Game of Thrones Prequel Casting May Begin Soon: “Confidential HBO Project” Casting Call Looking for Diverse Talent Pool

Children of the Forest Night King

With the final season of Game of Thrones approaching (rather slowly) you would be forgiven for forgetting there’s a related project on its infancy just as the original reaches its end: Jane Goldman‘s spin-off, reportedly set during the legendary Long Night. When we learned that the prequel would see its greenlit pilot shot on February 2019, we predicted “we should have casting and production news soon enough.” That may be coming true after all, though nothing is certain, given HBO’s characteristic secrecy…

Watchers on the Wall regular Gravemaster just got in touch with us about HBO casting calls recently posted on British and Norwegian casting agency websites. Some of the roles seem to match, which would mean they’re part of the same project. The version on the National Youth Theatre site offers the most information about four characters, all of whom are series regulars: a black woman, age 24-32, codenamed “S”; a mixed race man, age 17-22, “A”; a white woman, age 17-25, “I”; and finally a black woman, age 16-23, “F”. The Norwegian site shows additional roles, but with no meaningful public information.

Normally, such an unnamed show wouldn’t get our attention, but it’s specified that this “confidential untitled HBO project” will begin shooting in February 2019, just like the pilot for the prequel Jane Goldman is showrunning. That alone doesn’t seal the deal, of course. At first glance there is something else against it, too: the fact that Nina Gold, who handled the casting for the show ever since the original pilot, is not involved at all. And yet, Lucinda Syson, the casting director behind this secretive HBO project, did casting direct a few of Jane Goldman’s most prominent projects as a screenwriter, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. They have a prior working relationship, and perhaps Gold is happy to leave this fictional world behind after nearly a decade of hard work.

As of yet, we have been unable to confirm a link between this casting call and Goldman’s pilot, but the possibility remains. Certainly, there is enough wiggle room for some lively speculation! If the new show is set during the Long Night, as reported, the diversity Syson is looking for is certainly a pleasant surprise, as some may not have expected to see many people of color around. Needless to say, the Long Night is said to have affected the whole world, not just those areas populated by the First Men; and, even if the show only focuses on Westeros, migration is not a new phenomenon, regardless of what your uncle may rant about on Facebook. If this casting call turns out to be about Goldman’s spin-off after all, I hope we can all welcome the diversity on evidence here.

38 responses

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    1. The Good Waif,

      Yup, I misnamed Nina Gold as “Nina Goldman”, because I’d written Jane Goldman so many times in the article. Thanks for pointing it out. It’s not picky at all, don’t worry 😉

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    2. Pigeon,

      I kind of agree, which is why I wrote that first line. We’re all ready for season eight, so it’s difficult to get hyped about the next thing. I’m sure we’ll all get a little more excited once we get to know a few more details, even if season eight hasn’t aired yet.

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    3. I’m actually very hyped about it, because I’ve always been very interested in the North, Beyond North, Kings of Winter, First Men, Age of Heroes and all that.

      Even in GOT my favorite story arc has always been the North, Beyond, The Nights Watch etc.

      So, I’m really looking forward for this and hope the pilot goes well.

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    4. Ah! So except for the tree-tied and gagged future Night King, the White Walkers are really all denizens of the Island of Na’ath and the Summer Isles, and just want to get back to their tropical island homeland where it’s nice and warm.

      So they’re really not “White” Walkers at all. Maybe they are like the blue-coated Union cavalry soldiers in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” who were covered in dust so they looked like grey-uniformed Confederate soldiers.

      Or maybe this isn’t a casting call for the Prequel at all…

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    5. Fancast wishlist alert:

      I want the “white woman, age 17-25, “I” to be played by India Eisley, who had been my top choice to play Lyanna Stark.

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    6. I remain confused about this whole thing. They keep saying they’re doing the ending George RR Martin outlined for them. But this whole “the true story” thing, does it mean they made up the stuff about the White Walkers and their origin in Game of Thrones and it is not what GRRM has intended? Otherwise what is the point of this prequel if we already know “the true story”?

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    7. orange,

      Yea I see your point. I honestly thought it would be better to explore other areas of GRRMS world.

      Like Sothoryos or something like the Targaryen civil war. Although that will require a huge amount of CGI.

