Inside “The House of the Dragon,” This Year’s Most Anticipated Show

DUBAI: Few TV shows (or movies, or any other type of media) have had such a cultural impact as “Game of Thrones”. Throughout its eight-year run, which began in 2011, the sprawling fantasy series based on the books by George RR Martin has captivated audiences around the world (for both positive and negative reasons) and its influence continues to grow. still makes itself felt on television and in cinema. Now, just over three years after its last episode aired, HBO has finally prepared a follow-up to its most popular series: ‘House of the Dragon’ – a prequel set hundreds of years earlier, which will be broadcast on OSN in the Middle East on August 22.

The world has changed, however. When “Game of Thrones” debuted, there was no such thing. For many, the series was the first piece of fantasy that thrilled them – propulsive, gripping, and uncompromising storytelling that introduced viewers to the existence of ice monsters and dragons. A decade later, there has been a litany of direct imitators, none of whom have managed to emulate his success. So why this one?

Emma D’Arcy and Matt Smith in “The House of the Dragon”. (HBO)

“There have been many attempts to capture the magic of ‘Game of Thrones’,” says ‘House of the Dragon’ co-creator and co-showrunner Ryan J Condal. “And a lot of shows that only did one or two seasons, and that’s it. There’s clearly a pattern of people wanting something like ‘Game of Thrones,’ but [the imitators] had to make it different. We are lucky not to have this problem. The more “Game of Thrones” we are, the better.”

“House of the Dragon” shouldn’t be seen simply as a carbon copy of its predecessor, however. “Game of Thrones” had dozens of main characters, with the two main ones – Daenerys Targaryen and Aegon Targaryen (who believed himself to be Jon Snow for the most part) – not even meeting until the end. “House of the Dragon” is much zoomed in, centering on four characters from the same Targaryen family – a mercurial group with pale white hair and dragon’s blood running through their veins – 200 years before Daenerys was born.

The central vanity is, however, pure “GoT”. A peacetime king – Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) – is unable to produce a male heir, leaving his brash and unpredictable brother Prince Daemon as his most likely successor. Viserys, however, has other plans, thinking that perhaps his daughter Princess Rhaenyra (played by Emma D’Arcy as an adult, Milly Alcock as a teenager) could become the kingdom’s first queen. Her best friend, Lady Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke as an adult, Emily Carey as a teenager), however, seems to have her eyes on the king herself.

Olivia Cooke as Lady Alicent. (HBO)

“I think what made us so interesting was the idea that you can explore the Targaryens as a dynasty and as a family instead of just one person. (We) can show you what Westeros was like when the Targaryens were at the height of their power and influence, when they had 17 dragons to discourage other houses from contesting the throne. And we see a wide range of different Targaryens – princes and princesses, firstborns and secondborns – all of whom have their own internal lives, wants, needs, and identities,” says co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik.

“What you realize is that it’s like any other family,” he continues. “It’s made up of a complex array of people who all react to things differently. There is no Targaryen archetype. There’s nature and nurture involved – how they develop as people and how they react to different things. They’re all real, complex people with gray at heart, and that’s why people tune in week in and week out to follow these hopefully deeply interesting and compelling characters.

Leading the pack is Paddy Considine, an actor who put on some of the best, albeit under-hyped, performances in recent history, including 2003’s “In America”, 2004’s “Dead Man’s Shoes” and ” Submarine” from 2010, and is finally given the major role it’s always deserved – something the show’s creators have seen before it.

Paddy Considine as King Viserys. (HBO)

“I was the first actor to take part, which was a huge leap of faith on the part of Miguel, Ryan and HBO. The fact that I didn’t even have to audition was a big gamble, really. Because I have a cynical side, my first question was, ‘Well, who refused? Who doesn’t want to?’ And they said, ‘Nobody. It’s yours. We’re coming straight to you. And that’s a good way to get me in, because I was very flattered by that, I was really honored. Honestly, I was,” says Considine.

Matt Smith, who has already found huge success for his runs as the lead of BBC mainstay ‘Doctor Who’ and Prince Philip in the first two seasons of Netflix smash ‘The Crown’, emerges as the star most recognizable in the series, with his trademark charisma on full display as a brash and brilliant demon.

“I loved his unpredictability,” Smith says. “That’s one of the things that really drew me to Daemon in the first place. You never really know where he’s going to go, even as an actor. It gives you a lot of invention and lets you play It’s good when you’re an actor and you’re not sure where the scene is going to take you. I absolutely loved it. I had such a good time.

Ryan J Condal is the co-creator and co-showrunner of “House of the Dragon”. (HBO)

Smith may have been having fun, but the shoot was grueling. It started in April 2021 and didn’t end until February 2022, filming across the UK, Spain and California.

“Nothing prepares you for filming. I walked in with my shoulders back and my head held high. A year later, I crawled on my stomach,” says Considine.

“Game of Thrones,” of course, was a show with massively popular female characters, an aspect that kept it relevant as the cultural paradigm shifted, with Danaerys Targaryen becoming a symbol of empowered women around the world. “House of the Dragon” picks up that slack and runs with it, focusing primarily on its main female characters, Princess Rhaenyra and Lady Alicent.

For the female stars of the series, agreeing with the showrunners on how women would be portrayed in the violent and sexist world in which it is set was of paramount importance from day one.

Milly Alcock (left) and Emily Carey. (HBO)

“Olivia and I started talking very early with Miguel Sapochnik,” says D’Arcy. “One of the questions I asked when I came on the show was, ‘How do you make sure you’re telling a story from their point of view, when we’re in a world that doesn’t offer them ‘space ?”

The conversations went better than expected, reveal the two stars.

“Miguel was incredibly receptive and really generous about it all. He gave us the space to explore these characters,” Cooke says.

“Basically, Miguel is really aware that he’s not a woman,” adds D’Arcy. “He was very willing to defer to us, if something came up in the text. If you have a question, you have every right to question it. It was a collaborative process.

About Wesley V. Finley

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