HBO has made its name as a home for vast, in-depth television series with large casts of fully realized characters and distinct settings, from the mob world of "The Sopranos" to the Old West of "Deadwood."
"Game of Thrones," the newest member of the cable channel's impressive catalog, might have the biggest world and most complex cast yet.
The fantasy epic, adapted from the first book of George R. R. Martin's best-selling series, "A Song of Ice and Fire," by David Benioff and D.B Weiss, doesn't have the orcs and elves found in "Lord of the Rings" or the talking animals of "The Chronicles of Narnia." Instead, it is a dense story focusing on seven families in Westeros who are all vying for control of the throne.
amNewYork spoke with Benioff and Weiss in a conference call about the show, which debuts Sunday.
How different is this from other fantasy works?
Weiss: George's books are greatly influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien's books, and I don't know if they would exist if "Lord of the Rings" hadn't existed. That said, they're quite different: They're much more adult in terms of the complexity of the characters and the sexuality of the story. It's not a quest narrative about good versus evil and a bunch of innocent Hobbits trying to destroy a ring; it's much more about Machiavellian intrigue and political plot twists and pursuit of power.
Is there a high entry barrier to the show?
Weiss: The great HBO dramas have all been set in very large worlds with very many characters that we're supposed to invest in. They all require effort on the part of the viewer, and they all repay that effort a hundredfold for the people who are really willing to invest in them.
Benioff: We've always conceived of this season as more of a 10-hour movie than pure episodic television. It's an adaptation of a novel; it's one long story.
How do you balance making fans happy and attracting a new audience?
Weiss: I think we're very excited and happy that there is a fan base that's so passionate about the books, and we also realize that the show can't be for them alone.
What are some of the benefits of working with George?
Benioff: We have the great advantage of the four books and knowing ... roughly where the story goes. [There are] many different fears that we have with the show, but the long-term momentum of the show is not one of them.
Is there concern that doing a fantasy series will turn off part of the audience?
Benioff: To me, what's completely beguiling about George's book series - and hopefully our television series - is these characters and what's going to happen to them. It doesn't matter much to me what genre it falls into.
On TV: "Game of Thrones" debuts on HBO on Sunday at 9 p.m.