Why HBO Chose ‘House of the Dragon’ Over Scrapped ‘Game of Thrones’ Spinoff Starring Naomi Watts

TCA 2020: And there are “no plans” to pick up more “GoT” spinoffs, HBO programming chief Casey Bloys tells TheWrap

HBO finally fully committed to one of the several “Game of Thrones” spinoffs it had in development when it gave “House of the Dragon” a straight-to-series order last October.

That pickup came on the same day that another potential spinoff — the one starring Naomi Watts that HBO had actually filmed a pilot for — was scrapped. That untitled prequel, referred to internally as “Bloodmoon,” was set thousands of years before the events of “Game of Thrones.”

TheWrap sat down with HBO programming chief Casey Bloys at the Television Critics Association press tour Wednesday and asked him to break down the reasoning behind picking one project over the other.

“In general for a pilot, and this is very much the case in this one, there’s not one thing that I would say, ‘Oh, this went terribly wrong,'” Bloys said. “Sometimes a pilot comes together, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes even the best aspects don’t totally gel, sometimes they do. That’s kind of the little bit of luck and magic in doing shows — and sometimes they come together and sometimes they don’t.”

“Bloodmoon,” co-created by George R.R. Martin and “Kingsman” screenwriter Jane Goldman, was ordered to pilot at HBO in 2018. That project, one of the five “GoT” spinoffs originally put into development a few years ago, was set thousands of years before the events of the original “Game of Thrones” series, which ended its eight-season run last year, in the era known as the Age of Heroes.

“One thing I will say though is, one of the big challenges that Jane took on beautifully, I thought, is there was a lot of invention,” Bloys told us. “It was set 8,000 years before the original, so it required a lot of worldbuilding, which is a big challenge, it was a big swing.”

Co-created by Martin and “Colony” co-creator Ryan Condal, “House of the Dragon” is set in the early days of Westeros and focused on House Targaryen, the family that Emila Clarke’s Daenerys belonged to, along with her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and nephew Aegon Targaryen a.k.a. Jon Snow (Kit Harington). The spinoff series is based on Martin’s “Fire & Blood” book, which details the Targaryen family lineage, and takes place 300 years before the events of “GoT.”

Miguel Sapochnik — who directed several fan-favorite episodes of “GoT,” such as “The Long Night,” “Battle of the Bastards” and “Hardhome” — and Condal will serve as co-showrunners on the series and executive produce alongside Martin and Vince Gerardis. Sapochnik will direct the pilot and additional episodes.

“One of the advantages of ‘House of the Dragon’ is you’ve got history and text from George in terms of the history of the Targaryens. So you had a little bit more of a roadmap,” Bloys told us. “So that made it easier to say go straight to series on that. Also, in general with ‘Game of Thrones,’ one of the things going into it we knew — that we know from the development in general — is very few things you get right the first time. And so that’s why we did multiple scripts. And we would have been very fortunate had the one pilot worked and gone straight to series and that would have been that. But you also had to make plans for if that didn’t happen. So we wanted to have a lot of options, so that’s why we went in very deliberately trying to go at it a number of different ways.”

When we asked Bloys if there was a chance that any other “GoT” spinoffs could move forward at HBO — since last summer he told us there were one or two more scripts it was “possibly” considering ordering to pilot, though obviously we now know one of those was “House of the Dragon”– he said there are “no plans” for that to happen.

“For me, for right now, I think going to series on this one is all I’m looking to take on at the moment,” he said. “As I said, we developed a bunch. But for right now, this is our focus. I don’t see– there’s not anything close to being picked up, there’s no plans to pick up anything else. So right now, this is our focus, ‘House of the Dragon.’ And we’re excited about Ryan and Miguel doing this together.”

Bloys told TheWrap he expects “House of the Dragon” to premiere in 2022 on HBO.

Jennifer Maas

Jennifer Maas

TV Reporter • jennifer.maas@thewrap.com • @jmaas421



What you get:

  • in-depth coverage
  • award winning writers
  • exclusive video
  • vip access
  • thewrap magazine