‘Game of Thrones’ prequel keeps dragons, adds variety

The Game of Thrones prequel will forge its own narrative path, with a new set of characters and a more diverse team behind the scenes.

House of the Dragon takes place two centuries before the events of the original series, which ended its eight-season hit in May 2019. The 10-episode prequel kicked off Sunday on HBO and will air on HBO Max.

The story focuses on the Targaryen family, made famous in Game of Thrones for Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys and her terrifying dragon. But don’t expect ‘House of the Dragon’ to be a remake of ‘Game of Thrones,’ actor Steve Toussaint says.

“It’s been done, and they’ve done it very well,” said Toussaint, who played the very wealthy Lord Collis Valerian. “You know you’re in that world, but you’re seeing a different story, a different character, a different motivation.”

New faces in the family include Prince Damon Targaryen, played by Matt Smith. The actor said his villain role was much more complicated than it looked when he first watched it.

“I think the reason I’m having fun is because he’s probably more than a villain,” he said. “I think there’s actually a lot of vulnerability and depth and inner madness out there. … It’s not black and white. It can be used with Daemon at any time.”


PHOTOS: ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel keeps dragons, adds variety


Based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood, the show was co-created by Martin and Ryan Condal, whose credits include the 2016-19 sci-fi drama Colony. Condal is executive producer and co-producer of director Miguel Sapochnik, who brings his experience from the Game of Thrones prequels to the prequels.

House of the Dragon, like its predecessors, focuses on family succession and ignores female heirs. But Sapochnik pointed to a key difference between the two series: The team making the prequels is more diverse, including a 50-50 ratio of male and female directors such as Sapochnik, Clare Kilner, Geeta Vasant Patel and Greg Yaitanes.

There’s a conscious push for inclusion behind the scenes, Sapochnik said.

“We’re really trying to hire as many female crew members as possible because we think it’s a very important shift that needs to be recognised, acknowledged, acted upon and maybe give opportunities to those who don’t,” he explained.

The team making “Dragon” is equally diverse, and – for the fantasy genre – has a relative abundance of women in the writer’s room. According to some female cast members, gender balance affects the show’s story and tone.

The series begins with a noble council that appoints Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) as heir to the Iron Throne, bypassing his cousin Princess Rhaenys Vallarian (Eve · Best). But Viserys must have his own heir, his brother Damon and Viserys’ daughter, Princess Rhaenyla’s dream of power (Emma D’Arcy as the adult version and Millie Alcock as the youth).

“You definitely don’t feel like a contraption or a prop, you don’t feel like a sexy chick or a mom,” says Olivia Cooke, who plays adult Alice Hightower, a longtime friend of Rhaenyra. “You feel like you have a mature character that’s really nourishing to play.”

The ensemble cast also includes Emily Kelly, Graham McTavish, Fabien Frankel, Reese Ifans and Sonoah Mizuno.

Kelly, who plays a young Alice, called the inclusion of women in every aspect of production a step “in the right direction” for the fantasy genre.

While nearly every female character faces misogyny, each “remains a fully-fledged three-dimensional female character,” Carey said. “They still have multiple other storylines and are far from that misogynistic one. They’re not just on the show for one purpose. I think that’s what makes it so special.”

“Dragon House” screenwriter Charmaine DeGraté said: “It was important for George[RR Martin, executive producer of the prequels]to do this. Female-led characters, female-led shows and female-led writers’ rooms are just some of the It elevates the storyline to a degree. It’s a great way to expand the universe.”

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