The fantasy TV series Game of Thrones was renewed for a third season by the U.S. cable channel HBO on April 10, 2012, nine days after the second season's premiere. Like the other seasons, the third season will consist of ten episodes. It will be based roughly on the first half of A Storm of Swords, the third of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin, of which the series is an adaptation. Production began in July 2012, and the season will premiere on March 31, 2013.
Game of Thrones rapidly became a critical and commercial success after it started airing in April 2011. A few days after ratings for the second season's premiere, "The North Remembers", hit a series high of 8.3 million viewers, HBO announced the show's renewal for a third season. Prior to that announcement, there had been rumors and reports that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss planned to shoot seasons three and four simultaneously. Benioff said that this would be very efficient, but impossible to write.
The ten episodes of the third season are to be longer than the previous seasons', about 56 or 57 minutes as opposed to about 52.
The third season will be based on the first half of the novel A Storm of Swords. Benioff had previously said that A Storm of Swords would need to be adapted in two seasons on account of its length. Benioff and Weiss also noted that they thought of Game of Thrones as an adaptation of the novel series as a whole, rather than of individual books, which gave them the liberty to move scenes back and forth across books according to the requirements of the screen adaptation. According to Benioff, the third season will contain a particularly memorable scene from A Storm of Swords, the prospect of filming which was part of their motivation to adapt the novels for television in the first place.
David Benioff noted during the airing of the second season that they would delay the introduction of several key characters first appearing in A Clash of Kings (e.g. Jojen and Meera Reed) until the third season, citing the large number of characters already introduced in season two. Dan Weiss added that they couldn't afford to have people "waiting around" for their characters to become central to the plot.
New cast members, most of which were announced at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con, include:
- Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm, a eunuch soldier, captain of the "Unsullied"
- Mackenzie Crook as Orell Skinchanger, a Wildling
- Richard Dormer as Beric Dondarrion, the leader of the "Brotherhood Without Banners". Dondarrion, played by David Michael Scott, briefly appeared in the first season's episode "A Golden Crown".
- Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei, a Naathi servant of Daenerys Targaryen
- Tara Fitzgerald as Selyse (Florent) Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon's wife. Selyse, played by an unnamed extra, briefly appeared in the second season's first episode, "The North Remembers".
- Dan Hildebrand as Kraznys mo Naklaz, a wealthy slaver of the Ghiscari city of Astapor.
- Kristofer Hivju as Tormund Giantsbane, a Wildling raider
- Ciarán Hinds as Mance Rayder, the Wildling "King-Beyond-The-Wall".
- Kerry Ingram as Shireen Baratheon, the daughter of Stannis and Selyse
- Paul Kaye as Thoros of Myr, a red priest with the "Brotherhood Without Banners"
- Anton Lesser as Qyburn, a former maester of the Citadel
- Philip McGinley as Anguy, an archer with the "Brotherhood Without Banners"
- Tobias Menzies as Edmure Tully, Catelyn Stark's brother
- Diana Rigg as Olenna (Redwyne) Tyrell, the "Queen of Thorns", Margaery and Loras Tyrell's grandmother
- Iwan Rheon as "Boy"
- Clive Russell as Brynden Tully, the "Blackfish", Catelyn's uncle
- Thomas Sangster as Jojen Reed and Ellie Kendrick as Meera Reed, two young Crannogman siblings, children of Howland Reed, a Stark bannerman
- Ed Skrein as Daario Naharis, a Tyroshi mercenary captain
- Ramon Tikaram as Prendahl ze Ghezn, captain of the 'Stormcrows' mercenary company
Other new characters will include Vargo Hoat, the leader of the mercenary group "Brave Companions". The musicians Will Champion of Coldplay and Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol will make cameo appearances. Swedish kickboxer and stuntman Rickard Nordstrand will portray a soldier of the "Unsullied”, and Little Bart will be the bear fought in the pit at Harrenhal.
Dominic West was offered a role in season 3, but turned it down.
The filming of the third season began in early July 2012, and concluded with the wrap of the unit filming in Iceland on 24 November 2012. Filming in Iceland, for scenes in five of the season's ten episodes, took place near Akureyri and Lake Mývatn. It lasted eight days, as opposed to nearly a month for season 2.
The production was again based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and continued to receive support from the Northern Ireland Screen fund. Croatia, Iceland, and Morocco were also named as additional filming locations.
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