      It would be hard to get invested in new characters from the northern storyline. Unless they make the long night a really huge event that touches everywhere beyond Westeros.

      Also I need to see those Ice spiders big as hounds hunting folks. Don’t know if we will get that in season 8, but I definitely need that in the prequel.

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    8. Alba,

      I also feel the same way. The North has always been my favorite part of the show. I mean the whole story started beyond The Wall with the White Walkers.

      Really looking forward to the prequel.

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    9. The Wolves of Winter:
      Alba,

      I also feel the same way. The North has always been my favorite part of the show. I mean the whole story started beyond The Wall with the White Walkers.

      Really looking forward to the prequel.

      Me too😎Also it’s nice to have both season 8 AND this prequel to look forward to! Can’t wait!

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    10. I just hope they are not making the prequel for the sake of filling in all kinds of diversity quotas and shoehorning other “progressive” ideas. Ruining the Star Wars is enough.

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    11. If this is about the long night, the casting call doesn’t seem to make sense. For the Valyria prequel it would seem to be more relevant.

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    12. Ser Brocolli McBrocolliface:
      If this is about the long night, the casting call doesn’t seem to make sense. For the Valyria prequel it would seem to be more relevant.

      Perhaps so if the story is solely focused on characters, locations and events in Westerosi legends; the First Men, CotF and the Land of Always Winter. That’s what most of us are probably thinking. It is possible that the scope of the story is planned to be a bit more broad. We do know that the Long Night spread all over their world where stories and legends in other cultures also began. Some of those legends seem to tie into those in Westeros as well.

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    13. orange,

      George literally has over twenty YEARS of characters the tv show didn’t have time to cover in the books you would be amazed how much you missed out on!

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    14. orange:
      I remain confused about this whole thing. They keep saying they’re doing the ending George RR Martin outlined for them. But this whole “the true story” thing, does it mean they made up the stuff about the White Walkers and their origin in Game of Thrones and it is not what GRRM has intended? Otherwise what is the point of this prequel if we already know “the true story”?

      The point is what truth do you know? We know very little about the WW and their motivations. GOT is not going to tell you all about that. Never intended to.
      Futhermore, this isn’t just about the WW, there is much more.

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    15. Luka Nieto:
      Pigeon,

      I kind of agree, which is why I wrote that first line. We’re all ready for season eight, so it’s difficult to get hyped about the next thing. I’m sure we’ll all get a little more excited once we get to know a few more details, even if season eight hasn’t aired yet.

      I suspect you’re right on about that…I can see myself diverting my melancholy over this series coming to an end by getting more interested in the other, as more information surfaces. I do tend to hang on to things too long. 🙂

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    16. Inga:
      I just hope they are not making the prequel for the sake of filling in all kinds of diversity quotas and shoehorning other “progressive” ideas. Ruining the Star Wars is enough.

      The show is about the Valyrian empire, which according to the maps is as far south as you can go, so of course there are going to be dark-skinned folks. Nothing PC about it, really.

      Btw, anyone taking bets on how many seasons the show will last?

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    17. I’m rewatching the entire series, and just started and am early on in season 01. If The Long Night is going to encompass this bit from the stories Old Nan told Bran:

      Fear is for the winter when the snows fall a hundred feet deep. Fear is for the the long nights when the sun hides for years, and children are born and live and die, all in darkness. That is the time for fear, my little lord; when the white walkers move through the woods. Thousands of years ago there came a night that lasted a generation. Kings froze to death in their castles, same as the shepherds in their huts, and women smothered their babies rather than see them starve, and wept and felt their tears freeze on their cheeks. In that darkness the white walkers came for the first time. They swept through cities and kingdoms, riding their dead horses, hunting with their packs of pale spiders big as hounds…

      I had forgotten that bit. Just envisioning that brought to the screen, well, it would be pretty dang fantastic. Prior to my rewatch, I was pretty meh about this as the prequel, but just watching that scene alone got me all hyped up for it, I have to admit. Now I’m really excited!

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    18. Tony,

      Exactly! There’s nothing wrong with vying for diversity or progressive themes if they’re incorporated with a sense of purpose and are well-grounded within the narrative.

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    19. The Valyrian prequel idea was my top favorite, so if this does include Valyria as well that’ll be awesome. And the casting call does make that seem likely.

