Q&A at Oxford Union: Sex, Piracy, Eunuchs, and When the Books Will Run Out


John Bradley as Samwell Tarley and Kit Harrington as Jon Snow. (c) HBO.

Oxford University’s debating society, the Oxford Union, asked Kit Harrington, John Bradley, and HBO showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff everything we want to know: how they feel about sex and piracy, when the show will run out of book runway, and why John Bradley wants to play a eunuch.

How important is sex in the way they tell the story? The showrunners noted that when they pitched the show to HBO they included A Song of Ice and Fire‘s steamy scenes and its graphic violence as part of the pitch. As Benioff mentions, ASOIAF is not Lord of Rings — although it certainly is influenced by it — and unlike Lord of the Rings, ASOIAF has sex in it.

How do they feel about Game of Thrones being the most pirated show in the world? Dan Weiss has very mixed feelings. He stated that while it is flattering that so many people want to watch it, it will be a problem if the show doesn’t make its money back because so many people are pirating it. Admittedly, this gave me a fearful flashback to HBO’s staggeringly good Rome, which was cancelled after Season 2 due to production costs. David Benioff mentioned it is “deeply gratifying” that the show is such a phenomena regardless of how people obtain it.

The showrunners said that John Bradley’s performance has made Samwell Tarly one of their favorite characters to write. They also noted that after they shot the initial pilot, there was a sweaty period of about four months when they weren’t sure if HBO would pick up the show. Consequently, the success of the show still feels surreal to them. (It’s really nice to hear they are still grounded.) Admittedly, I was thrilled to hear David Benioff name Tywin as the character he would most like to be — and cite the time when Tywin asks Tyrion why it is any worse to kill a dozen people at dinner than 10,000 people on the battlefield. David said he really enjoys Tywin’s real politik (as do I).

Dan Weiss discussed how much they enjoyed creating a fantasy world that is grounded in history and how much fun it was to cherry pick the historical bits they wanted to use. They said George can talk for hours about the Battle of Thermopylae, the Wars of the Roses, and all things historical — and history informs the shape and complexity of GRRM’s world.

How did the showrunners convince GRRM to let them create the show? They bought him a big steak with butter and chatted for about four hours. Because neither writer had produced anything, it wasn’t their experience that convinced GRRM but rather their passion. GRRM asked them who was Jon Snow’s mother. They were terrified because they realized that if they answered incorrectly they could blow a chance to work on the project they wanted to work on more than any they had encountered to date. When they gave their response, GRRM was completely expressionless for about nine seconds, then he smiled, finished the steak, and said yes.

Here’s the video – enjoy!


Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."


  • Reply April 14, 2015


    This is great Jamie! Many thanks for this.
    On a side note, there are not enough words to express how much I love John Bradley…..

  • Reply April 17, 2015

    Jamie Adair

    Oh I know. Isn’t he adorable? It doesn’t hurt that Sam is such a great character.

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