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[Only IN Hollywood] ‘House of the Dragon’ Team Black reveal more dragons, intrigues in season 2

Ruben V. Nepales

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[Only IN Hollywood] ‘House of the Dragon’ Team Black reveal more dragons, intrigues in season 2
'HOTD' showrunner Ryan Condal and 'Team Black' cast Emma D'Arcy, Matt Smith, Eve Best, Steve Toussaint, Harry Collett, and Bethany Antonia discuss what's in store for the upcoming season

NEW YORK, USA – First, the good news: The first two episodes of season two of House of the Dragon are compelling and whet your desire to see the rest of the eight-episode original drama.

Ryan Condal, now the sole showrunner of the series, deliberately takes his time in unfolding the new season and the result is a deeper, more absorbing season opener that forbodes of the spectacle in the coming episodes.

HBO is tapping into the dynamism and intrigue of the Black and Green Councils fighting for power and the Iron Throne. So, they are asking the question: Are you Team Black or Team Green in this sophomore season of the show based on George RR Martin’s Fire & Blood?

[Only IN Hollywood] ‘House of the Dragon’ Team Black reveal more dragons, intrigues in season 2

Whatever side you are rooting for, season two, set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, is earning praise from critics, with a 91% score on Rotten Tomatoes as I write this.

As The Daily Beast’s Nick Schager succinctly put it, “Condal’s series is a gripping portrait of the eternal hunger for wealth, pleasure, power, and supremacy.”

Empire Magazine critic Dan Jolin raved, “Above all else, House of the Dragon remains a spiky, acidic human drama; an astute, timely, and well-performed study of the way power and wisdom are so often mutually exclusive, and of the tragic consequences that occur when the former is exercised without the latter.”

In a recent in-person press conference (it was also available via Zoom to other journalists) at New York’s Hudson Yards, the cast was divided into two panels – Black and Green, of course. Ryan, who is also the co-creator and executive producer, was present in both.

House of the Dragon 2 Showrunner Ryan Condal (left) with Team Black (from left) Emma D’Arcy, Matt Smith, Steve Toussaint, Bethany Antonia, Harry Collett, and Eve Best Photo by Ruben V. Nepales Rappler

In this column, I feature Ryan and Team Black – Emma D’Arcy, who plays Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen; Matt Smith, Prince Daemon Targaryen; Steve Toussaint, Lord Corlys Velaryon; Eve Best, Princess Rhaenys Targaryen; Harry Collett, Prince Jacaerys Velaryon; and Bethany Antonia, Lady Baela Targaryen.

This panel was livened up by Eve’s humorous demonstration, in response to my question, of the physical demands of pretending to ride and get off a dragon.

Next week, I will write about Team Green: Olivia Cooke, Queen Alicent Hightower; Fabien Frankel, Ser Criston Cole; Tom Glynn-Carney, King Aegon II Targaryen; Ewan Mitchell, Prince Aemond Targaryen; Phia Saban, Queen Helaena Targaryen; and Matthew Needham, Lord Larys Strong.

I will also write about the fittingly epic premiere and after-party at the Hammerstein Ballroom of the Manhattan Center.

The following are excerpts from the press conference, moderated by In Creative Company’s Mara Webster, with Ryan and Team Black.

Ryan Condal

Let’s get to the most important question – about the dragons. Ryan, how many new dragons are there in this season? And to the cast who have been riding the dragons, can you talk about what that is like?

Ryan: I said five dragons a year and a half ago and I think I’m sticking to it. So five new ones that you haven’t seen before. But I’ve never ridden a dragon so you guys have to speak to that.

Eve: I did. I was never off my dragon. It’s just exactly like riding a dragon in real life. It’s desperately uncomfortable in armor and I kept shouting, “Bring me more cushions, bring me more padding! I need more padding!”

You’re just so uncomfortable and you’re in this kind of position with your legs up under your feet. You’re wearing this kind of tin can…and they were rocking you. At one point, I was like this. (Eve stands and amusingly demonstrates the physical challenges of filming riding and dismounting a dragon.)

And they finish the scene, the director tells you, cut. And I’m still like this. And I’m, is anyone gonna let me down? Let me down, please.

It was amazing. I loved every second of it. Can’t wait to do more. I felt rather proud of myself that I came off it alive.

Ryan: Bethany got to ride a dragon for the first time this season.

Bethany: Yeah, I did. The bit that I found the most exciting was that they’ve animated already before you get on the dragon. So you get to see what it’s gonna look like, obviously, like the cartoon version of yours.

And then you get on and it’s like a buckin’ bronco. And it’s so cool. And what made me laugh was that it always comes down to a guy with a wind machine.

