The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Domain


Interview with Ryan Condal

An interview long in the making, we finally got to sit down with Ryan Condal, lead writer, executive producer, and now sole show runner of House of the Dragon last week to talk about the show. After Linda had a chance to say hello, she headed off to keep an eye on our very rambunctious puppy Lancelot, we started the interview. We open up with a question on post-production, and then get into the weeds on favorite book characters, depictions of violence, heraldry, a forgotten Valyrian house, the change from book canon when casting the Velaryons, whether Ryan will continue with the show after completing this particular story, and more.

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Ryan Condal behind the scenes with a maquette of Caraxes. ©️ Ollie Upton/HBO

Interview with Ryan Condal

First of all, congratulations on a second season order. I know you’ve been burning the midnight oil on post production for this season. Are you done with that?

Thank you. Yeah, this weekend essentially, we’re finally done. This was all in the pursuit of high quality stuff. I think it’s feature quality, what we’re putting out there.

I absolutely agree. I’ve been following the reporting on the viewership and ratings and it seems to be doing very, very well.

Yeah, it seems to have connected and in a way that I don’t think I thought was really possible right out of the gate. I mean, I definitely thought this was an audience that we could re-access over time, because obviously, that massive audience existed because we know they watched the original series. I just figured, you know, so much has changed about television as a medium since 2011.

Even in the last five years, can you get 29 million people to do the same thing in the kind of classic way, which it seems like everybody is doing essentially. Half the audience watches on the first night and they make it an event that’s up against, you know, NFL football and school starting next day. That’s pretty incredible to me, because I did not know if that something like that was possible with the way everything has become streaming-based and catch as catch can, but I think people wanted to engage with it before the internet spoils it.

Speaking of fans making an event of watching it, I noticed on YouTube that there’s this bar in Chicago called the Burlington Bar. They basically record the crowd in the bar when the episode airs. They’ve been doing it for each episode and seeing the reactions is really quite fun.

That’s great. I couldn’t imagine watching the show in a bar, but good for them.

I know you’ve been a fan of the books from way back. I think you mentioned you picked up right around the time the first Lord of the Rings films coming out.

It was right at that time, A Storm of Swords had just been published. I remember Storm was still in hardcover, because for whatever reason I had trouble tracking down the hardcover. I think I was going on vacation, I think there was a time element to it. I finally ended up getting it from a public library. Because of that I read A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and then “The Hedge Knight”, in that order, and then Storm. And then began my obsession. I think I was already obsessed by the time I was hunting down a book in a library, but I was obsessed kind of right out of the gate.

We’ve talked before and you mentioned to me that A Feast for Crows is you favorite of a series so far.

I think it’s my odd choice. I love those first three books. But for me, I think because that was the first one I had to wait for. It was five years, and so there’s the specialness of reading it at the same time as everybody else was reading it and experiencing it. Look. I love the Jon and Dany stories. But for me, the real draw of of those books is the palace intrigue that’s going on in the “civilized areas”—using that in the loose sense—of Westeros.

I loved how George brought in all of these new point of views to tell us what was happening on the ground as a result of this horrible war that was being fought. It came out at the height of the Iraq War and I knew from George’s blog that he was deeply anti-war, and I just I loved how that all dovetailed. I thought it was a really beautiful diversion within this great novel series because of the way he had to restructure things because A Dance with Dragons stories not being where he wanted them to be. I felt it to be a fascinating detour a bit in the in the storytelling and I just really love that.

I’m completely with you on that. I have always said to people that I find A Feast for Crows has a thematic unity, everything is feeding into that same overarching theme in a way that George couldn’t do in the previous books. I also think Feast has some of the most beautiful writing out of all the novels.

I agree. Yeah, on a prose level, like you said at a thematic level, and also just on a textual level, using these little vignettes to tell this larger story, you understand that when Brienne goes into some of those villages that oh, this is happening X hundreds across Westeros and what the horrible things that are visited upon the small folk because of the game of thrones.

Do you have a favorite character?

I’m a Sandor Clegane guy. I love that character. I read Feast so fast the first time that I sort of missed his return. I love that, and where that’s probably going. I’m extra fascinated by him because to me he feels like the most POV character that we haven’t gotten a POV on yet. It feels like you know the most about him from the things that he reveals to the characters around him like Sansa and Tyrion, and Arya. Even though we haven’t been in his head and heard his internal thoughts. I wonder if that’s coming? Or if we never really get into that.

