Ian McShane Joins ‘Game of Thrones’ in Mystery Role

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Nearly a decade after HBO’s critically acclaimed Western drama Deadwood rode off in the sunset, series star Ian McShane will return to the network for a guest role in the cable giant’s biggest show: Game of Thrones. Entertainment Weekly is reporting that the British actor is signed on for a key role in the sixth season of the fantasy series.

McShane, who won an Emmy for his portrayal of sinister saloon owner Al Swearengen on Deadwood, is joining Game of Thrones in a role that will have “a relatively small amount of screen-time during the season,” but will carry some major weight and will be “of key importance.” There are still a handful of characters from the books that have not been introduced on the show – could McShane possibly be Aeron Damphair or Euron Greyjoy?

Production has already begun on the sixth season of Game of Thrones, but with the show not scheduled to return until spring of 2016, it might be awhile before we learn more about McShane’s involvement.

But another character that has been the subject of intense scrutiny has been Jon Snow – he was presumably killed during the fifth season finale, but actor Kit Harrington has been spotted in Belfast where the show is currently filming, leading to speculation that we haven’t seen the last of Ned Stark’s bastard.

Plans for Game of Thrones were rumored to be envisioned as a seven-season run, but at a recent TCA panel, HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo indicated that eight seasons was more likely. Here’s what he said, according to EW:

“Seven-seasons-and-out has never been the [internal]conversation… The question is: How much beyond seven are we going to do? Obviously we’re shooting six now, hopefully discussing seven. [Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss are] feel like there’s two more years after six. I would always love for them to change their minds, but that’s what we’re looking at right now.”

That sounds pretty reasonable: author George R.R. Martin is planning two additional books in the series on which the show is based, but previous seasons have shown that the material is a bit too dense to squeeze an entire volume’s worth into a single 10-episode season. Eight seasons sounds like the right amount of time to give everything a bit of breathing room.

We’ll continue to keep you posted as more news on the sixth season of Game of Thrones becomes available. If you want to catch more of Ian McShane in the meantime, you can see him in a recurring role on Showtime’s Ray Donovan.

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