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 Lord Corlys Velaryon.
Corlys Velaryon may not be a dragonrider but he is married to one – Rhaenys Targaryen (played by Eve Best). Although Corlys isn’t Black in any of the George R.R. Martin books, including “Fire & Blood”, the decision to cast Steve Toussaint and make the character Black drew mixed reactions from the public. Regardless, we’re glad the showrunners opted to be more inclusive and diverse for “House of the Dragon”.
Q: Who are you playing in “House of the Dragon”?
I’m playing Lord Corlys Velaryon, also known as The Sea Snake, the richest man in Westeros and famed sea explorer.
Q: How did you learn about him?
Literally from the scripts and from Ryan [Condal] and Miguel [Sapochnik], the showrunners. Ryan is basically the fount of all knowledge. But the first meeting that I had with the guys before they gave me the gig, myself and Miguel just talked about fathers. What our fathers were like and ambitions we would have for our children. That was kind of a way into Corlys, because for most of this season he is trying to find ways to secure his family’s legacy. He is married to Princess Rhaenys [Eve Best], who is known as ‘The Queen That Never Was,’ and he has never really forgiven the realm for choosing Viserys, played by Paddy [Considine] over his wife to be the ruler. He felt that she was infinitely more qualified to be a ruler. In his eyes Viserys is a nice man… but nice men don’t always make good rulers.
Q: Is he a moral man?
You know what, that’s a tough question to answer, because I’ve been him. I think the best I could say is that he is Machiavellian. He’d say he’s a good guy: whatever he does, he does because it’s for the good of the realm. If for the good of the realm he needs to take this person out and put this person in, then he’ll do that.
Q: How physical is he?
One of the things we talked about is the politics — he’s quite good at that, but mostly he enjoys battle. Because in battle, or when he’s at sea going exploring, it’s clear — you do this or you die. There are no grey areas, no need to try and think about the other person’s point of view. If you’re in a battle, someone’s coming at you, you take them out, or they take you out. And that’s it: simple. Politics? He’s bored by that. He’s about action.
Q: Did you have to train to play a warrior?
Yeah! His weapon is like a huge six-foot thing with a double-sided blade on one side and a massive heavy ball on the other. It allows for both slashing and bashing people’s heads in. We spent weeks with all the stuntman learning these moves and all that stuff.
Q: What is the state of Corlys and Rhaenys’ marriage?
I think it’s great. That’s a discussion again that we all had, myself and Eve, and of course Ryan and Miguel. And we decided that this was a relationship that was based on love. A lot of relationships are about politics in this world: ‘it’ll do me well to be with this family’ and so forth. But these two actually love each other. Where it becomes difficult, particularly for him, is he doesn’t always listen to what she says. There are very few people who he will take advice from, and she’s one of them. But in terms of getting her on the throne, despite the fact that she says over and over again, “I’m fine with it. I’ve moved on…” he can’t let it go. He keeps saying this is what he wants for her. The question for him is, does he actually want it for her or does he want it for himself? It’s a question he’s never asked himself. And hopefully through the season he’ll discover the answer to that question. Other than that, it’s a lovely relationship.
Q: Where does his immense wealth come from?
He made these famous nine voyages as a very young man. He did his maiden voyage when he was about 16, and he built his first ship when he was about 20, called ‘The Sea Snake.’ He made nine voyages, went all over the place and brought back wonderful artefacts. That’s where the wealth came from — trading those spices and all that stuff. That’s what made him. In the show, when we see the Hall of Nine, which is the place in his house in Driftmark where he receives people, it’s incredibly impressive because it’s got all of these wonderful artefacts from all the things that he did. Viserys says at one point that whenever he comes there he’s always in awe. That’s exactly what it’s meant to be. It’s meant to make you feel, ‘Oh, my God, this is an incredibly powerful man — look what he’s done.’
And he’s self-made…
Exactly. We did a scene, myself and Matt [Smith, Daemon Targaryen], where we discuss our past. And that’s what he says: ‘I did this by myself. I built this.’
You must have worked on some wonderful, opulent sets…
I think that they are the best sets in the show, but then I would. The funny thing is the very first scene that we shot of the whole series was me and Eve, and it was in the Hall of Nine. It’s incredible: prior to beginning, I had said to Ryan [Condal], ‘Could you give me some sort of history of each of these voyages so that when I walk around and I look at something I have the memory of how I got it?’ And he did! Pages of this incredible stuff. So then when you go on set, when you see the work that they did and it is extraordinary. I hope that it shows on camera, because there is so much detail: the maps and charts that they’ve done are just phenomenal. For an actor half the job is done already.
Q: How did you prepare for the role? Did you bury yourself in George RR Martin’s source novel [“Fire & Blood”]?
I go from the script. Because at one point when we were shooting Mr Martin sent us signed copies of the book, which was a lovely thing to do. I started reading it but there are certain things that are in the book that aren’t in our version, and vice versa. So the script is sacrosanct. The script and the directors and Ryan are what you need. They were so wonderful and so available — for example, the thing about, Corlys is he walks a fine line between being respectful to the King and being disrespectful. So there’d be occasions when I would say to Ryan, ‘Could I get away with saying this? Could I get away with not saying that?’ And he’d be like: ‘No, because if you did that you’d lose your head.’
Q: How does “House of the Dragon” capitalize and build on “Game of Thrones”?
“Game of Thrones” — and I was a big fan — did what “Game of Thrones” did very well. There’s no point in making it again. What this adds to it is there’s a lot more politics involved, a lot more plotting. Human relations are at the core of it. Of course, there are dragons — a lot of dragons. But ultimately, it’s still about how you relate to somebody else. Hopefully that being the heart of it will be the thing that carries us through.
Catch “House of the Dragon” when it premieres on 22nd August on HBO GO.
Images by HBO GO.