Ed Sheeran will appear on the seventh season of “Game of Thrones” (arriving July 16), and apparently not to sing “Thinking out Loud” or whatever other Sheeran hit happens to be on the charts at that time. The casting was a gift to Maisie Williams -- Arya Stark -- who’s a big fan of Sheeran, according to showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff, who addressed fans at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas, Sunday.

Both also confirmed that the eighth and final season would indeed be only six episodes (Benioff, alas, also effectively confirmed that the sixth and final episode will not be “supersized,” so it appears the eighth season will indeed be six hours in length, too).

Finally, this last bit of news: Benioff, according to multiple reports, said HBO “might do well” with a spinoff of some sort, but indicated he wouldn’t be along for that particular ride: “I look forward to watching (but) I think they should get new blood.”

The “GoT” panel Sunday was naturally one of those much anticipated “events” at the popular SXSW festival, more so given the waning days of the world’s most popular TV series are now approaching. “GoT” will end, but how will the fans go on? By addressing the long-standing sequel/prequel rumors, Benioff and Weiss seemed to suggest that they will have something else to look forward to in the years ahead. (HBO chief Casey Bloys has also said in an earlier press interview months ago that the network was kicking the tires, so to speak, on the idea of a continuation).

The shorter season eight order does certainly hint at the possibility of an expanded finale, by giving a spectacular TV achievement an expanded and spectacular send-off. But Benioff seemed to suggest otherwise: According to EW’s James Hibberd, the reliably accurate “GoT” chronicler in attendance, Benioff said, “From the beginning we’ve wanted to tell a 70-hour movie. It will turn out to be a 73-hour movie, but it’s stayed relatively the same of having the beginning, middle and now we’re coming to the end. It would have been really tough if we lost any core cast members along the way, I’m very happy we’ve kept everyone and we get to finish it the way we want to.”

A “73-hour movie” naturally means a total of 73 episodes.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Sheeran’s cameo is a surprise, but not quite out of character with the series. Other musical stars like Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men have performed, and others have been incognito. Mastodon, the heavy metal band from Atlanta, appeared on the season five episode, “Hardhome,” as wildlings (Weiss is a fan of the band).

Will Sheeran also be a wildling? (Maybe a wight?) More stuff for fans to talk about.