Like no matter how much budget you have, how much CGI, there’s always gonna be a guy with a wind machine and you’re gonna be upside down. It was just the most fun. But I loved the days on the buck.

House of theDragon 2 showrunner, co-creator, writer and executive producer Ryan Condal at the press conference in New York. Photo by Ruben V. Nepales Rappler

Ryan, what is the most complex part of adapting such an overarching story?

Ryan: I think there’s nothing unique necessarily about this show versus other shows that are multi-point-of-view. It’s just that there are so many wonderful characters in the show, all of which have their own 3-dimensional, 4-dimensional, 5-dimensional stories.

It’s how do you keep the narrative moving forward, tell character stories within, and service everybody in a way that feels deeply rich and realized, and have them cross and interact with each other, sometimes when they’re not literally crossing and interacting.

And something I’m particularly proud of this season that we found in the postproduction process is, as everybody knows, Alicent and Rhaenyra are – even though they spent much of season one together, they’re now apart.

They’re literally on different islands and they don’t interact with each other. But in the editing, we found ways to connect those characters.

If you see Alicent going through something particularly deep and emotional and you cut to Rhaenyra, there is a kind of filmmaking connection there.

It’s the dimensionality of the story and just trying to keep all those plates spinning with a cast of fantastic actors from top to bottom. You want to give them all the screen time they deserve.

Emma D’Arcy

You channel power in such an interesting way because it’s quite a steely interior disposition. You’re playing a character who doesn’t come in as the loudest person in the room and yet wield such great power over everyone. How did you set about creating that?

Emma: I suppose I was interested in a character who never expected to find herself in this position. She doesn’t start season one expecting to be the heir.

And she has a personality that is built by – in some way marginal, like still in this deeply privileged royal family. But she gets quite a lot of freedom because she’s not expected to take on responsibility. She’s not expected to be a ruling person.

I guess I was really interested in the total dissolution of self that comes with being told suddenly that actually, it’s you. And like suddenly being centered when all of your tenacity, your humor comes from being sort of decentered.

So I wanted to see what it was like just to watch a person try to put on power and also, witness how that’s then received by people around her, to varying degrees of success.

Like I was sort of imagining, especially in season one, what it would be like to walk into an incredibly high-powered job, having never done that before.

Team Black: Emma D’Arcy (Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen) at the press conference in New York. Photo by Ruben V. Nepales Rappler

I mean I wanted to bring imposter syndrome into fantasy, I suppose. And because presumably that would be honest and then I suppose by season two, that trepidation has become quite fatigued.

She is sort of tired of the softer approach, that sort of endless double think, a desire to do something and having to choose a path of manipulation or sort of careful persuasion.

So that you don’t watch people’s prejudice get weaponized against you. I think that’s starting to run thin by season two.

On the relationship between Daemon and Rhaenyra, which in season one was a very massive arc – we get when they’re starting out when Rhaenyra is young, all the way up to where we are now. How that relationship has developed now that Viserys has died and how it may be no longer as stable without that third prong in their relationship.

Emma: The fact that they can’t communicate really proves an obstacle in the series. I suppose, again, it’s kind of the working of grief. I don’t know that either of them is able to find solace, actually, with each other in this.

Like the loss of Viserys – I don’t think that they can share that. I don’t feel that Daemon can share his experience of losing his brother. There’s a dislocation taking place. (To Matt) You think?

Matt: Yeah, I agree. I think they can’t unburden their selves from this sort of shadow. And the way he died was so horrendous and they were right there next to it seeing all of him decompose.

There’s this sort of elephant in the room constantly that they refer back to. And they sort of weaponize against each other. It’s quite uncomfortable for both.

I personally believe that there is a very deep sense of love between the two of them, which is challenged in many quarters. But it’s tested because it’s like he feels unaccepted by her, I think. And reacts as Daemon reacts.

Matt Smith

Matt, for you, how has the loss of his brother influenced Daemon in season two?

Matt: Quite. He lost everything. Emma mentioned in this meeting we had earlier that kind of grief is the great sort of catalyst of the season in many ways.

And I think that everything is about the death of his brother, really. Every single action is often related to him. It sort of allows this to see a version of Daemon which is slightly more exposed and honest and he just misses him.

Doesn’t even know how to communicate that. It’s quite simple really. So he’s like a fucking crazy person, which is great. Yeah and I miss Paddy (Considine, who played Viserys) as well. So it’s life and art imitating itself.

Ryan was talking about the difference in season two, about not having the time jumps. How has that made it a different approach for your performance with your character?

Matt: I suppose there’s a more condensed period that you see – but I mean you see a lot happen to Daemon in quite a shorter period of time. But it’s just like a more condensed whirlwind really.

