Game of Thrones will have fewer episodes in season 7, but those episodes will feature more of the show’s stars than ever before. Game of Thrones season 7 promises to be more epic than ever, with the show’s budget spread across seven one-hour episodes instead of the usual ten. More epic means more impressive settings, bigger battle scenes and, most importantly of all, much more gigantic and fearsome dragons.

In addition to featuring more action and visual effects than ever before, season 7 also promises to deliver more scenes that allow the series’ primary characters a chance to shine, as long-gestating storylines finally begin paying off. In fact, the series’ main cast members were somewhat taken aback by how much extra they had to do in season 7 versus past seasons.

EW chatted with some of the stars of Game of Thrones about their season 7 workload and discovered that, far from getting a break thanks to the lower episode count, they’d actually been called upon more than ever before. Emilia Clarke, who plays Queen of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen, expressed surprise at how much her character shows up in the new scripts:

“When I first read this season I thought: ‘Damn, I gotta learn some lines!’ We’re actually filming longer now. I don’t know how that’s happening.”

Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, also noted his own increased workload:

“I’ve worked more days this season than I have in quite some time.”

Tyrion Lannister Peter Dinklage Game of Thrones Game of Thrones Stars Have More Screen Time in Season 7

Showrunner D.B. Weiss gave a sensible explanation for why the show’s stars are appearing in more scenes this season. Turns out, the carnage unleashed last season – carnage that claimed major characters like Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) – is a big factor: “You kill a couple dozen characters, the people who are left by default need to carry more dramatic weight.”

In addition to the thinning-of-the-herd effect that sets in as major characters get bumped off, Weiss cites the natural progression of the narrative as another reason we’ll be seeing more of the main characters than ever before in season 7:

“As the worlds start to converge the characters who haven’t met each other before start to meet each other and there are more main characters together in each other’s storylines than ever before. Ever since Tyrion crossed the Narrow Sea and met Dany that’s been the general direction. And having them on set together is a real privilege for us.” 

house bolton game of thrones Game of Thrones Stars Have More Screen Time in Season 7

Though it’s tough to see great characters like Ramsay Bolton and Margaery Tyrell get the axe, there is a great advantage in clearing those characters away and having more time for Dany, Tyrion, Cersei, Jon Snow and the Stark kids. When all is said and done, those few main characters are the ones we’ve been following the longest and are the most invested in, so as the series heads into the home-stretch these are naturally the people we want to see. Tyrion especially has seemed under-utilized over the last couple seasons, so it’s great to hear that the character is getting more screen time now.

At times over the last few seasons of Game of Thrones it has felt like there was too much filler, too many scenes featuring characters we knew would ultimately not be central to the narrative. Now with things accelerating toward the big climax, it’s good to know that the action will be getting more epic, and that our favorite characters will be more front-and-center than ever.

Next: Game of Thrones Officially Sets Final Season Episode Count

Game of Thrones season 7 premieres July 16 on HBO.

Source: EW

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