#Showbiz: Back to the reign of dragons

THE medieval-inspired environs of Westeros from the global smash hit series Game Of Thrones that captured the imaginations of viewers returns for more fantastical adventures with House Of The Dragon.

Expectations were high as fans flocked to check out the first episode of the HBO Original series which premiered on Aug 22.

It was reported that it drew close to 10 million viewers on television and the HBO Max streaming service.

This represents the largest audience for any new original series in the history of network, according to HBO.

It added that "House of Dragon" remained a top trending topic on Twitter for 14 hours on Monday.

Based on George R.R. Martin's Fire & Blood, the 10-episode series is set 200 years before the events of Game Of Thrones and focusses on the story of House Targaryen.

House of the Dragon stars Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke, Emma D'Arcy, Steve Toussaint, Eve Best, Fabien Frankel, Sonoya Mizuno and Rhys Ifans.

Cooke who plays Lady Alicent Hightower is the daughter of the Hand of the King, Otto Hightower (Ifans).

She's been best friends with Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (D'Arcy) since they were babies, growing up together because Rhaenyra is the daughter of the king and his heir to the throne.

Below, the English actress talks more about the new show and her character, who is part of the king's inner circle and known to be the most comely woman in the Seven Kingdoms.

What sort of person is she?

It depends which version of the character you're talking about. Because there are really two versions: there's the version that Emily Carey plays (younger version of Alicent) and then there's the version that I play.

In the version I play, I think she really has found her own autonomy within the straitjacket of her parameters and her role in the kingdom.

She's realising that she's got a lot more power than she thought she had. She thinks it's her role to politely guide and shape and nurture these men around her, whereas Rhaenyra has completely opposing views.


What did you like about the scripts?

In Game Of Thrones you've got Cersei, you've got Arya… they are really incredibly nuanced, meaty roles. This feels like it followed on in the same vein of those characters.

The scripts are really, really, really good. I think that's what always draws me to a project.

I hadn't seen Game of Thrones before I auditioned for the show, so it was just speaking to (executive producers and showrunners) Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal as well, finding out what they wanted to do, what was going to be different and what was going to be the same.

It just seemed exciting. I know this is a prequel, but it did seem really fresh as well.

How did you prepare for the role?

I got sent as many scripts as they had and then I binge-watched Game Of Thrones and read the book (Fire & Blood). The scripts and the book are kind of like a lovely marriage – you can read the book and then watch the series, and then it informs you about all these characters and vice versa.

What they extrapolated from the book was really exciting. The gift of this book is it's an oral history, based on various character's accounts, so a lot of it is quite unreliable.

So, the writers and then the actors can work within that, as long as the bones are there.


What was the scale of the production?

It was bizarre, because they actually built the Red Keep. So, I'm in my frock and all my hair and I'm walking in to the castle and you walk through the courtyard, you walk into the small council chambers, you walk out, you go up the stairs, you go round the balcony to the Queen's apartments, and you can come out again and go round into the King's apartment. Everything was there – so practical!

And then they had all this Targaryen tapestry on the walls, all unbelievably detailed. It was incredible and beyond what I could have imagined.

It sounds really clichéd but when you step on set you really do feel like you're in this fantasy world. It's really eerie in a way as well.

What would you recommend to a newcomer when encountering a dragon?

There's a lot of wind so maybe like, close your eyes. Don't do what I do when my character gets in front of a dragon – just run. Oh, and I'd recommend you hide behind something that seems fireproof.

What is Alicent's look and what was it like to be in those costumes and make-up?

Incredibly restrictive! It was my hair but then we had this really heavy weft to make it longer and honest to God, I feel like I really got a trapped nerve from wearing it!

And then you've got this gorgeous dress on but it's so heavy and it's balanced on just the tip of your shoulders. So it really causes a lot of pain, actually!

House of the Dragon is a prequel to Game Of Thrones. How does it relate to its predecessor?

It definitely is of the world, but I think it feels a lot more nuclear than Game Of Thrones. It's more insulated and claustrophobic – it surrounds just one family this season.

It's all about succession to the throne and the lengths these people will go to get what they want.

But I think it's just as sprawling, and just as cinematic as Game Of Thrones – we have Miguel Sapochnik, as our director and showrunner. He directed the Battle of the Bastards and The Long Night.

So you can imagine his aesthetic over the whole entire 10 episodes.

Stream or download House Of The Dragon on HBO GO

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