We’ll need to wait and see! Does George know that you’re on the list for when the manuscript for the next book is done?

I’ve told him! I told him that if we finish this season and you have a show, you have to send me a manuscript. He said that’s not a problem, I’ll do that. So now I have to hold him to it.

To get into the show, I want to discuss the tournament. I really love the tournament I’ve always wanted to see something like that done with this sort of budget.  I could see shades of “The Hedge Knight”, the format where you knock on the shield to challenge someone. I guess that’s also Ivanhoe, where George got the idea from. And Daemon has a bit of the Aerion Brightflame, which I thought was kind of cool.

Yeah, yeah.

Now, the violence of the show, that scene of hyper-violent fighting that goes on, where someone takes a downed opponent and then keeps going and going at him. This seems to feed into this message of it’s sort of it’s a decadent period where people are so used to peace that they just have lost all control of themselves on that tourney field. Are you ever concerned that some people may find it goes too far?

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We talked about that. It was an interesting line to walk because we were looking at the Targaryens as our Caesarian Romans and the sense of this period of decadence. What we understand about the rules of the tourney field, I think has been really brought to us more through filmed entertainment versus what actually went on. This was gladiatorial bloodsport. I think people reveled in that. And we were going for more of that idea of what were the gladiatorial games, where people regularly got together in the Coliseum and paid paid money to see trained warriors people kill each other in glorious ways. But we were trying to walk the line of not making it a true gladiator fight and instead make it feel like this is violent bloodsport that had gone too far.

It’s like in a UFC match when the guy knocks the other guy out and he’s already asleep on his feet and then he jumps on him to finish the job and the referee has to come in to keep him from from punching the guy into a coma. That was more what we were going for, but yes, it is telling a story at a time of decadance. I think one of the more obvious moments of a thematic message is that little soliloquy that Rhaenys has, about this being sixty years or more of peace with these men being trained to be violent and kill each other. It’s their whole entire life and existence, and then we expect them to come here and get their blood up and be restrained about it. It’s a message about what happens when you open the doors of a barn and let the war horses out. You can’t necessarily control what happens afterward.

Umberto Eco—I know you’re a fan of The Name of the Rose—wrote an essay called “Travels in Hyperreality”. He talks a lot about fantasy and about simulating the Middle Ages. He thought it was a particularly American thing, that Americans wanted to make it more real than real in the representation of Middle Ages. And one “hyperreality” aspect on the show because we’re talking about the decadence… The pornography kind of strewn all over the walls.


Whose idea was that we’re putting it was that? Was it Jim Clay, the production designer?

I actually don’t remember where we got that. Obviously, we’re going for Roman decadence because how do you set this Targaryen era when they’re sitting on the top of the world with all of their dragons and long decades of peace? How do you show how they were different. It was less about the lurid nature of the of the imagery, and more about showing that the Targaryens hold to different customs, they are they are foreigners who marry brother to sister, and Aegon had two wives and this idea of their their origin even if they they are now living in Westeros. They brought their different values with them. Also, the idea is no that these aren’t really Targaryen murals, but Valyrian murals with the idea that when the Red Keep was built was built, that that was something from the Valyrian texts that they brought.

If you look closer at them, there are people with dragon heads and dragon bodies, and there’s gender mixing going on as well with the characters who are half woman, half man. It’s deeply complex and interesting. That was more of what we were going for, to show to show that the Targaryens were not traditional Westerosi. They had integrated into this life and brought this whole other culture along with them.

That makes me think of the scene where Otto reports to Viserys about Rhaenyra being in a pleasure house, and he shrugs it off as insignificant.

What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of the show in terms of having this show canon that’s been sets by a previous show, and by you’re having to make choices at the same time to just be your own show, not just being entirely beholden to what came before which technically what comes after?

It’s a very tricky line to walk. With the original show, we all know they got ahead of where George was in the storytelling and also had already altered things in an attempt to make the stories more manageable knowing that the story was ever expanding. Not in terms of raw page count, but in terms of the amount of characters to follow and point of views and how large it got. It’s wonderful in the sprawl of these great novels that we all love. But I think we all would agree that in turn, if you were going to make a surmountable producible television show some of that stuff needed to be condensed.

So wherever the story went and ended, by nature took a point of departure and is now different than the book so you have kind of show canon and book canon. We are trying to align our show more, I think, with what the original series did, just in terms of look and feel and tone, because that’s the thing that viewers expect, but I think I as the lead storyteller am trying to do as faithful a job as I can of adapting Fire and Blood. With that as the palette, if that makes sense.

