HBO officially cast Naomi Watts to star in the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel series on Tuesday, and fans are dying to know who she will be playing.
Watts joined the still untitled show officially on Monday, according to a report by Entertainment Weekly. She is set to star as “a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.”
That gives very little information to go on, as readers of the source novels will know. The prequel series is set to take place during The Long Night, a far-flung historical, nearly mythical time on the fictional continent of Westeros, when the White Walkers marched for the first time. The ancient time has hardly been discussed in HBO's TV adaptation, and has only been mentioned vaguely in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books.
Still, there is enough information out there to tantalize die-hard fans. Martin has written about The Long Night and the preceding Age of Heroes at length in his fictional history book The World of Ice and Fire. He makes it all the more complicated by adding in layers and layers of unreliable narrators. The book is written in the voice of a skeptical Maester of the Citadel, who doubts the oral histories of the First Men. He, in turn, comes from the intellectual tradition of the invading Andals, making his conclusions no less suspect.
As confusing and daunting as all this might sound, Martin clearly would not have bothered laying out the vast history of his world if it would not pay off in some of his future work. Therefore, dedicated fans can at least try and guess what might be coming their way from the bread crumbs of knowledge Martin has left for us.
HBO's new Game of Thrones prequel series has been picked up for a pilot order, with a series hopefully following soon after. It has been written by screenwriter Jane Goldman, with assistance from Martin himself. So far, all we know for sure is that it's set in the vast Westerosi time line — The Long Night, which took place approximately 8,000 years before the events of the main series. It begins filming in early 2019.
Here are some of the characters from The Age of Heroes and The Long Night that Watts could be playing in the upcoming show.
Let's begin with a possibility that is least likely, though perhaps most exciting to those who stand by the show's canon so far. The Red Priestess Melisandre has played an integral role in Game of Thrones, while her own history and origin have remained a secret. We do know, however, that she has powerful magic on her side, and in season 6, we learned that she is not as young as she appears.
When Melisandre removed the necklace around her throat, she transformed into an ancient woman, with loose grey skin and almost no hair. It is possible that the scheming witch we all love to hate is not just elderly, but ancient, dating back to the Long Night. The prequel series could, in theory, serve as a Melisandre origin story.
Another obvious theory for Watts' character is Nissa Nissa, the legendary wife of the hero Azor Ahai. In Asshai'i — a country in the far east, on the opposite side of the world from Westeros — The Long Night dominated mythology as well. According to their legends, it was conquered by Azor Ahai, the hero who sacrificed everything to create the ultimate weapon and hold the darkness at bay.
Tragically, this meant sacrificing his beloved wife, Nissa Nissa. In order to temper his magical sword, Lightbringer, Azor Ahai plunged it into the heart of his wife, imbuing it with their love.
This morbid story leaves a lot to be desired for a female protagonist, but perhaps that is the point. Watts could play a version of the mythical Nissa Nissa — one who is faced with responsibility, fanaticism and impending doom.
Back on more familiar territory, Watts could play the real life version of the legendary Elenei. In the oral histories of the First Men, Elenei was the daughter of the sea god and the goddess of the wind. She was a kind of Westerosi demi-god, with powers over nature and strong intuition.
In the legends, Elenei married Durran Godsgrief, the first Storm King from the house that would eventually become Baratheon. Her parents, the gods, were so furious when she wed a mortal, that they tried repeatedly to destroy Durran and tore down every castle he built. This legend ultimately explains why Storm's End is the strongest fortification in the Seven Kingdoms. It also relates to Brandon The Builder, the legendary Stark hero who will almost certainly play a role in the sequel.
In another distant fictional culture, Yi Ti, there was a long line of semi-immortal rulers known as the Great Empire of the Dawn. They built massive structures known as the Five Forts, as magestic as Westeros' Wall, and they have their own legends of The Long Night as well.
One of the empire's final rulers was the Amethyst Empress. She ruled for thousands of years, before her brother, The Bloodstone Emperor, overthrew her to seize control. In Yitish lore, this "Blood Betrayal" is what caused The Long Night.
A more directly canonical theory is that Watts will play Bran the Builder's daughter, the Stark maiden who fell in love with Bael the Bard. As Ygritte explained to Jon Snow in A Clash of Kings, Bael the Bard was an ancient king beyond the wall, who snuck into Winterfell to play a trick on Brandon Stark, the King of Winter. He stole away with Bran's only daughter, leaving house Stark without an heir.
As the story goes, the Stark maiden reappeared in her room nin months later with a baby boy in her arms. Her son with Bael became the new Lord of Winterfell, thereby infusing a little Free Folk blood into the lineage.
In keeping with the assumption that the story will center around the end of Age of Heroes, we could take a look at the mysterious Rose of Red Lake. An offspring of Garth the Greenhand, Rose was known as a skinchanger, who could take the form of Crane at will — a skill not unfamiliar to Game of Thrones fans. This, coupled with her association with Brandon of the Bloody Blade, leads many fans to assume she is the mother of Bran the Builder, and one of the progeniters of house Stark.
Casting Watts as Rose would keep the story centered around the Long Night, while expanding the world and leaving lots of room for new characters. It would also help demystify some of Martin's histories.
The only other character from Game of Thrones that might have been alive during the Long Night is Leaf, one of the Children of the Forest, who helped usher Bran Stark and the Reed siblings to the three-eyed Raven in the current series. Leaf claims to have walked among men for 200 years in A Dance With Dragons, though this does not necessarily mean she is 200 years old. She could have remained in hiding, with many of the other Children, after the Andals invaded and the pact with the First Men was broken.
Finally, it is very possible that the new series will eschew our assumptions about the gender of one or more legendary heroes. Based on characters like Brienne of Tarth and Arya Stark, we know that the women of Westeros can be just as fierce as the male warriors. Therefore, it could be that Watts is playing a version of the Starks' Bran The Builder, or the legendary Prince That Was Promised, Azor Ahai, who the histories merely misremember as a man. Even if that is not the case, we can be sure that the series will find her taking on a key role in mankind's battle against the White Walkers.