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    20. Edward,

      There wouldn’t have to be a concerted effort to include diversity in that which already lends itself to such I agree. It’s the whole aiming for diversity for it’s own sake and even putting a twist on historical/known fictional characters to make them something they never were and doing it to please a certain sociopolitical mindset. Let’s be real, there’s cable channels that cater to specific demographics, and I’m fine with that, until it becomes hypocritical. There should be either diversity across the board, or there’s freedom for everyone to choose one, the other or a mix of everything. We are human beings not colors to select, shapes to be sorted, boxes to be ticked off.

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    21. ygritte,

      There’s no easy answer. When shows try to be representative and inclusive, it can seem like pandering, or aspiring for diversity just for the sake of diversity without regard to the story. And still, despite the best efforts, there will always be vocal subsets of fans (or people with nothing better to do than complain) who will be offended. Scarlett Johansson was set to play a transgender character but recently backed out of the project because of an apparent backlash by pissed off activists who felt a real transgender actor or actress should be given the part. End result: movie shelved, will likely never be made. Lose-lose situation. (And hey… I don’t recall this kind of uproar when Hillary Swank starred in, and won as Oscar for, playing a transgender character in “Boys Don’t Cry.”)

      I for one would not have minded a bit of gender fluidity in the Margaery-Sansa budding friendship on the show. Or better yet, Myranda’s jealousy and weirdness towards Sansa masking a mutual attraction. (At least bug-eyed, trembling Reek’s reaction to witnessing that coupling probably wouldn’t have elicited as much public condemnation as the Ramsay-Sansa wedding night rape. And later on, Bran could confide that in his visions he had witnessed Sansa’s same-sex tryst: “I saw you and Myranda together in the bathtub. You were so beautiful.”)

      And while some would say it’s good that a person with physical disabilities like Bran has a prominent role on the show and that his character is not defined by that limitation, others might say Bran’s story follows the familiar trope (eg like in Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone”) in which a character develops mystical cognitive abilities as a result of a debilitating injury.

      Incidentally… I’ve found that the most effective incorporation of diversity is when the characters are not defined by their physical or cosmetic differences; they’re just incidental characteristics, like being left-handed. For instance, Charlize Theron’s Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road” just happened to be missing an arm. It didn’t define her. It didn’t limit her. It didn’t become part of a forced “backstory” that had to be explained. It was not integral to her character development.

      It shouldn’t really take too much effort to integrate diverse casts into TV and films without it seeming like filling quotas. Surely there are more than enough underutilized, talented actors and actresses currently waiting tables and working as Uber drivers while waiting to land their first big role.

      If in fact that casting call was for the GoT prequel, there could be a multitude of story lines calling for main characters being played by people of color. Personal fancasting wish list: Get Idris Elba to play a mighty, beloved warrior king and give him great monologues to deliver. Or have him play the founder of the Faceless Men in Old Valyria. Idris Elba was really good in “Pacific Rim”, and he’d be great in a GoT prequel. And that voice! I could listen to him, Ian Glenn and Richard Dormer read off the ingredients on the side panel of a box of Twinkies and sit there mesmerized.

      Enough babbling from me…

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    22. ygritte,

      But on a project like this where quality is usually delivered on virtually every front, I don’t think anyone needs to necessarily worry about the series hiring people just to meet a diversity quota. This entire world and series have become an HBO staple so they’ll make sure they treat this series with just the same amount of love as its parent series.

      There’s some wonderful actors/actresses of color who are coming up in the industry that’d be lovely to watch in this prequel. It will also give this prequel an opportunity to explore race and class in a way the original series never could. For those fearing this could come across as pandering, well, it’s too early to make such presumptuous statements.

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    23. There’s nothing to indicate whether these four casting calls are for roles strictly featured or or roles briefly shown. For roles that will carry on through the new series or for roles that may involve just a few scenes in the Pilot.

      And as already mentioned a whole word, including Westeros exists in Martins story, even if not always illuminated in ASOIAF. As others mentioned, to think the Long Night only occurred in Westeros seems limited.

      So trying to extrapolate too much about the actual story or the intentions or motivations of the writer and producers based on these four casting calls seems a bit premature imo. Exciting nonetheless to know it begins soon.