Yeah, that makes sense.

Fire and Blood has its own challenge because of how it’s written. It’s a history book that compiles three somewhat unreliable narratives with holes in them, and you’re meant as the as the reader of the book to figure out what happened yourself. Sometimes the accounts conflict. sometimes there’s no information there, which makes it a fun adaptation challenge, because there’s room for tons of invention while you are also able to be very faithful because you’re hitting the waypoints as you go along.

But I think the collective challenge of aligning all of those things at once, trying to make it feel of a piece with the original series, trying to make it faithful to George’s wonderful books, and also trying to have a show that stands on its own two feet, which it absolutely has to do to justify its own existence, is quite the needle to thread.

I’ve noticed about the show kind of hewing more towards George’s work is the language used sometimes. The previous show did some of it, but it’s much clearer here—someone is seven-and-ten, “must needs”, and so on. Was that a mandate from you?

That’s definitely me. It’s me aping George and then the other writers aping me- I make everybody read the books, not only Fire and Blood, but you also have to go read the five tomes. Honestly, most of them had already; I think maybe one writer had to be assigned to it. Which they take on willingly and I really do that—Well, yes, yes, you should read the books, because they’re wonderful and you should know the history of the world that you’re living in.

But to me, those books are so rich in prose and so immersive I think in the way they put you into the world, that you start thinking in that cadence, and in that language. The easiest way to make this feel like the books to me is to have it be written in the same language that George uses. So when people hear those little things that it feels like,  “Oh, I’m in George’s world.” I think just subliminally they’re beautiful. They’re little turns of phrase, moments where he uses kind of an archaic word that is out of date, and I just think I think it’s beautiful writing, and it’s world building. And to me, great, you’ve done all that hard work. I’m just going to copy it.

I’m waiting for two, and I’m waiting for a mayhaps and I’m waiting for words arewind.

I know we don’t have a words are wind because I did look for the opportunity there. But there are definitely mayhaps. I’m surprised actually you haven’t heard it yet. Because I would have guessed that’s in the first five episodes, but there certainly are mayhaps. It’s one of my favorites. Yeah. I also love soon or late. And little and less.

[Editor: Ryan is of course correct! There are at least two cases of “mayhaps” in the first five episodes.]

When we started Westeros.org, our first contact was George was in part due to representing the heraldry of the Seven Kingdoms as graphics. Part of what drew me to it was how colorfully George presented this setting, its courtly life, the chivalry and pageantry, but at the same time it could be a veneer over brutal and ugly and nasty things. You’ve been using the heraldry very, very well and we’ve really appreciated that.

For example, the Kingsguard candidates, you had a really great selection of second tier houses and their heraldry. Who decided that?

I wrote the episode. Ti Mikkel [Editor: Credited as a consultant, she is one of GRRM’s assistants] helps with a lot of that stuff. That was a combination I think of Ti and I sort of picking out houses because I really wanted to expand the world so we didn’t feel like we were constantly living in a universe of Starks, Baratheons, and Lannisters. They’re all great, but we know those houses exists. Do you know offhand how many a noble heraldic houses there are?

Over 400.

Yeah, my guess would have been 500. So yeah, I love all that. And I think it’s important to acknowledge that those families and places exist because that’s another great moment of world building that you can do very cheaply. I mean, you’re staging this kind of bigger scene and you have to dress all these knights and making custom surcoats and armor and heraldry and things. But as soon as you do that you you’re communicating to the audience that this world is enormous.

That was definitely me looking to get as much heraldry on the screen as I can. That was something I knew George cared very much about. I did too, because I had the same reaction that you did. It’s this carnival of colors and things in a incredibly violent world. It’s sports teams. I mean, it really it’s like a giant football league.

Yeah. Yeah, George has an essay, “On Fantasy”. You’ve probably read it. He talks about how fantasy lets us find the colors again, to see things with the vividness of being new and strange. I think George’s books really manage that.

Going back to the heraldry, there have been some “controversies” around the heraldry that I want to get into. The seahorse, for example. Many years ago we did the first visual depiction of the seahorse when George sent us his notes on it. I took a stab at it with the actual seahorse. And at the time at least George said that yeah, that’s what he intended instead of the mythological animal. Was that something where George changed his mind, or was it just something you thought worked better?

