While at the HBO portion of the TCA Press Tour, President of Programming Michael Lombardo and Chairman and CEO Richard Plepler took some time to talk about new and returning programming. During the interview, they spoke about how they’re not at all concerned about Game of Thrones getting further ahead than George R.R. Martin’s writing, that they plan to stick with the series until the story is finished, that Nic Pizzolatto’s first two scripts for the new season of True Detective are even more exciting than the first season, that they expect a casting announcement to be made in the next week, how they feel things are going with both Silicon Valley and The Leftovers, their strategy for drama, going forward, the progress of Westworld, and the status of the Ryan Murphy series, Open. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
MICHAEL LOMBARDO: Obviously, George is an integral part of the creative team on this, so with respect to next season, every step and every move is being choreographed, very closely, with him. Certainly after next year, we will have to figure it out with George, if his book’s not finished. We’re in conversations with him, but we’re not concerned about it.
RICHARD PLEPLER: And of equal importance, David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] are in constant conversation with him. They’re working, as they always have, very closely to model the future. So, we’re not losing any sleep over that, at all.
You’ve picked up Game of Thrones for Seasons 5 and 6, which are going to cover the next book. Is there anything you can conceive of, that would prevent HBO from carrying out the entire run of the story?
LOMBARDO: We’re committed to it, and Dan and Dave are committed to it. So, as long as David and Dan are in, as they are, we’re happy.
RICHARD PLEPLER: Our line to George has always been, “You keep writing, and we’ll keep making the show.”
So, just because you haven’t picked up beyond Season 6, it’s no indication that there is a possibility of it ending there?
LOMBARDO: No, we’re not talking, at this point, about ending the show in the next two years.
What can you say about the first two scripts for the new season of True Detective?
LOMBARDO: The two scripts that we have are – and I hate to jinx it — more exciting than the first season. Nic [Pizzolatto] is an incredibly talented writer, and he’s blown us away with the first two episodes. We’re in conversations now, on the cast. I assume at least some announcements will be happening in the next week.
LOMBARDO: We’re really pleased with both of them. I think Silicon Valley is an unexpected delight and joy. With comedy, it’s tough to find something that’s smart, fresh and funny, and casting is critical. It’s been a really happy experience. The press responded to it and the audience responded to it, and we couldn’t be happier. And The Leftovers is really a terrific show. I think Damon [Lindelof] is one of the most talented writer-showrunners out there. I think it was a big swing. The first episode is already up around 7 million viewers. It’s a tough show, in the sense that it deals with some painful and challenging human emotions, like pain, despair and sadness, but creatively, the show is really exceptional.
Both True Blood and Boardwalk Empire will conclude their runs this year, leaving you with a vacuum in the drama line-up. What is your strategy for drama, going forward?
LOMBARDO: The truth is, we respond to quality. The lesson for us, from True Detective, is that sometimes it comes in different forms. Sometimes it’s more of an anthology series than a more traditional series. Sometimes it’s in a mini-series form. What we’ve definitely learned is when quality comes, don’t worry about the package that it’s in. The truth of the matter is that you hope your choices and your development leads to a mix of things. We’re about to pilot a show that you’d call a franchise show, with Westworld. And we have a number of other projects poised to go forward that are more traditional, grounded dramas. What we’ve always bet on is variety and quality, and that’s what we’ll do going forward, as well.
LOMBARDO: We hope that we’re going to start shooting this summer. We’re casting right now, and announcements will come out when those deals happen. It’s similar to the film, only in construct. Obviously, it takes place sometime in the unspecified future, in an amusement park populated by robots. Beyond that, it’s its own thing. The script is one of the more exciting scripts we’ve read, in a very, very long time. Tonally, it’s very different. At the same time, it has some of the basic elements that make the idea of it really exciting.
What is the status of the Ryan Murphy series, Open?
LOMBARDO: Ryan is in New Orleans doing American Horror Story. Our hope is that, in the fall, when the actors become available to do some more shooting on the pilot, that we can try to figure it out. Our experience with Ryan has been nothing but exciting and productive, so we’d love nothing more than to figure out something with the show. We both agree that there’s some stuff that needs to be done.