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    24. Ten Bears,

      I often wonder how many people are aware that Joseph Mawle (Benjen) is deaf and severely dyslexic, and prefers to work without hearing aids. The role didn’t call for that, of course, and you wouldn’t know from watching. There are a lot of perceived disabilities that are more ‘hidden’. Not really related, but I tend to appreciate when someone who may be disabled is cast in a role which doesn’t ‘require’ it. Because they’re right for it.

      Man I wish Benjen hadn’t gotten just a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it outro.

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    25. Edward: This entire world and series have become an HBO staple so they’ll make sure they treat this series with just the same amount of love as its parent series.

      With respect, that doesn’t mean very much. Even the biggest film and TV franchises in the world are prone to misjudgement and creative self-indulgence that can result in a divisive or underwhelming product, regardless of the creators’ and studio’s self-satisfaction with their product and the amount of time and effort that went into creating it.

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    26. orange,

      I believe they can wrap up this final season, give us some information of the White Walkers true purpose/motivation for us to be satisfied, and still leave room for more surprises in the prequel. I don’t think they are necessarily going to leave anything out of this final season that they were planning on showing us, and I don’t think they are going to change the story up for the prequel just for the sake of it…

      But George has done so much to shroud the legends of the Long Night in mystery that I think they’ll reveal there was just more to it. How did the legends of Azor Ahai come from Asshai, which definitely seem to depict a hero saving the world from “a darkness,” in Essos, but the Long Night happened in Westeros, and humanity was saved by The Last Hero, supposedly a different figure altogether? There are just so many different legends and stuff that doesn’t really make sense, and since this prequel is supposed to focus on Westeros and Essos, I think they have a lot of room to shine some light on these questions about what really happened 10,000+ years ago.

      In conclusion, I wouldn’t be worried about them pulling a fast one on us and changing up the story for the prequel just for the heck of it. I have faith they’ll do it right.

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    27. Ramsay’s 20th Good Man,

      Well I never quantified how much it amounted to, really. I’m aware that it’s much deeper than that. Even if it’s not a sure fire way to ensure the quality of the series, it can at least serve to appease some skeptics who want to be really pessimistic about it. I mean HBO has a really good track record thus far.

      But as you say, even films and series with large labors of love can still turn out mediocre. But I’m choosing to have some faith in this prequel as we go into the early stages of development. At the very least, I’m mighty curious to see how things pan out.

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    28. Personally, I’ve never believed we will get any answer in GOT,about WW motivations.
      They have been the main threat but very subtle presented for the most time. They have always been presented as a sort of “death machine” and that’s it. So much so, that they even decided to not have them speak in any language, because in their own words “What would death say?” Those are D&D words very early in the series.

      To be able to know and understand their motivations, you should know their whole story, context, the universe and the lands they were living back then. You can’t just use some flashback from Bran’s. You need to explore them.

      That would take time, and that’s not what GOT is about.
      It’s like wanting to explore the history of Roman empire, for example, while you are currently dealing with Renaissance time period.

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    29. I’m guessing “A” is Azor Ahai, coming from Essos, and “I” is Nissa Nissa, coming from the North. The story will take place on separate continents, coming together at the end to face the common threat, bringing the two together (sounds familiar, maybe too familiar).

      Azor Ahai being a follower of R’hllor (fire) and Nissa Nissa being a Northerner (ice). I think for the sake of the show they will have different names at the start, with those names possibly being titles given later.

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    30. Interesting news if true. One perhaps odd question when I think of the Long Night I am expecting it to be set in the North of Westeros, is that correct? If so, would there be many black people in that part of the world or could this be in Essos/Dorne where in ASOIF/GOT we’ve seen many more races appear.

      Still not too hyped about the prequel yet but sure to be after S8 airs. Going to start my S1-S7 re-watch next month going one Blu Ray collection per month to hopefully arrive at the premiere.

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    31. Ten Bears,

      I didn’t know who India Eisley was but I googled her and see she’s Olivia Hussey’s daughter. I’m old enough to remember OH playing Juliet in the Franco Zeffirelli film of “Romeo and Juliet”. I was quite okay with Aisling Franciosi as Lyanna. Lyanna is supposed to be kind of pale though – EH is nice-looking but isn’t she rather olive skinned? Perhaps if they had cast more of the book sand-snakes she would have been a fit.

        Quote  Reply

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