Season 8 is coming

We all know and love the show, but did you know the Game of Thrones books were originally meant to be written as a trilogy? Or how much the cast really earns per episode? Read on to learn interesting stats and facts about one of the biggest shows of our generation.

From the books to worldwide phenomenon

The mastermind behind the story, George R.R. Martin, didn’t set out to write a screenplay. He also didn’t anticipate the story would be as long as it is. He started writing the first Game of Thrones installment as part of a series called A Song of Ice and Fire in the early 90s. The first book, titled A Game of Thrones, was finally published in 1996. The series was only meant to be a trilogy, but is now set to be a seven-book epic, with five of the books available at the time of writing.

Today more than 70 million copies of the books have been sold, translated into 47 languages, according to WSWS. Given it takes so long for Martin to write a book, many fans are wondering when he’ll finish the series.

HBO optioned the rights to the books in 2007 and David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, both of whom were first-time show show-runners (Time), set out to bring the books to life. While the show has earned critical acclaim now, it didn’t start with a bang. In fact, it was reported that the pilot episode was a flop, given Benioff and Weiss initially misjudged how much planning it would take to do the story justice.

10 years on, the show has earned 47 Primetime Emmy Awards and 5 Screen Actors Guild Awards. The show also holds the Emmy Awards record for a scripted television series and was listed by the Writers Guild of America as the 40th “Best Written” series in television history.

Popularity by the numbers

Unlike some well-awarded screenplays, Game of Thrones is not just a show for critics. It’s one of the most popular shows around the world. Game of Thrones is HBO’s most-watched series ever, according to MarketWatch. Season 7 broke records when 16.5 million total viewers tuned in to the finale. It was also the most pirated show in Q3 2016, accounting for 13.9% of all piracy activity in the quarter (Statista).

Interestingly, Forbes reported the most recent season saw a spike in Asian viewership. Compared to season 6, the first episode of season 7 saw an increase of 50% in Singapore, 47% in the Philippines and 24% in Taiwan.

Given the hype surrounding the show, there’s always a lot of plot speculation based on available information, particularly from the movements of actors and the physical sets. In order to combat leaks, the producers have taken extreme preventative measures to make sure major plot developments are not spoiled. For example, GamesRadar reported Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, filmed over 15 hours of fake scenes for season 7 to prevent spoilers. Ahead of the upcoming season, HBO’s president of programming Casey Bloys announced several different endings were shot to prevent the ending hitting the press before the finale airs.


With great success comes crazed fans and Game of Thrones is no exception. Since the show debuted in 2011, over 2,000 babies have been named Arya, 241 named Khaleesi, over 100 Daenerys and almost 100 named Tyrion (The Cheat Sheet).

An avid fan even spent US$27,000 on a cake featuring the character Tyrion Lannister sitting on the Iron Throne. It weighed 70 pounds, according to the bakery that made the cake.

In 2013, HBO partnered with Ommegang Brewery to release a Game of Thrones-inspired beer called Iron Throne Blonde Ale. 14,000 cases were produced. All of which sold out immediately, according to Marketplace.

Cost of production

The production budget has grown season on season. In season 2, each episode cost an average of US$6 million to produce, but this figured jumped to US$10 million by season 6 and season 8 is reported to cost US$15 million per episode (CNBC). Historically, Game of Thrones is the fourth most expensive TV show produced, tied with Friends (Statista).

In the second season, The Battle of the Blackwater cost an eye-watering $8 million, according to Marketplace. Cersei’s walk of shame (or walk of atonement) cost US$50,000 a day for 4 days, according to a 2014 TMZ report.

The cast makes more money per episode than anybody else in TV history (Marie Claire). For the last two seasons of the show, actors Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are set to receive their standard US$1.1 million salary per episode, as well as a percentage of syndication payments paid whenever the show is aired in 170 countries.

However, not everyone has cashed in as the seasons have rolled on. George R.R. Martin has actually earned less over time. From May 2011 to May 2012, Martin earned US$15 million for the year, but in 2015 he received US$9.5 million, according to Statista.

Where is it filmed?

Fun fact: Game of Thrones has brought more than US$224 million to Northern Ireland in the form of filming expenses, tourism and more, according to Marketplace.

Blood and guts

Games of Thrones is known for its shocking violence, but just how nasty does the show get? The answer varies by season. Here are all the gory details:

The actors

Due to its sprawling and complex plot, Game of Thrones has never had a character appear in every single episode. In fact, only three characters (Cersei, Joffrey and Tyrion) have made it into every episode of a season, according to Cheat Sheet.

But which characters are on screen the most? In the first 6 seasons, Tyrion Lannister took the top spot (4 hours, 53 minutes), followed by Jon Snow (4 hours, 28 minutes) and Daenerys Targaryen (3 hours, 41 minutes).

Unlike many blockbuster TV shows, there’s only one American actor in the main cast, Peter Dinklage, who was earmarked by Martin to play Tyrion from the start. However, that wasn’t the case for many of the characters. In fact, Daenarys Targaryen and Caitlin Stark were only recast after the original pilot (GamesRadar). We almost had a different Jon Snow too, with the actor who plays Ramsay Bolton almost being cast in the role.

Lena Headey, who plays Cersei, landed the role thanks to Dinklage, who referred his friend (Brightside). He’s not the only cast member Headey knew before the show: she actually used to date Jerome Flynn who plays the cutthroat larrikin Bronn (Harpers Bazar).

Here are some other fun facts you might be interested in:

  • Peter Vaughan, who played Maester Aemon Targaryen, was partially blind in real life.
  • Quite a few female characters, many of which played prostitutes, are current or former porn stars, according to the NY Post.
  • Some of the actors come from well-known families. Oona Chaplin, who plays Rob Stark’s wife, is Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter (ScoopWhoop).
  • You might also be interested to know that Alfie Allen, who plays Theon Greyjoy, is singer Lily Allen’s brother.
  • There’s also a lot of cast crossover with the Harry Potter movies: 14 of the actors who’ve appeared on Game of Thrones are ex-Harry Potter cast members.

Brace yourselves, season 8 is coming

Can’t wait for April 15? Here’s everything we know about the much anticipated final season:

  • First episode is called the Crypts of Winterfell, according to GQ.
  • It took 55 nights to film the outdoor battle scenes at Winterfell alone, followed by weeks in the studio to wrap it up (GQ).
  • The final season could have been made into three feature-length movies.
  • HBO vetoed this idea and gave a budget of US$15 million per episode for season 8.
  • A battle scene in season 8 took 6 months and required ecological surveys to drain and flatten with 11,000 square metres of concrete, painted over with camouflage effect.
  • By the end of season 8, a total of 73 episodes will have aired.

How to watch Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones might be coming to a close, but there’s still plenty to look forward to. According to MarketWatch, HBO has five possible spin-off shows in the works, so maybe our watch hasn’t ended.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to tune into season 8, check out our guide on where to watch it in Canada.

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