It’s lunch hour in Wes­teros. More specif­i­cally, it’s fag-break time.

SFX - - Game of Thrones -

Long-haired war­riors stroke gin­gery beards and ex­hale cig­a­rette smoke into the damp air. Tall-walk­ing, earth-shak­ing Bri­enne of Tarth tucks into a poly­styrene box of stodge, a carb-heavy diet the bet­ter to march on the salad-munch­ing south­ern­ers of King’s Land­ing. The newly anointed King in the North, though, isn’t quite at bat­tle sta­tions. Jon Snow may be fully kit­ted out in war-coun­cil re­galia, but into his leather boots are tucked not a blade or two but an iPhone and 20 Marl­boro Lights.

It’s Septem­ber 2016 and at North­ern Ire­land’s Linen Mill Film and Tele­vi­sion Stu­dios, hid­den in the coun­try­side 25 miles from Belfast, it’s the calm be­fore the storm. Film­ing on sea­son seven of Game Of Thrones is in its early stages. Out here near the town of Ban­bridge, and in Belfast’s Ti­tanic Quar­ter, the vast army of cast and crew are hard at work film­ing episode two. Even in a trun­cated, seven-episode sea­son for HBO’s fire-breath­ing, rat­ings-top­ping TV jug­ger­naut, there’s still a moun­tain to climb. And, per­haps, a Moun­tain to re­turn to his skull-crush­ing ways.

In sea­son six’s thrilling cli­max, “The Winds Of Win­ter”, mul­ti­ple loose ends were tied up – and many knotty prob­lems teed up. Cer­sei Lan­nis­ter in­cin­er­ated the Sept of Baelor, and many of her ad­ver­saries, al­low­ing the now child­less queen to claim the Iron Throne. But for how long? Hav­ing tri­umphed over the Boltons at the Bat­tle of the Bas­tards, the Starks are busy unit­ing the fam­i­lies of the North un­der Jon Snow – the fam­i­lies obliv­i­ous to the newly un­cov­ered se­cret of the bas­tard Snow’s pa­ter­nal parent­age: he’s half Tar­garyen.

Mean­while, across the Nar­row Sea, Daen­erys Tar­garyen has fi­nally set sail for Wes­teros, mob-handed with dragons, Dothraki, Dor­nish, Un­sul­lied, Iron­born and, most dan­ger­ous of all, Tyrion Lan­nis­ter. What could pos­si­bly go right? In a cor­ri­dor off set, one of the men charged with wrestling these com­pet­ing nar­ra­tives on to screen is nurs­ing a cof­fee. How is it for writer/pro­ducer Bryan Cog­man, or­ches­trat­ing the convergence of these armies and fam­i­lies?

In many ways this sea­son is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent show – it’s sort of phase three

“Tremen­dously fun and hugely chal­leng­ing,” he replies cheer­fully. “I think in many ways this new sea­son is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent show. It’s sort of phase three of Thrones. Dany’s im­mi­nent ar­rival changes ev­ery­thing. So that was a lot of fun to play with. Worlds col­lid­ing is a good theme, I think, for this sea­son.”

Also col­lid­ing for the first time: many of the ac­tors, their sto­ry­lines and on­screen lo­cales of­ten leagues apart in the pre­vi­ous 60 episodes.

“Oh yeah, that’s just so much fun,” nods Cog­man. “They’ve all be­come re­ally good friends through the jun­kets. And the fact is, we’re all here film­ing [in­te­ri­ors] at the same time, so they’ve all got­ten to know each other over the years. They’ve just not had scenes to­gether – or in some cases, haven’t had scenes to­gether since the first few episodes of the show be­fore all the sto­ry­lines kind of broke off.

“So that’s been the great­est joy of the last three sea­sons, but es­pe­cially this sea­son: throw­ing all these char­ac­ters into the mix and see­ing how they bounce off each other. I think it’ll be re­ally fun for the au­di­ence as well.”

“Pre­pare my horse for the bat­tle, fleshy peas­ants!”

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