You might imagine with the world premiere of the first Game of Thrones spin-off just days away, the stars of House of the Dragon would be feeling the pressure. The reported $16-million-an-episode prequel is the first new addition to the Thrones universe since the much-debated ending of the main series – and it’s fair to say the anticipation from fans is pretty huge.
However, when Total Film meets Matt Smith and Paddy Considine at the junket ahead of the European premiere, there are no nerves in sight. Instead, the pair are at ease as they prepare to step out onto the global stage as the silver-haired Targyren brothers, Prince Daemon and King Viserys.
House of the Dragon explores the beginning of the end of the Targaryen dynasty as the house teeters on the edge of a civil war. Daemon and Viserys are right at the heart of this when their battle over the succession of the Iron Throne – as well as their clashing ideas of ruling – kick off the prequel series set some 200 years before the original show.
And while the blonde wigs were nowhere in sight when we spoke, the sibling dynamic was in full flow as the pair teased each other about everything from auditions to getting possessive over the Iron Throne. Here’s our Q&A below, edited for length and clarity.
Total Film: I think it’s fair to say that Viserys and Daemon have a complicated sibling relationship. There’s a lot of love there, but also a lot of conflict as well. How would you describe their dynamic?
Paddy Considine: They’re kind of opposites, aren’t they?
Matt Smith: [Starts humming ‘Whole Lotta Love’ by Led Zeppelin]
Considine: Yeah, there is. I think the dynamic is there because they are opposites in many ways. I think that Viserys is a more level character in a way. You know, he has responsibilities as the King and I think Daemon sometimes is a little bit problematic for his brother in that he’s pretty volatile at times or he might abuse this privilege here and there, which is something that Viserys does not approve of.
Smith: As you do as a younger brother, it’s one’s prerogative. It’s complicated.
Considine: Well, it is because they’re brothers and I’m torn between my duty as a king and my relationship as a brother.
Showrunner Ryan Condal told our sister publication SFX that The Crown and Succession were influences in the writers’ room. I was wondering what you thought of those references – is House of the Dragon a family power struggle?
Considine: The Crown and Succession? Well, Succession is natural, isn’t it? I think [family drama] is what this program is really about, you know? I know it’s got the epic scope and the dragons, but it’s a family drama. And that’s what hooks most people into most things anyway – it’s the relationships.
For Game of Thrones fans, the main touchpoint for the Targaryens is Daenerys – did either of you reach out to Emilia Clarke at all when you got cast?
Considine: I didn’t, no. I didn’t feel that. There was at one point I was talking to Miguel [Sapochnik, co-showrunner and GoT director] and he mentioned having a conversation but oddly, it wasn’t really necessary, to be honest with you. You know, and in almost a strange way, because they were like, 170 or 200 years after or whatever it is, there wasn’t anything really there. But the tone of the Targaryens had been set by Emilia.
Smith: So she’s your…
Considine: She’s my great, great, great, great, great, great, great granddaughter… [laughs] But my wig was made [from hers] – they got her hair and matched tonal wise and everything like that. And it sounds silly but even knowing that was in your hair, that was a pretty cool thing too – to have a little token of something from the future, from the original show as it were.
Definitely – and I guess you’re kind of trying to create a new thing. So while there’s a lot of pressure around this being the first Game of Thrones spin-off, was it quite conscious on your part to think this is a new thing we’re going to try and own this?
Considine: It was ours. As much as we pay reverence to the original and what it did, I feel that we were very much like, ‘But this is our journey. This is ours, we’ve got to own this. This is our experience.’ Even from some of the production sometimes, there were the odd comparisons that came up from time to time [to Game of Thrones]. And it was like, ‘Hang on a minute, this is us telling this story now.’ You can honor what went before so much and then at some point you’ve just got to do your job.
Smith: It’s a new set of actors as well. It’s a new world. It’s a new story.
Considine: But they set the bar high, you know, some really great actors and performances in the first series and they set the tone for all of that.
And with a new series comes a new and improved Iron Throne, which looks pretty lethal. Were there any mishaps or any issues on set?
Considine: No, it’s quite blunt. The only issue was if anybody sat on it without my permission. That was the issue.
Smith: Which I did…
Considine: But no, they’re all blunt. The worst thing was when you’d tread on a bit of it and it would snap, that was the most precarious part.
Smith: Is this all they’ve spent? [laughs]
You mentioned the problems arose when people sat on it, I’ve heard the other cast members say you were quite possessive of it…
Considine: Yes, I was, the Throne does possess you.
Smith: It’s traveled around a bit, hasn’t it?
Considine: Yeah, it’s a haunted item. You know that people have these haunted museums, and they have these artifacts like chairs or dolls. That’s what the Iron Throne is. Those are swords people have died upon. It’s a haunted seat, it’s a cursed item, the Iron Throne. It does possess you.
And what was the audition process like for both of you to land these parts? Was it quite secretive?
Smith: I had one screen test and it wasn’t that secretive really. You go in, you do it. Yeah, it was pretty normal actually. But, you skipped that bit, didn’t you Paddy?
Considine: I skipped that bit.
Smith: What’s mad is in my meeting, they were like, ‘Oh yeah, we do need you to read.’ [laughs]
Considine: I don’t know where that came from. I must just be lucky because I didn’t read, I just got offered it. So I’m like, that’s some leap of faith, you know, I’m glad.
Smith: No, that’s not a leap of faith, not with you, you’re such a great star.
Considine: I’m so shit at auditions, though. I’m not good at them.
Smith: Aren’t we all?
Considine: I find them a really unnatural thing to go into. I’ve directed stuff myself, and even making other people go through it is quite tricky. I try to give everybody enough time, but it’s a strange process. But I didn’t have to go through it luckily. But I must have lost a lot of work over the years because I won’t audition. It just doesn’t work for me. I’ll meet a director and talk to a director and I’ve done a few things. And it was brave of them [in House of the Dragon] because I’d never played a part like Viserys. But in that case, I was able to bring my own qualities to it and Miguel said, ‘You need to bring more Paddy into it.’ And I went, ‘Okay,’ and it just gave me license to tap into my own, not experiences, but emotions and things like that really to bring it to it and make him sort of human character.
That’s interesting you say that you don’t audition, Paddy, is it right that you turned down the original Game of Thrones series?
Considine: Well, this getting into a real mythical thing [laughs]. ‘And what part would you have been? Do you kick yourself?’ And I’m like, ‘No!’
Smith: Well what part would you have been?
Considine: I don’t know, I mean there isn’t one because they were all cast so well and it was great. And that’s the thing, it wasn’t like I was offered anything. I was just literally sent the first script, I think the first episode. I read it, and in full honesty here…
Smith: You thought it was rubbish?
Considine: No I couldn’t quite make head nor tail of it. And when someone sends you a script and says, ‘Oh just read any character and see how you react,’ I go, ‘Uhhh, what am I supposed to be looking at here?’ And then my agent at the time described the bones of it, you know. It’s about all these kingdoms and there’s a Throne. And I was just a bit like, ‘Oh, really?’ That’s not for me. [laughs]
Smith: Welcome to House of the Dragon, guys.
Considine: But I wouldn’t be Viserys Targyren now, would I? So it’s all meant to be.
House of the Dragon is available from August 21 on HBO in the US and exclusively on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW from August 22 in the UK.