Before Daenerys Targaryen was the famous “mother of dragons” in “Game of Thrones,” her ancestor, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, was set to become the first ruling Queen of Westeros.
Milly Alcock, 22, who stars as Rhaenyra in the first five episodes of the “GoT” spinoff series “House of the Dragon,” told The Post that she hadn’t seen “GoT” before landing the role.
“But of course, I knew about it,” she said. “I understood that it was very big and very popular. [After getting cast], I watched it to prepare. I binged the whole 8 seasons in 2 weeks. It was intense, and I quickly became a fan and understood why everyone loved it.”
“House of the Dragon” (Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO) is set around 200 years before the events of “Game of Thrones,” and follows Daenerys and Jon Snow’s ancestors, the silver-haired, dragon riding Targaryen family. As Sunday’s series premiere introduced, King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) sits on the Iron Throne, and has just named his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra, as his heir – despite the fact that it’s not the norm for women to rule, and his advisors fear this will throw the realm into chaos.
Alcock, 22, is an Australian actress (“The Gloaming”) who is now based in London. She was still living at home in her mother’s attic when she got the call that she’d landed the high-profile part.
“I was in shock and disbelief. It took me until I was actually doing pre-production to fully process it, and allow myself to get excited about it, and stop getting the feeling that I was going to be fired,” she said. “The throne room was just so cool. Every time you stepped on set, the novelty did not wear off.”
Although she enjoyed Emilia Clarke’s performance as Daenerys, she didn’t draw inspiration from it in order to play Rhaenyra, she said. “Obviously, there’s similarities in their fundamental morals as people, but ultimately they move throughout the world very differently.”
Instead, she drew inspiration from two other sources.
“Cate Blanchett in ‘The Golden Age,’ and Audrey Hepburn in ‘Roman Holiday.’ If you could combine those 2 women together, I think that is Rhaenyra. She’s witty, and cheeky, but she has to perform constantly, and live up to that regal role. But, you can see under the surface, she’s quite uncomfortable in her skin.”
As the first episode of “House of the Dragon” shows Rhaenyra has an unusual relationship with her Uncle Daemon (Matt Smith, “The Crown”) that has flirty undertones (the Targaryens are pretty pro-incest, so that part isn’t much concern to them).
“Me and Matt came to a mutual understanding: that [the relationship] is charged, but it’s under the surface,” said Alcock. “It’s almost like they’re having two conversations in every scene. It’s like what they’re actually saying, and what they’re saying in their body language, and in their eyes, and in their tone. It was really fun to play with, and to work with Matt. He’s such a generous actor, and he’s so kind and considerate, it elevated my performance.
“I think Rhaenyra is at an age where she can’t tell the difference between platonic love, romantic love, and lust, because she hasn’t lived long enough and gone through those experiences. So, I think that she understands that there’s a feeling here [with Daemon], but she’s not quite sure where it lands, and how to behave with it and navigate it, which is what makes that dynamic so interesting.”
Since “Game of Thrones” was the biggest show in the world during its run from 2011 to 2019, Alcock said the “House of the Dragon” cast felt a sense of pressure.
“Of course we did. But not while we were shooting. It’s only been in this part that we’ve been reminded of how big it is. I don’t really know how to approach it. It’s extremely intimidating. So, I’ve been a bit more reclusive than I normally would be. Just gaining the confidence to interact with that fandom – you want to do them justice. It’s quite interesting as an actor for there to already be a fan base, as opposed to a fan base coming to you.
“It’s almost like they have to accept us first. It’s going to be interesting to hear everyone’s response.”