I definitely showed it to him. We have a a person in the graphics department—which is a sub layer of the art department, which is sub layer of Jim Clay’s production design group, which is massive—who kind of designs all of that stuff [Editor: HBO provided the name of the artist: Alicia Martin, credited as Lead Graphics Designer]. And Jim’s feeling was that at this time, it would have been a half horse, half fish. And the thing they designed is beautiful. I obviously knew the book version and I was sort of weighing things up. And I was kind of going, well, would these people without scuba technology even have seen them? I guess they can be closer to the surface things you can drag up in a fishing net, they’ve certainly been two opposite ends of the world. But I don’t know, I just think it’s a more powerful image that feels like something you would ride behind.

I’ve never asked George why he went with the real one. One thing that kind of came to mind for me was sort of Valyria is more southern and had warmer waters. And I think seahorses are mostly a temperate and tropical thing. And the other thing is there’s just how the male seahorse carries the young, that he was thinking in that direction.

It’s interesting. But would they have known that? Can you figure that out without a microscope?

That’s a good point. Fair enough!

[Editor: Looking into the question of seahorses more, the ancient world certainly knew of them—they show up in Roman art and even in Roman recipes for cures to baldness and other ailments. But Ryan’s right that it wasn’t until a few decades ago that scientists realized that male seahorses were the ones who became pregnant and gave birth.]

Now, Targaryen dragon legs. I know that you’ve addressed it, that it will make sense, that there’ll be an explanation of it in the show to make sense of the two-legged dragon first used in Game of Thrones (accurate to the novels) that then became four-legged at the end. So right now, in the time of the show, it’s four-legged. But I’m a little confused because there was one shot in one of the behind the scenes and possibly in the show itself of a Targaryen guard with his red armor and with these steel pauldrons. And the pauldrons have the two legged version. So is the idea that this is a concurrent thing, where maybe the Princes of Dragonstone uses two legs and the Iron Throne uses four? Or is it something that kind of slipped through early on?

I think that’s exactly what happened. We did our very best to streamline the show across the art department and the costume department to have key heraldry. But a lot of people—armor in particular went into prep very early because it takes so long to originate and make. It was always my intent to honor the banner that Daenerys raises at the end of the series, because again, show canon versus what we’ve seen in the books, and because from my perspective the fact that George himself never actually drew his Targaryen heraldry that that just became the accepted heraldry in this thing, this idea that yes, it has two legs because our dragons have two legs, but then again the dragon has three heads. So it’s a symbolic representation.

But very simply, the idea that Daenerys raised the banner at the end. Of course, I know that that’s different than the sigil that you see on the books and in other places. And for people that are curious, or questioning or damning me for it, I would simply say that we know from the history that the Targaryen sigil goes through evolutions as a result of internal conflicts within the house, so bear with us.

That’s a good answer. I’m actually looking forward to seeing kind of how that comes out to later on in the show.

One of the things I think you mentioned that we’re every change has been kind of thought out and you kind of have a reason for them. There’s one thing that so in the second episode, where young Laena tells the king words to the effect that their proposed marriage would unite the families in a way that they haven’t been since the Doom. And then again in episode five Viserys talks of uniting with House Velaryon, and people were kind of confused by this because obviously, Rhaenys is married to Corlys, she’s literally right there, and their children are the result of that.

One thought I had was the idea is that the family tree has been changed a bit, that the Velaryons have not actually had intermarriages into the Targaryens until some time prior to the Doom and there has been this long period where they’ve been allies, but they haven’t been connected by blood. Am I barking up the wrong tree or is that kind of the idea?

I think she was more speaking in hyperbolic language. I would say that this is particularly a royal union where we know Rhaenys never sat the throne to become queen and the idea that there ... Well, I don’t think we know much about the political structure in Valyria. You tell me! But however the political structure worked there, we know that the Targaryens were lesser dragonlords and all that, but the idea is essentially the idea of the heirs or heads of the houses coming together. Like if Valyria had kings—not that they did, and not that the Targaryens would have been the kings since they were a lesser house…

It’s the Sea Snake blowing his own horn is the easy answer. (Laughter.)

That was one theory put forward, because Viserys asks if Laena is just repeating what her father told her.

And that’s all been fed to her, yeah.

Something in a similar vein, you have Corlys says that they’re the last two Valyrian houses, but what about House Celtigar? I think a photographer took a shot from the beach and there was a Celtigar shield, so is that again more this kind of slighting a minor house

Yeah, he’s totally slighting a minor house. We actually had a running joke in the writer’s room about House Celtigar. And I will tell you as a tease for the future, we do have a character from House Celtigar, they’ll have representation in the coming episodes of the show, so stay tuned fans of House Celtigar.

