It’s hard to imagine HBO without Game of Thrones. There have been some fantastic shows over the years since Game of Thrones premiered, but the series is such a juggernaut that it's become HBO’s flagship series. As it happens, however, Game of Thrones very nearly never made it to production due to some major behind-the-scenes difficulties. According to HBO CEO Richard Plepler, it took showrunner David Benioff to convince him to move forward with the show. Here's how it happened:
Benioff came in and confronted it head on and said ‘Look, I understand you’re a little concerned. You think it’s a little off brand.’ I said I did. He said ‘Well, let me try to allay your concerns. Number one: you’re a political junkie, right?’ And I said I am. He said ‘All this is is archetypal power. That’s all this is, a story of power. Number two: you’ll forget where you are in the first 15 minutes. You could be in 10th century England, you could be in 5th century… you’ll just forget where you are.’
Richard Plepler’s reveal at the New Work Summit is borderline unbelievable considering the scope of Game of Thrones today. Of course, part of the reason why Thrones is so massively popular is because it broke ground as a mainstream fantasy series, so it’s hard to blame Plepler for being nervous about the series.
As he noted, the show required a massive budget, and HBO was going to have to foot the entire bill after the BBC dropped out as a co-financer of the project. David Benioff himself admits now that there were some fundamental problems with the first pilot before a retooling occurred, as well. No wonder HBO was hesitant about going all in on Game of Thrones.
Benioff emphasizing the political angle of Game of Thrones rather than the dragons, the tree gods, and the ice zombies to sell the series to HBO might seem a bit sneaky, but all of the fantastical elements of the show have been brought into play thanks to the political squabbling of the lords and ladies of Westeros. It can be easy to forget about the subterfuge between the nobles when there are epic battles and assassinations and magical creatures everywhere, but almost everything that has gone wrong for the characters can be traced back to families scheming for the Iron Throne. David Benioff certainly wasn’t lying when he said that Game of Thrones is about power.
Personally, I can’t say that I’ve ever forgotten where I am when watching Game of Thrones, but that’s usually because I’m just incredibly glad to be sitting on my couch instead of trying not to die a horrible death somewhere in the Seven Kingdoms or across the Narrow Sea. I can say for sure that I’m glad that David Benioff was able to talk Richard Plepler into giving the unlikely Game of Thrones a chance, and I know I’m not alone.
Season 6 of Game of Thrones premieres on April 24 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.