Game Of Thrones Season 3: “Our bible is the script, not the books”

Michelle Fairley, Richard Madden and Sophie Turner on breaking with George RR Martin’s books

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in Game Of Thrones Season 3

While Game Of Thrones Season 1 stuck fairly faithfully to the text that inspired it – George RR Martin’s epic A Game Of ThronesSeason 2 has begun to carve off its own canon, purely through the demands of fitting the expansive, sprawling source material to television. Game Of Thrones Season 3, it’s fair to assume, will continue to build on that trend, especiallu as the third book, A Storm Of Swords, will make up both Season 3 and 4.

Speaking exclusively to SciFiNow at a press event for the Game Of Thrones Season 2 Blu-ray and DVD, Richard Madden (King in the North Robb Stark), Sophie Turner (bethroned hostage Sansa Stark) and Michelle Fairley (iron matriarch Catelyn Stark) gave an insight into their relationship with Martin’s saga…

Season 2 deviates a lot more from the second book than Season 1 did with the first. Do you feel as though you’re able to do a lot more with your characters?

Richard Madden: Specifically because there’s not a lot of Robb in the second book, it’s such a good reference point as an actor to have that source material to feed off of. When I started reading the Season 2 scripts, I had this panic because there’s stuff in there that I couldn’t reference to the book. Which is better, because I had read the book and I was like, ‘Ah, this is terrible, I’m not in it!’.

But then the scripts came in and I was in it a lot more, and actually it gave me a huge ownership over Robb, and actually made me realise I’d made a lot of choices with him and I knew a lot more about him than I thought, because I would pick up these scripts and I would picture me and Michelle [Fairley] would play them, and how it was going to inform his character in ways that the book didn’t, the book was ‘he’s saying’ and ‘found out’ things, but I got to kinda of live through those things.

For me it was really useful actually to have such differences because it forced me as an actor to make stronger choices about what my character was, who he wasn’t and what he was doing, that he didn’t have from the book.

Oona Chaplin and Richard Madden as Talisa Maegyr and Robb Stark in Game Of Thrones Season 3

Sophie Turner: Yeah, I definitely agree that the book gives you this reference and this back story that you don’t have with the script. Then when the show deviates from the books, it just kind of allows you to make the character truly your own. Because Season 2 did deviate so much, that’s why it worked so well, because we all know our characters pretty much off by heart now. We probably would’ve even with the books, but just letting us do it on our own and having kinda this journey that wasn’t in the books so much, it just kinda established the characters much more for us.

Michelle Fairley: But we are doing it under the auspice of David [Benioff, executive producer] and Dan [Weiss, executive producer] and Bryan [Cogman, script editor], they are creating our Bible, which is the script, and if it is taken directly from the novels, then you can go back and reference that because George [RR Martin] writes the internal mind of the character, the internal thoughts, so he almost explains it – if that’s how you want. But it new scenes you don’t, so you trust David and Dan, and sometimes the new scenes are wonderful, they’re brilliant. That’s your job as an actor, you interpret writing.

Did you read ahead to see what would happen in the books?

Sophie: I think there’s a lot of bribery of David and Dan, ‘Soooo, what happens to our characters in the end?’.

Richard: I made an effort not to race through them all, but in the summer I just couldn’t help myself because I was enjoying them so much. I personally didn’t want to pre-empt myself and know where he was at the end of book 2 when I was still in Season 1, so I’ve kind of just been reading it season by season, and not pre-empting where he’s gonna go – it makes it much more interesting for me as an actor to follow one path, and then read one chapter of the book and Robb’s gone somewhere completely different and I have to change what I’m doing to fit into that – it’s much more interesting.

How much contact do you have with George RR Martin?

Michelle: We see George, he’s always available by email.

Do you ask him questions about the character?

Michelle: I would defer to David and Dan in that matter, rather than George – no disrespect, but the script is your bible, so if you have an issue with the script or you want to talk about anything. You go to David and Dan. George is always available, he’s very honest about that.

Game Of Thrones will return to Sky Atlantic on 1 April 2013 at 9pm. Pick up Season 2 now on DVD for £28 and Blu-ray for £36 from Amazon.co.uk.