Team Black: Matt Smith (Prince Daemon Targaryen) at the press conference in New York. Photo by Ruben V. Nepales Rappler

It’s still a vortex of chaos, vengeance and madness, and sort of weird signs all coupled together. Just sort of squashed into a tiny two-week ball of madness with Simon Russell Beale. He plays Ser Simon Strong who is amazing, by the way.

So it was good. Yeah, it allowed for a good deal of unraveling.

Daemon is such an incredibly complex character. Is there one particular aspect of his personality you really love delving into?

Matt: Yeah, I do, loads of them – absolute madman. No, do you know what I quite like about Daemon? It’s that he flies by the beat of his own drum.

And that his moral compass is his own. I admire that about him. I admire his conviction in his mistakes and actions. For better or worse, he does them anyway.

He’s like a fuckin’ wild man – this is how I’m gonna roll. And I play just to that. I like feeling that spirit of chaos and bravado and it’s like walking on a piece of glass. Yeah, it’s that and I like the tightrope that he has defined for himself.

Harry Collett

Can you talk about the process of using such specific costumes, hair styling and props in order to shade your characters, not only physically but also psychologically and emotionally?

Harry: This season is, I always say this but it is just genuinely bigger and better. Like the way the costumes were done especially this year, it just felt so immersive.

Like as soon as I put that costume on, I just looked at myself in the mirror, I was like damn, I’m Jace (Jacaerys’ nickname) now. Like this is real.

Obviously not loving myself but like in a character perspective. Anyway, it was very immersive, especially the whole Winterfell cloak stuff, which was really cool. It just felt really surreal.

On the props, like it’s so detailed. There are scrolls that you can pick up in any room and it will be written out in Velaryon or something like that. It’s just so unbelievably detailed.

Team Black: Harry Collett (Prince Jacaerys Velaryon) at the press conference in New York. Photo by Ruben V. Nepales Rappler

And little things like that, when you step on set, it just helps you experience get into character and it makes it so much easier.

As we saw in the first episode, clearly there is a lot of emotional catastrophe going on. So when you got the scripts for season two, what were some of the things you were excited to explore or discover about your character on a very emotional, internal level?

Harry: For me personally, I was excited about having that mother-son moment with Rhaenyra. Because we don’t really get to see them two have any moments like that in season one.

And to watch them connect, well, on the script and then finally on screen, it was just really nice because it’s just very real and obviously, they’ve both been caught up in various things.

And when they finally leap into each other’s arms, I just thought that was a really beautiful moment. Yeah, I don’t think I will say anything else about that.

Ryan: You guys played it so wonderfully. There was a lot of debate as to whether we wanted Jace to actually say words in that scene or whether we want to play it silently.

And I stuck with it because I felt like it was good to see him come and try to make this very like professional report and then break in the middle of it. And it still gets me. I watch it and it still gets me. So, well done, both of you (to Harry and Emma).

Steve Toussaint

Without getting into specifics or spoilers, unlike Game of Thrones, this is a book that you can look up and read. It’s not ongoing. So you could find out how your characters’ journeys may end. Have you taken a peek at that or is it more helpful to you as performers to not look ahead at that?

Steve: I chose not to. We were given the book. I chose not to look at the book at all not because of spoilers but simply because they are two different mediums.

What happens is you read the book and you go, oh my God, my character does this, it’s fantastic. And then Ryan goes, no, he’s not gonna do that. And you go, but in the book…so I didn’t want to fall in love with what was on the page.

Every so often, fans will tell me and I’m like, well, that doesn’t guarantee anything. Because he’s devious. We might not always stick to the book.

For me, I felt it better to just play what was in the script rather than what I would have read anywhere else.

Eve Best

What were some of the specific challenges you faced while filming this season?

Eve: I think it was sad that we weren’t all together (the Councils worked separately in two studios) so much as we had been in season one. And it wasn’t sad like crying into a pillow every night sad.

But that feeling of camaraderie was nice in the face of awful shit that was going on. It was very nice to feel that we were all coming together.

Team Black: Eve Best (Princess Rhaenys Targayen) at the press conference in New York. Photo by Ruben V. Nepales Rappler1.JPG

And this season, we were all separated and going through…I mean you guys have talked a bunch about chinks in your relationship.

And the same was going on with us in a different context but that was because he (Lord Corlys) had always been Rhaenys’ absolute rock and now it starts to crumble a lot. That was a big challenge for me.

Was that the same for you and not getting to film as many scenes together?

Steve: I feel with Corlys, there are only two places where he is completely comfortable and himself. One is at sea and the other is alone with his wife. When he’s in the small Council, he has to put on a front and he feels he’s better than everybody there.

But in those two situations he’s completely honest. She is his rock. In season two, things that he did in the past come and he has to confront them. He has to deal with them. And they put this sacred relationship under strain for him.

