Since the premiere of House of the Dragon, audiences saw the rise of the two female lead characters and best friends, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Queen Alicent Hightower, largely played by Milly Alcock and Emily Carey, respectively, through the first five episodes. In the upcoming sixth episode, “The Princess and the Queen,” the series jumps forward in time with Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke taking over the roles, with the previous episode ending with Rhaenyra marrying Prince Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate). John Macmillan will take over playing Laenor in the next episode. D’Arcy and Cooke recently spoke about what’s to come in the middle of the season.
Both actors were discouraged from discussing their roles with their younger counterparts. “I was shown almost like memories: scenes that Emily had done with [King Viserys actor] Paddy [Considine],” Cooke describes. “I had those memories locked in my brain for when I’m doing a scene that mirrors that relationship.” But ultimately, the adult versions of these characters have evolved quite a bit out of their teen years. Adds Cooke, “Ten years or 15 years on, whenever it is, I think it’s about this power in finding your womanhood.”
D’Arcy, who identifies as non-binary, broke down how they approached the character through that gendered lens. “I think to say she’s gender-questioning would be too extreme because the language doesn’t exist,” D’Arcy notes of that time in Westeros history. “But I think she is someone who’s pushing at the edges of womanhood and has a really decisive, interrogative eye for how gender affects power, affects how one may occupy space, affects even the right to construct one’s life. Basically, the interaction or the continued consolidation of male power and patriarchy is probably what really excited me about the script when I first read it.”
D’Arcy broke down the power dynamic of what Rhaenyra and other women in her position must go through. “This character, as a result of patriarchal constraints, essentially doesn’t have power,” they explained. “They have privilege, but they don’t have power. It’s one thing to put two female characters in the center of a series like this, but it’s another when they are positioned within a patriarchy. How do we pay attention to them at least seeking command of their own lives?” For more on how D’Arcy and Cooke explain how Rhaenyra and Alicent have to survive in their environments, their contrasts in personality, and rivalry, you can check out the whole interview here. House of the Dragon airs on HBO and streams on HBO Max Sundays.