If you have not been following the Game of Thrones spin-off series news too closely, you could be forgiven for making some immediate guesses about what it means that British-born Australian actress Naomi Watts has landed the lead role in a series fans (and George R.R. Martin himself) are informally calling The Long Night. Surely someone with such delicate features and blonde hair is playing a Targaryen. (If this were Amazons Lord of the Rings series, we would guess she were playing an elf.) But the Targaryens arent even supposed to be in this new series—and thats only the beginning of the mystery.
The project is expected to begin filming in early 2019. Given that its not based directly on any of Martins books, we dont know much else yet, other than this official synopsis and Wattss extremely intriguing character description.
Taking place thousands of years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series chronicles the worlds descent from the Golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour. And only one thing is for sure: from the horrifying secrets of Westeross history to the true origin of the white walkers, the mysteries of the east, to the Starks of legend . . . its not the story we think we know.
That timeline is what has led book readers to assume there will be no dragons or silver-haired, incestuous siblings on this prequel series, given that it long pre-dates the Targaryen migration to Westeros. But the official synopsis does caution that this is “not the story we think we know.” On that note, Variety also reports that Watts is playing “a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.” Cue everyones favorite Game of Thrones phrase: secret Targaryen!
Well, possibly. It honestly would be surprising for HBO not to capitalize on the very popular (and expensive) dragons its created for Thrones by incorporating them into another series. But incest and winged beasts aside, the description of Watts as a socialite flies in the face of what many have expected to see in this story of the First Men. This description of the Watts character, with its promise of palace intrigue, doesnt exactly gel with visions of dour northern men and their rigid notions of honor.
But of course, down in the south, things are always a bit slipperier. One of Martins figures of note from this era is Lann the Clever—who, according to legend, swindled Casterly Rock away from the Casterlys with just his wits. Lanns line became the mighty House Lannister—and if thats not fertile ground for a canny blonde played by Naomi Watts, then I dont know what is.
Speculation aside, going for a name like Watts shows that HBO intends to flex all of its muscle with this series. Its possible that Wattss good friend Nicole Kidman helped facilitate this particular casting coup—Kidman has several projects on the go at HBO, including Big Little Lies Season 2 and a new series called The Undoing. Watts herself is no stranger to the world of prestige TV, appearing in both Netflixs short-lived Gypsy and Showtimes Twin Peaks: The Return in 2017. The latter should prepare her for the top-secret nature of working on a Thrones series.
Thrones itself launched with a much lesser-known cast back in 2011 and its only star, Sean Bean, didnt make it out of the first season alive. But that was a long time ago—before Thrones was the global juggernaut it is today, and when the competition in the prestige-TV market was far less stiff.
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