With the latest season having just ended, most of us are going through a Game Of Thrones withdrawal. Luckily, we have San Diego Comic-Con here to save us for a little while, quenching our thirst of behind-the-scenes quotes and tantalizing spoilers. The panel was moderated by the hilarious Rob McElhenney (It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia) and onstage we saw producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, director Michael Sapochnik (who directed both now-infamous episodes "Battle of the Bastards" and "The Winds of Winter") alongside cast members Liam Cunningham (Ser Davos Seaworth), John Bradley (Samwell Tarley), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei), Conleth Hill (Varys), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton), Faye Marsay (The Waif), Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark) and Kristian Nairn (Hodor). Between laughs, we picked up a few tidbits to share with you all from inside the enormous Hall H:
1. First and foremost, as the cast came out, people cried out for Hodor, because if you don't love Hodor, you have no heart.
2. As McElhenney discussed the fact that next season is not only delayed to next summer, and is only 7 episodes, asking the producers "Why do you hate us all so much?" They replied that well, winter is indeed here, and those pesky seasonal changes get in the way of filming, so they literally have to wait until winter arrives in the places they film. McElhenney asked what he's going to do the 3 Sundays between normal finale date and next year's season debut date; the producers suggested, with a twinkle in their eye, to re-watch the show between those times. Done and done.
3. There are no specific civilizations or time periods that they draw from, just chunks from throughout history. There are singular points in time that give them the "skeletal structure", but they aren't bound to stick to history since they are in a fictitious world. Ultimately it's George R. R. Martin's vision, but they've been entrusted with the reigns.
4. Sophie Turner supposedly made everyone on stage do shots of vodka before they came out, which was a running joke throughout the panel. She jokingly denied it, saying that she's only 20 and "can't do any of that."
5. The producers knew about Hodor back in 2010, which drew sad 'awww's from the crowd. After learning how he got the name and what it stood for, it definitely gave the character a different feel for them.
6. When asked "How did you create such a lovable scamp... and what was it like to be America's sweetheart?", Rheon (who played the most evil bastard in Westeros, Ramsay Bolton) replied that the key was joy in the things he loves to do. He also joked there is more than one direction about him, but that he's not in One Direction. It's tough being a bastard of the north.
7. The minute McEhlenney brought up Hodor again, the crowd once more called out for him, mourning him, and in turn making Kristian Nairn tear up a bit at the outpouring of love. "Yeah it has been overwhelming, I did not expect it to be so crazy. I'm really, really flattered as well. It's blown my mind. I was in L.A. a few days ago at a hotel, and all their door stops had Hodor on them. I was like 'Really?' (laughter) But yeah, it's been incredible and unexpected. The scene was incredibly written, and I knew it was going to be cruel but I didn't expect the outpouring of emotion. You're going to make me cry!"
8. The crowd lost it (and rightfully so) at the mention of "The Battle of the Bastards" and "The Winds of Winter". Sapochnik stated that they wanted the battle to be steeped in history, particularly the Battle of Agincourt, where the English, at great odds, absolutely devoured the French. The horses didn't like running at people, so that changed the scene a bit. It started out big, and then they had to maneuver the scene to adjust for the horses being scared and of course, a budget. They moved bodies from place to place between cuts to make the scene more full.
9. Liam Cunningham wasn't ready for the Shireen revelation, like the rest of the world. He swiped the little stag figurine they used on set and gave it to his daughter for her Wall of Awesome at home. During the show, while his daughter was watching the scene, he made sure she was holding the stag, but oddly enough had no idea that in Shireen's death scene, she was clutching the stag before being burnt alive. He felt like the worst dad ever!
10. Samwell is probably the first, and only, person to smile on Game of Thrones. When asked how he'd prefer Samwell to die, John Bradley replied that the best way to kill him is for him to be crushed to death by books. He climbs a bookshelf, looking for a dirty book, underestimates his own weight, topples backward and brings the entire bookshelf down on him. "It wasn't battle that killed him, it was books that killed him."
11. Missandei is a badass (duh), and Emmanuel thinks her future in the Seven Kingdoms is unknowable, but she will ultimately be with Daenerys through it all.
