its red leaves and scary face, the warm earthy smell of the glass gardens, the sound of the north wind rattling the shutters of her room. Needle was Jon Snow’s smile. He used to mess my hair and call me “little sister,” she remembered, and suddenly there were tears in her eyes.”

      I wish they would stop using “revenge” as a means to an end for a character. It will matter but the metaphor is so much more.

      Also, please note that the Faceless Men allow for the hypocrisy of her keeping a memento when becoming No One. Jaqen knew her driving force when he offered her his coin. She wasn’t some lost girl. The Kindly Man gave the coin back to her after she threw it away. They would know she hid Needle and yet they allow it. They are grey. To me, this is what makes Arya such an intriguing character.

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    19. Hodor’s Bastard,

      I guess I just don’t see why, based upon what Weiss actually said, the benefit of the doubt would need to be given. He touched on much more than just “revenge” in what he said.

      As far as the Faceless Men knowing she didn’t get rid of needle and being “grey,” well, yes. In my interpretation (playing off the idea of yin and yang), black and white are the two extremes. What one should strive for is a balance between the two, in other words, the grey. Perhaps that is what Arya will find in her training…a balance…the grey. This particularly intrigues me, especially with certain elements of her training (the sweeping, the fact in the show she was turned away the first time), as it hearkens back to traditional martial arts training. There is the physical aspect of the training, the actual skills, but then there are the aspects which I call the internal stuff. Without training both, there will be no balance.

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    20. King Tommen,

      And if you’re looking for a “we didn’t think Martin wrote that part particularly well and we thought we could do better” soundbite (which is what I suspect a lot of the book fans want so they can start ripping on the producers) you just aren’t going to get it. Ever.

      But of course, that is precisely what almost everyone who wants “more info” is after. Why else even ask the question, as most of D&D’s choices are self-explanatory and have everything to do with efficient adaptation and production constraints. “They’re not giving us any real info” = hypocritical code for “Go on, admit your think you’re better than GRRM and that you piss on his work”

        Quote  Reply

    21. A Girl Will Obey,

      If you had bothered to read my reply to King Tommen, you would have known that that is not what I’m looking for. Plus, why do we get attacked now for just saying that we wish they gave more insight into the adaptation process ? No part of my comment was ripping on their work, I was simply expressing frustration with the repetitive “we thought X was better” answer.
      I mean, everybody already knew that. Obviously they aren’t changing things because they think it’s worse for the show.

        Quote  Reply

    22. Mark,

      Just FYI, I have a comment in moderation (because I include links I think) that have D&D explaining their rationale behind the Tysha and sept scene changes that you were referencing. It should appear above in a bit if you want to check back.

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    23. Nymeria Warrior Queen: He touched on much more than just “revenge” in what he said.

      Yes he did. The commenting kerfuffle over at E & L’s house would have probably lessened if Weiss was edited as follows:

      “Arya’s gotten very good at letting go. She’s been forced to let go of everything that means anything to her in this world, and she does a great job at getting rid of that costume, her money, and the coin, but Needle was a very, very special gift. Letting go of Needle would really be letting go of Arya Stark, and the fact that she can’t let go of Needle is her unique conundrum as she becomes No One.”

      I found the threads over there to be extra fun this week! Many complain and nitpick but we still return to witness it again. It is a very human experience, imho.

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    24. Hodor’s Bastard,

      Hahaha…I didn’t say where I’d read, but I guess it was pretty obvious. 🙂

      You have a good point about if the comment had been edited, but I’m sure some folks would still find something to meltdown about in what he said. I only read 5 or 6 pages of one thread, because I knew there was a point where I’d stop giggling and start getting annoyed and respond, so I left before that shift happened.

      I will say it is definitely fascinating, at least to me, to observe some of it, and I will give credit insofar as some of what was said caused me to go back and listen more carefully than I initially had to what Weiss said (and transcribe it).

