Are you ready to delve right back into the “Game of Thrones” universe? In the prequel “House of the Dragon”, viewers will get to witness the downfall of House Targaryen, civil war, and of course, lots of fire-breathing action from the dragons. In addition, fans will also be introduced to many new characters – one of which is Rhaenys Targaryen.
Like many of the other cast, Eve Best had never watched “Game of Thrones” before signing on to join “House of the Dragon”. Here, the British actress talks about the nuances of her character Rhaenys, prepping for the role and getting honest about her dragonriding experience. Scroll down to read more.
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Q: Who are you playing in “House of the Dragon”?
My character is called Princess Rhaenys Targaryen. She’s subtitled ‘The Queen Who Never Was.’ When the time came for the throne to be handed over there were two possibilities for the next ruler: her and her cousin Viserys [Paddy Considine]. She was by far the strongest candidate in terms of brain, experience and temperament. She was a shoo in. However, she was passed over and completely outvoted on the grounds that she was a woman. So now she’s in the strangely frustrating position of being one of the top ranking royals at court — and having nothing to do.
Q: What is the court like?
It is a very, very strong patriarchy. The men are in charge: decision making, adventuring, ruling. The woman’s role at court is pretty limited – they seem to be relegated to serving wine and trying to survive dangerous child birth. Princess Rhaenys is married to somebody who’s a seafarer [Ser Corlys Velaryon; Steve Toussaint] – he’s away exploring, fighting, facing challenges and adventure, or he’s debating in council – while she’s at home looking after the children. Its not an unfamiliar story.
For Princess Rhaenys, who’s someone of such intelligence and wit and training and background, such political acumen and vigour, I think it must be intensely frustrating. She’s a dragonrider too, which comes part and parcel with some kind of tremendous power and skill. So when we first meet her, it felt as though she’s very possibly a little bored.
Q: Does she feel hard done by, resentful?
She tries not to wear that badge. She is also a brilliant politician and excels at The Game – but it’s hard. And deep down I think there is a great vulnerability. When we started we had a few conversations about Hillary Clinton, there are some resonances there – how does one suffer such a mortifying defeat? It felt like there was some kind of fundamental core wound – always the question “Was it the patriarchy or was it ME?” How does one ride that, in context, and pick oneself up and carry on? And forge some kind of role for oneself in a graceful, useful way? It’s tough. Part of the work is not to hold that resentment and for it not to become bitter and complicated. But that stuff is inevitably still there.
Q: What drew you to the role?
Ryan [Condal] and Miguel [Sapochnik] hooked me in at the first meeting we had. They said that at the heart of the show is Princess Rhaenys’ line that she says to Rhaenyra, ‘Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne.’ It’s powerful and it’s horribly relevant today. Ridiculous, really, that it is still relevant.
Q: How do you prepare for a role like this one?
Learn the words. I didn’t have any context for it because I’d never done anything of this scale before. I had no idea of the enormity of the “Game of Thrones” ship. I haven’t owned a TV for years: I’d never watched the original series. So I came to it blind, and the first I came across it was the scenes they sent me to audition. Everything was very cloak and dagger and we weren’t given any information or even the name of the show. But I remember liking the writing — and then I liked Ryan and Miguel when I met them. We spoke about how the meat of it was this fundamental trajectory of the patriarchy collapsing. People told me of the scale of it but you’ve got no idea of what it’s really like until you start.
Q: When did you have your first dragon day and what did that consist of?
My first dragon day was one of the last days of the shoot, sandwiched in between two very intense days of filming two-handers with lots of dialogue where I needed to have my wits about me.
I was not really looking forward to it much, to be honest – I don’t like fairground rides at the best of times and everyone kept saying, ‘Oooh, Dragonriding is so fun. You’ll love it. It’s kind of like a rodeo ride,’ and I was skeptical – but I to have to say… it is was in the end rather lovely. Not as strong as I imagined a bucking bronco to be (I was wanting it to go faster and wilder frankly) but it did feel alive in some way.
They’ve constructed a sort of vast machine and you need a ladder to climb up onto it. Once you’re on, they strap you into the saddle and then they take the ladder away and it felt a bit like being Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels as all the Lilliputians climb back down to the ground and abandon you tied to this huge creature. Then it starts to move. It does have a strange kind of life of its own — because it makes all these weird noises and yes, it does sound like a dragon.
Catch “House of the Dragon” when it premieres on 22nd August on HBO GO.
Images by HBO GO.