‘Game of Thrones’ prequel keeps dragons, adds diversity | entertainment

The “Game of Thrones” prequel is set to forge its own narrative path, with a new set of characters and a more diverse behind-the-scenes team.

“House of the Dragon” takes place two centuries before the events of the original series, which ended its successful eight-season run in May 2019. The 10-episode prequel premieres Sunday on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max.

The story centers on House Targaryen, made famous in “Game of Thrones” by Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys and her fearsome dragons. But don’t expect “House of the Dragon” to be a remake of “Game of Thrones,” cast member Steve Toussaint said.

“It’s been done and they did it really well,” said Toussaint, who plays the wealthy Lord Corlys Velaryon. “You know you’re in that world, but you’re seeing a different story, different characters, different motivations.”

Among the new faces of the clan is Prince Daemon Targaryen, played by Matt Smith. His villainous character is much more complex than it appears at first glance, the actor said.

“I think the reason I’ve had fun with it is because maybe it’s not just a villain,” he said. “I think there’s actually a lot of fragility and depth and madness inside. … It’s not black and white. It can go either way with Daemon at any time.”

Based on George RR Martin’s “Fire and Blood,” the drama was co-created by Martin and Ryan Condal, whose credits include the 2016-19 sci-fi drama “Colony.” Condal is an executive producer and co-showrunner with director Miguel Sapochnik, who brings his “Game of Thrones” experience to the prequel.

“House of the Dragon,” like its predecessor, centers on family succession with an overlooked female heiress. But Sapochnik points to a key difference between the two series: The team making the prequel is more diverse, including a 50-50 split between male and female directors, including Sapochnik, Clare Kilner, Geeta Vasant Patel and Greg Yaitanes.

There was a conscious push to be inclusive behind the scenes, Sapochnik says.

“We tried, as much as possible, to hire as many female crew as we can, because we think it’s a very important change that needs to be recognized, acknowledged, acted upon, maybe given opportunities to people who don’t get opportunities,” he explained.

The team making “Dragon” is just as diverse and, for the fantasy genre, has a relative bounty of women in the writers’ room. The gender balance affects the story and tone of the show, according to some of the women in its cast.

The series opens with an aristocratic council appointing Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) as heir to the Iron Throne, bypassing his older cousin Princess Rhaenys Velaryon (Eve Best). But Viserys must have his own heir, with dreams of power held by Daemon, his younger brother, and Viserys’ daughter, Princess Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy plays the grown-up version, Milly Alcock the young one).

“You definitely don’t feel like a device or an accessory and you don’t feel like the hot girl or the mother,” said Olivia Cooke, who plays the adult Alicent Hightower, Rhaenyra’s longtime friend. “You feel like you have a full-fledged character, which is really nourishing to play.”

The ensemble cast also includes Emily Carey, Graham McTavish, Fabien Frankel, Rhys Ifans and Sonoya Mizuno.

Carey, who plays the younger Alicent, says the inclusion of women in all aspects of the production is a step “in the right direction” for the fantasy genre.

While virtually every female character faces misogyny, each “is still a complete three-dimensional female character,” Carey said. “They still have so many other stories and a whole life away from this misogynistic story. They’re not just put on the show to serve a purpose. And I think that’s what makes it so special.”

“House of the Dragon” screenwriter Charmaine DeGraté said “it was important to George (RR Martin, an executive producer on the prequel) that it was like that. Female-driven characters, female-driven shows, and female-driven writers’ rooms just elevate the story. It’s a wonderful way to expand the universe.”

Lefferts reported from New York, Lennox from Los Angeles.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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