        Quote  Reply

    25. D&D: “The House of Black and White is a location we’ve been looking forward to since we started. Many of the scenes haven’t aired yet, so we don’t want to spoil them, but it’s a unique place in the world”

      Cogman: “And the Faceless Men, it’s going to be an incredible thing! We had a lot of fun designing it and mapping out this plotline. This season’s crazy. [Laughs.]”

      She spends 99% of the time sweeping floors, only to kill Trant at the end of the season … Hell a minor character like Trant could have slipped on a banana peel and died and noone would care

      So much for Arya´s exciting arc this season.

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    26. Nate:
      Renly’s Peach,

      It’s from last season. It was an opening shot of her in that position then landing so we didn’t see it the way the picture is taken

      Isn’t it the scene where she’s water-dancing and the Hound mocks Syrio?

        Quote  Reply

    27. Squirrel:
      Valfa Svlim,

      I can’t see Brienne taking over Abels role. Roose knows her from Harrenhall. Also she’s just not ordinary enough for a undercover mission.

      That’s why Podrick is gonna need to step his game up. It would be exciting if it’s undercover pod.
      Once pod infiltrates, he’ll give Bri a sign to move in and rally the escape

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    28. I think it interesting that at the Oxford ‘panel’ discussion Benioff said that by the end of season 7, 7.5? 8.0? the viewer would understand all that was done.
      OK.

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    29. King Tommen:
      Mark,

      Just FYI, I have a comment in moderation (because I include links I think) that have D&D explaining their rationale behind the Tysha and sept scene changes that you were referencing. It should appear above in a bit if you want to check back.

      Thanks for that link. I hadn’t actually watched the Comic Con panel before. A lot of really interesting stuff there!

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    30. King Stannis: That’s why Podrick is gonna need to step his game up. It would be exciting if it’s undercover pod.
      Once pod infiltrates, he’ll give Bri a sign to move in and rally the escape

      That would make for a great plot I think. Specially since Sansa would recognize pod. So would LF though so he’d have to leave for that to work.

      Though it’s hard to combine this plot with my though I’m still stuck on that Bripod will get back to their book plot at some point. I know they might very well not but right now my mind is still stuck on it.

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    31. Squirrel,

      That’s why it has to be Podrick if they are planning on using that infiltration plotline (Neither Roose of Ramsey know him). But I’m hoping most for some elements of the Manderly/Davos and Pie plotline at White Harbor and Winterfell.

      Looks like I was beat to the punch…Pod Infiltration Unit, proceed!

        Quote  Reply

    32. I hope I wrong but, from the synopsis’, it looks like Arya is probably only going to be in 5-6 episodes this season. She isnt mentioned in the synopsis for episode 5 (which unfortunely means she will miss two episodes in a row after missing episode 4) and 7. She could always still appear in those episodes but the synopsis for episode 6 says ‘Arya trains’, so what would she do in episode 5? Episode 7 is also called ‘The Gift’ so I was expecting that to have something to do with the faceless men

      I was hoping this would be a big year for her but it looks like they will be focusing on other characters instead

        Quote  Reply

    33. Mark,

      They actually answered this once. Or semi-answered you could say – their stance is that the importance of many of their creative choices will become obvious only towards the very end of the story. So they can’t talk now about why exactly they made some choices, because it would be very spoilery both for show, as well as book fans.

      IMHO I think it makes sense and that we really shouldn’t hate on something until we have all the info.

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    34. Why do people keep assuming Arya is out of all these episodes just because of the synopsis…only thing that annoys me about these here comments…well that’s not entirely true…..GO team Stannis!!!

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    35. Renly’s Peach:
      Huh. I don’t remember that shot of Maisie standing on one hand.

      I’m glad they kept it out.

      They didn’t keep it out. It’s the episode when Sandor is watching her train with Needle, she does a 1 handed cartwheel. She then tries to stab Sandor and he backhands her across the face for it.

        Quote  Reply

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