But we always joked that there was always a lord from House Celtigar in the background going, “But, we’re Valyri—!”. But yeah, it’s Corlys doing his doing his pride and power thing. And he’s essentially saying, Well, we’re the great houses even though you have dragons, and we don’t but obviously I built this amazing navy, and we’re the great houses. As you know, there’s an ease of shorthand there just in terms of those being the two central houses that are a focus of the story. But yes, we’re very aware of the Celtigars!

I really have enjoyed Steve’s performance in the 5th episode, in particular, I felt like it was really great to see him pushing and pushing. He’s so ambitious, and he almost could potentially ruin the whole thing. Because he can’t help himself. That was a really great touch to have with the character.

He has been amazing. Really, I think he’s made an iconic character there. So so we’re really proud of him.

In the interview with EW where you talked about there being a sort of iterative process of deciding how to find places to have more diversity to open up the casting of the world. So you have the Velaryons, and there’s Orwyle who’s more prominent now, for example.

By iterative, do you mean you looked at different approaches regarding how to do that?

I think it was always the case that we’re making a television show and in a modern world, and we live in a very colorful world and it’s important to represent that that up on the screen. Our ideas of what Westeros looks like is largely based on tropes of medieval fantasy recreation, and also things that they did in the original series, because I think David and Dan actually did a tremendous job of having representation on screen. They had an easier challenge perhaps in some ways because the sprawl of the show is much grander.

So what we what essentially we did was that we said, we don’t want to just go willy nilly and say it’s open casting for everything because I thought that would violate the integrity of what David and Dan had set up and what we know about George’s vision for Westeros as a representation of the medieval era. So what we did was we looked for characters that could possibly have these other backgrounds. Mysaria, Criston Cole being born so close to the Dornish border and with him, we just say that he has Dornish blood, that he is of Dornish descent. There’s a commonborn thread in his bloodline and you know, somebody along the line was Dornish.
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So we were looking for characters that were opportunities to put diversity on the screen, that didn’t at once suddenly violate everything that Geroge had laid down earlier. Obviously, Corlys Velaryon is the biggest change/choice from that. But honestly, with that it was it that first of all, it’s just cool. It looks great. It’s a stunning, iconic image.

And second of all, I was always really charmed and interested in the little anecdote that George mentioned somewhere along the line that originally his idea for the Valerians were that they were a race of black people from across the sea with silver hair. And that was always just a really arresting image to me. I mean, I think he toyed around with it early in the sort of formulation of the book, there was some interview that I read somewhere, and it just that image really imprinted on me. And I just said, Well, you know, Valyria is a fantasy society that fell into the sea. Why couldn’t they have had dragons and blood magic? Why could they not have had non-white people living on the island as just nobles? That was the simple choice.

I think I know what what you came across, it was actually a Live Journal post from “Not a Blog” in 2013 when Pedro Pascal’s casting was announced. There were people who were very upset with that. And as George was discussing that whole thing, he mentioned the idea about changing the race of the Valyrians in some detail. Musing about whether he should have done that instead, maybe yes, maybe no.

One idea that others have suggested which I thought was interesting—and this is in addition to the Velaryons—did the Hightowers ever come across as a possibility as well?  I don’t think they’d shown up in the TV show.

I mean, well—

... actually, maybe the White Bull showed up?

[Editor: Presumably he appears in the tower of joy scene in S6, but it seems only Arthur Dayne is explicitly named.]

Yeah, I was gonna say wasn’t he technically in the show at some point?

But no, we certainly talked about it. I think the thinking there was that, because they were a Westerosi house it just felt to me cleaner in terms of narrative and storytelling that you take this really fantastical race you have, which is the Valryians and you take them and make this commitment. And also, as we know, very simply, you make this one little change to Corlyss and then the the the fruit that it bears in turn because he has such an extensive bloodline. So we have Rhaenys’s children, obviously, and Daemon’s children, and future (laughter) things that have not been revealed yet but which are known to book readers. It creates an entire diverse cast with one change, and we felt like it’d be a big boon to the show.

Now, there’s been talk of continuing the show after this maybe exploring other periods of the Targaryen history, which I found a very interesting idea. But is your idea at this time—acknowledging that it’s very far ahead in the future—but would would you want to be the showrunner of this continuation? Or would you be handing it off to somebody else?