And I think for the first time, he’s aware that he could possibly lose this precious thing, his wife. So it was an interesting journey.

Bethany Antonia

These are such mythic characters. Did you choose an astrological sign for your character? And how do the women feel – what were the strongest female qualities of your characters in this complex world?

Bethany: I didn’t choose a star sign for Baela but I wish I had and maybe I’ll think about that and I’ll decide on one.

Team Black: Bethany Antonia (Lady Baela Targaryen) at the press conference in New York. Photo by Ruben V. Nepales Rappler

But I think that we get to see the women really step up to the plate in this season and we’ve seen that all the way through. But now, specifically, in a time of such crisis and war, we see them being the decision-makers.

For Baela, she’s taken so many of her influences from Rhaenys because she spent such a long time with her and that’s where she grew up, really, when this one was away off at sea.

She spent all of her time at Driftmark with Rhaenys and that’s the figurehead that she aspires to be and has learned to behave from. So I think she takes all of her influences from her. Anyone else got a star sign?

Eve: I didn’t. But I would say I knew in my heart; I would say she’s a Scorpio.

Emma: Also Scorpio.

Matt: Also Scorpio, yeah.

Eve: Also Scorpio!

Matt: I am a Scorpio in real life but Daemon’s definitely also a Scorpio. Yeah, 100 percent.

Eve: Well, because I would say Scorpio men – chaos. Scorpio women, motherly. All the greatest mother figures in my life have been Scorpio.

And I feel like that’s an energy that Rhaenys certainly feels like she carries in this season, especially just holding everybody in all the chaos.

Matt: Maybe that’s what it was, that connection between us. It was that kind of Scorpio energy. Well, but you know what I mean, there was a sense of that. Motherly – you’ve tapped into something of that.

Steve: I hadn’t either but the minute you said it, I thought, well, he’s definitely a fire sign. And then I thought, well, he’s Aries, which happens to be what I am. But it makes sense.

For Bethany and Steve, as you know, Games of Thrones has a huge black fanbase. Hence, Game of Thrones and the show with the little dragons and all these other cute things that black Twitter comes up with. But in the original, the black characters were more like black background dancers. But in this, you get to be royalty; you get to be in the thick of things. Talk about why that is important, other than honestly, the fact that you’re brilliant actors and that you have the talent.

Bethany: It was so important to me to be in a franchise of this scale because I didn’t get to see that when I was younger. And not only that young people watch these kind of shows but when you’re that age, that’s when you start to develop what your dreams are gonna to be and what your aspirations are gonna be.

And if you don’t see it, you can’t believe it. And I really wanted to be in something like this so that there were people who had somebody to dress up like.

And I know that might sound really basic but those are the things that you get to enjoy when you’re in these kinds of fandoms. And it’s one privilege that we just didn’t have.

We didn’t have anybody to dress up like. It’s like a bit of joy that you get to do when you go to these conventions and things. And so even if just for that, if one person gets to see it and go, wow, that’s somebody who is like me, it was worth it.

Steve: Absolutely, I would second that. I think people, if you’re used to being represented, representation doesn’t mean as much because you’re used to it.

When I was a kid in the dark ages and there would be science fiction programs and there were very few, if any, people who looked like me, looked like us, my friends and I used to joke about it. This is set in the future and we’re not there. What are they gonna do to us?

But I can’t tell you the amount of people who have contacted me – and not just people of color – through social media or letters and said how pleased they are to see this representation in this world.

Because exactly what Bethany said, it is important for you to feel like you are something, that you are part of it, that you have a contribution to make.

And so I think it’s vital and certainly some of you may be aware that there was some negative response when I was first announced (in the cast).

I have since then had people sort of go, yeah, I was a bit dubious about you, but actually you did a great job and well done. But we are living in a world in which everybody is here.

And everybody has a right to be represented – people of different races, people of different genders, people of gender identity and so forth. That is the world we should be striving for.

There are voices out there that would argue against that. But I think those of us who want to see that world, I think history is on our side. –


In the Philippines and Asia, House of the Dragon season two debuts Monday, June 17 on HBO and HBO GO. Subscribe to HBO GO online at or the mobile app via the App Store or Play Store for only ₱1,190 on the 12-month plan. Or access HBO GO via Cignal and GlobeHBO GO is also available on Android TV, Apple TV, LG TV and Samsung Smart TV – and comes with AirPlay and Google Cast functionality.

New episodes drop every Monday in the Philippines and Asia; and every Sunday in the US.

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Ruben V. Nepales

Based in Los Angeles, Ruben V. Nepales is an award-winning journalist whose honors include prizes from the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards, a US-wide competition, and the Southern California Journalism Awards, presented by the Los Angeles Press Club.