- Warning: Spoilers ahead for “House of the Dragon” season one, episode two.
- In HBO’s new “Game of Thrones” prequel, four characters were cast with two different actors each.
- This is so we can see the characters when they’re “truly children” and then jump to their adulthood.
In HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the cast of teen characters like Arya Stark or Daenerys Targaryen were played by the same actor from the pilot to the finale. But for “House of the Dragon,” cocreator Ryan Condal said a decision was made “early on” to have a set of two actors play any character who starts out in the show as a child.
“It’s a conceit but I think it does work, having watched it a bunch of times,” Condal said during a roundtable interview with Insider ahead of the series premiere.
“The people that are truly children in this are the ones that get recast,” he said. “And the people that are already adults when we meet them, we age them up through hair and makeup and sometimes the actors change their voice.”
In the first two episodes of “House of the Dragon,” we’ve met four of these child characters: Rhaenyra Targaryen, Alicent Hightower, and twins Laena and Laenor Velaryon. Around the halfway point of season one, the storyline will jump forward by 10 years and we’ll see the same characters played by a whole new set of actors.
Below is a list of the characters and actors we currently know about who will swap into adult versions later in the show:
- Rhaenyra is played by Milly Alcock when she’s 14 years old, and by Emma D’Arcy in her late 20s
- Alicent is played by Emily Carey when she’s 14 years old, and by Olivia Cooke in her late 20s
- Laena is played by Nova Fouellis-Mose when she’s 12 years old, and by Nanna Blondell in her early 20s
- Laenor is played by Theo Tate when he’s 12 years old, and by John Macmillan in his early 20s
The effect of this approach was rather clear in Sunday night’s new episode. King Viserys (played by 48-year-old Paddy Considine) has to choose a new wife, and weighs the choice between Laena and Alicent.
When speaking with young Laena, Viserys seems visibly uncomfortable with how childlike she is. The girl even tells the King that her mother said she’d be able to wait to have sex until she’s 14 (and presumably started puberty and is capable of getting pregnant).
In the end, Viserys chooses Alicent to be his new wife. But Alicent is just a slightly older child — just 14 years old to be exact, two years older than Laena.
Alicent is polite, and better at easy conversations and flattery with the King, but she’s also clearly uncomfortable with her father’s request that she spends so much time alone with her best friend’s father. She’s constantly picking at her nails and cutting into the flesh around them when she’s alone with him.
Alicent also seems particularly perturbed when she’s asked to keep their little meetings a secret from Rhaenyra, Viserys’ daughter and Alicent’s best friend.
When King Viserys tells his Small Council and Rhaenyra that he plans to wed Alicent, both girls have tears in their eyes. Though marriage at such a young age and with a significant age gap is common practice in the fictional Westerosi society drummed up by author George R.R. Martin, “House of the Dragon” is focusing on the damaging effects this practice has on the young girls who are preyed upon for their assumed ability to give birth to as many children as possible (and as soon as possible).
Despite Viserys calling his 14-year-old daughter “a woman grown” in the episode, Condal and the team have designed the episode to make it clear that neither Rhaenyra nor Alicent feel prepared for the adult burden of marriage, childbirth, or ruling because they are still children themselves. Both of their mothers are dead, and their respective fathers do not truly support and love them as they should.
So what change in dynamics will this new marriage bring to House Targaryen? Fans will have to wait and see. New episodes of “House of the Dragon” premiere Sundays on HBO at 9 p.m. ET.