(Laughter). Let me show you my hairline after doing season one.

I love Westeros, I love George’s world. I would love to be involved with it, as long as he and HBO will have me. It’s hard not to think about where things could go. The show is called House of the Dragon, it’s not called The Dance of the Dragons. It’s about the Targaryen dynasty in all of its forms, it’s about the Targaryen house, really, and I think there’s many fascinating periods of history to be told there.

You know, there’s certainly the Conquest. I think now we’re telling the story of this large civil war that happens when both sides have dragons, and I think it’d be fascinating to also explore a time when Targaryens are still in power but don’t have any dragons. How do they then threaten their enemies and how the whole strategy of war would change. There are lots of places to go. I would certainly love to be involved.

But I think this show is so all-consuming. I texted George the night before his birthday this week to tell him that it’s been four years because I remember he met me in the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills and offered me this job the day before his 70th birthday, because he said he was in town for the Emmys as he always was, and was celebrating 70 years and he was like, it’s great, but I’m getting old and I don’t want to turn 70 and all that. So just that date was stuck in my mind, but it is four years to get through one season which hasn’t even aired in its entirety yet. Granted, the second season will come quicker. But it’s is such an all-consuming thing that it’s hard to think beyond right now. I know the next two years of my life, we’re making season two.

That makes perfect sense. You can kind of see how David and Dan visibly aged from year to year.

It’s like a president you know, they come into the office and then they have gray hair and and hollow eyes by the end of it. I’ll be there.

Since I know we’re tight on time, a last question.

One discussion viewers have is whether the show would try to make some characters more likable, but you don’t seem to shy away at all from showing these characters making some of their ugliest decisions and actions. Most recently, Daemon being personally involved in killing Rhea Royce. The text leaves it up in the air—maybe he sent an assassin or maybe he had nothing to do with and people just blame him for it. But you went in there and had him be involved in that. Are you ever concerned about what some of the things these characters do may push them over a line where viewers go, I can’t root for them, I hate everybody, I’m done with it. Has that ever been in the back of your mind?

I don’t think about likability much, I think about interesting. That’s the beautiful thing about George’s world, he always gives you a palette where you can either have this fully formed really deep and interesting character like Daemon, who I think is one of the most well-realized characters in the text of Fire and Blood. And then other characters that just exist in a very complex world where great things and awful things happen, moments of great heroism and honor and chivalry and also moments of real depravity. For me, people and characters are human and the thing that makes George’s fantasy the most interesting is that he populates it with humans, not people that are on the D&D sort of good to evil, chaotic to order grid.

All of the characters in this show, as you will see, do good things and also are capable of really monstrous things, some moreso than others. I think that when you go down the road of making somebody too unimpeachable it, it creates a level of artifice that starts to make it feel like it’s from some other story. Ned Stark, who died for his honor, I think is a great example of just an incredibly well written character. Because his goodness was actually his downfall. And it was the thing that destroyed him and it got to the point where it’s like, Okay, Ned, we get it, you’re honorable, but at some point, you have to realize that you’re living in the pit of vipers down in King’s Landing and should start making some different choices. But he didn’t, he held to his honor the whole time. But I think that’s been done so it’s hard to go back. And also I’m not particularly interested in a character that just does great heroic things all the time.

But I think on the other side of it, too, it feels to me that in Fire and Blood that there are fewer true monsters versus what there are in A Song of Ice and Fire. Of course, that’s a much bigger book, it’s a more sprawling story, with a greater breadth of characters, but there are more characters like Gregor Clegane, Joffrey Baratheon, in terms of characters that appear in the fore of the narrative. I think those characters can be fun as sort of boogeymen but they’re not as interesting as a complex version of a villain that also has a an internal wound that makes them do the things that they do, which makes them complex and interesting. So to answer the question, I just looked for interesting and I trust the audience to get interested and wonder what they’re going to do next. And also get into this internal debate with themselves. “Why do I love Daemon so much? What’s wrong with me? But what’s he going to do next week?”

And that was that, our long one-on-one with Ryan before he had to head off to other interviews. He did part by noting that he’s long been a fan of the site, and has appreciated what Westeros.org has meant for the community… and he was very earnest about wanting book fans to know he’s one of us, a fellow reader of the books who loves Westeros and George’s writing, and is trying his best to honor that while also doing right by HBO and the trust (and great deal of money and resources) it has given him to realize this story.