Ian McShane is coming back to HBO, but this time he’ll be leagues away from the Wild West. Per EW, the Deadwood alum has signed on to join the cast of Game of Thrones for Season 6, marking the actor’s return to the network where he first became a breakout star. Details on McShane’s character are being kept tightly under wraps, but the report notes that his role will be “of key importance” to the series despite a relatively small amount of screen time during Season 6.
Production on the new season just recently got underway, and this is perhaps the most anticipated season yet since showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss caught up to George R.R. Martin’s books at the end of Season 5 and are thus venturing into uncharted territory. This could explain the secrecy surrounding McShane’s role, as he may be playing a character who hasn’t yet been revealed in the Song of Ice and Fire book series. Or he could also be playing a character who’s not in Martin’s books, but is instead a creation of Benioff and Weiss’ as they begin plotting their endgame.
HBO confirmed last week that the current plan is for Game of Thrones to run for two more seasons past six, making Season 8 the show’s last—though the network hopes Benioff and Weiss change their minds, and is understandably open to the idea of a prequel series after Game of Thrones ends.
Little is known about Season 6 so far, beyond the fact that Isaac Hempstead Wright’s Bran Stark is returning after taking Season 5 off (with Hodor in tow, we presume), and the is he/isn’t he debate over Jon Snow continues.
McShane is no stranger to the fantasy genre, having appeared in the films Jack the Giant Slayer, Hercules, and Snow White and the Huntsman over the past few years. He’s also an esteemed actor with a higher profile than some of the folks that Game of Thrones has cast over the years, so could he be filling a role that fits into the show’s endgame somehow? Could he be playing the “Big Bad” of the series, the boss of last season’s Night King? Or is he just another in a round of hardened politicians/rulers that we’ve seen on the series thus far? We’ll find out when the HBO series returns next spring. Let the speculation begin…