12. Conleth Hill does not have a ring of spies like Varys does, but if he did, he would use spies for good. "I despair of the world at the moment, with everything that's going on. I think we should all be heading towards inclusivity rather than exclusivity (crowd applause), and so I admire his approach and I love that this season you got to see him interrogate someone. It probably wasn't what people expected, but that's just the way he works. I like him, and most of the bad things are said about him by people who don't like him, which is a great example of the way the world works."
13. The scenes between Varys, Littlefinger and Tyrion are meant to be funny, even under such serious circumstances.
14. Sophie Turner thinks Sansa kept quiet about the Knights of the Vale because she wanted all the credit and it was more dramatic, "and it makes for really good television". She also stated Jon Snow is not good for the Iron Throne, that he may not be capable of running Winterfell either. Jon has the morals, Sansa has the experience dealing with politics.
15. Marsay "channeled the Terminator" in the series, and has no regrest. She and Maisie Williams trained for a month. Marsay likes the theory that Arya and the Waif are the same, but she believes they are two different people. Immediately McEhlenney asked the writers about this, and they paused WAY too long before shrugging it off. So, that's definitely a theory that will remain alive and well!
16. Hempstead Wright is the keeper of the biggest secret in the show... R+L=J. He thinks Bran will take the information to the right place, and eventually tell Jon. "I presume he'll somehow tell Jon, but I don't know how Jon will take it when Bran turns up and says, 'By the way, I'm a tree wizard, and your dad isn't your dad.'"
17. The younger cast members are taking fame at an early age in stride, making them that much more precious.
18. One by one, panelsist answered the biggest question(s): Who do you think will be on the Iron Throne, and who do you think deserves it?
Sapochnik - didn't know who will take it, but hopes that they share it.
Cunningham - thinks it could be anyone, including a White Walker.
Bradley - tricky question, but out of blind loyalty said Jon Snow.
Emmanuel - similiar motive to Bradley's answer, and says Daenerys, but is also excited to see the Starks come back together.
Hill - "I know, but I can't say."
Turner - she wants Littlefinger on the throne because it'd be "fun and quirky".
Rheon - "I think they should melt the thing down and have a democracy."
Marsay - Arya, "because if I don't Maisie, she'll beat me up with a stick."
Hempstead Wright - would like a 4-pronged Stark throne.
Nairn - he doesn't think the throne will matter by the end of the show, as there should be a big battle between the Night King and Daenerys, but if he had to choose, it would be someone with honor and integrity: Brienne (which drew a very large amount of applause).
19. Button Lady emerged again and asked Turner what her favorite scene to act out was, and of course, it was the Ramsay death scene.
20. Marsay recalled being so tired after rehearsing fight scenes that she fell asleep on a plate of salmon and woke up with half of it still on her face.
21. Someone asked a very weird incest question in regards to Sansa and Jon... which Sophie promptly threatened the show makers to not do to both her and Kit Harrington. Luckily they said (and not in a joking manner, we hope) that it's not going to happen.
22. When asked about funny stories during the season, only Turner chimed in with "Kit farted a lot".
23. Hempstead Wright loves the Tower of Joy arc and read up on the theories online after learning about it.
24. Turner hasn't any idea of where Sansa could end up. After she killed Ramsay, "you wonder if she's got a taste for killing."
25. A lady asked the women of the panel what it's like to play such empowering women on television, and they were all proud and honored to be in the roles that they are.
26. The actors feel very lucky to be involved with the brilliant project, with Hill saying in particular he "wouldn't swap it for anything in the world."
27. Nairn thinks that if Hodor could say anything but "Hodor" to Bran, it would be... "No". He also thinks that Hodor would be happy with the way he died, and enjoyed protecting and being with Bran. The friendship between Nairn and Hempstead Wright is 6 years in the making and both agree it'll be a life-long endeavor.
The panel wrapped up with a teaser for season 7... which actually just turned out to be a blooper reel. I guarantee you'll never again say or hear the word 'benevolent' without thinking of Peter Dinklage:
The cast and crew clearly love each other dearly and have more fun that should be allowed in a workplace anywhere. While we count down the days to season 7, which is just under a year away, we're set to enjoy this panel over and over again to satiate our Game of Thrones love.