HBO goes to 'wild' lengths to stop Game of Thrones spoilers from leaking
Washington Post reporter Travis M. Andrews investigated just how far the show will go to guard its secrets
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Seasons 1-7 of Game of Thrones.
There's a famous line from the first season of Game of Thrones: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die."
And HBO goes to elaborate lengths to prevent the show's fans from finding out which of those fates will befall their favourite characters.
Ahead of the hit fantasy series' final season premiere on Sunday, Washington Post reporter Travis M. Andrews has detailed just how far the show will go to guard its secrets.
He spoke to As It Happens guest host Duncan McCue — who has never seen Game of Thrones — about what he learned. Here is part of their conversation.
What struck you as the most bizarre thing that HBO has done to avoid any Game of Thrones spoilers?
I think one of the wilder things they did is they had a character who had died earlier in the show. The character's name is Shea. And they had the actress actually dress back up as Shea and come to one of the sets long after she was off the show, just to trick anyone who ... snuck in and took a photograph.
And it worked. Several outlets of photo leaks said, "Oh, she must be coming back. She can rise from the dead."
Earlier this month Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark, appeared on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon [and said her character dies in the second episode]. So that's, of course, a joke, but were people fooled?
I think they were. I remember Twitter, it kind of lit up right when that happened. You know, they take about another minute and a half to get to the part where they say, "April Fools." And Twitter was kind of going nuts.
Credit due in part to Maisie Williams' acting in that clip. She looks like she just spoiled something. Her hands are shaking ... She's trembling. She looks like she's about to cry.
What else has HBO done to try to make sure that everybody's in the dark about this?
There are rumours that they filmed multiple endings to this show. The HBO programming president said that was the case, but some of the actors have said that [they] don't actually think that happened.
But the things we know for sure is the scripts are not paper scripts, which can be easily disseminated and leaked. Instead, they come on an app and the actors are sort of given their scene right before they shoot it. And right when it's done, it self-destructs. Just like, you know, Mission Impossible or something like that.
They film the show under a fake name just in case anyone walking by happens to see it, and the fake title is Face of Angels.
There's a big thing a few years ago ... There's a character named Jon Snow who famously gets killed and everyone wondered if he was going to come back the next season. He dies at the end of one season. And that was probably the time HBO kind of put the most effort in trying to hide stuff.
One thing they did then was they set up fake scenes because people are coming with drones and things like that. So they set up a fake set for, you know, for anyone sneaking in to see, and that was kind of wild.
Well, you mentioned people coming in with drones. I mean, how desperate are people to try to figure out what's going to happen?
They are so desperate. One of the more physical stories I heard was that a guy, he hiked like 18 hours to get a glimpse of the set, because the sets are in rural areas throughout Europe for the most part.
HBO has been hacked. Famously, it was hacked a few years ago and the hackers got scripts. I guess this is before they self-destructed. They got episodes and they threatened HBO. They tried to ransom, I want to say, $6 million ... in bitcoin.
They actually did leak one episode, but they have since been arrested.
Everybody's trying to figure out who's going to survive, how the show's going to end. If you had to make a prediction how it's going to end, what's it going to be?
So one of the things the show has always done is try to turn your expectations on its head, especially when it comes to things like classic storytelling, fairy tales. Early on, the guy who you think is Prince Charming is killed and things like that.
So I think to be true to the show, the ice zombies, the White Walkers and the Night King, I think they come and they wipe everybody out while everyone's still squabbling over their little human problems.
You've piqued my interest. I may have to watch.
It's my pleasure.
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Sarah Jackson. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.