House of the Dragon SDCC panel highlights

PANEL

Hours after I lamented that there was no full video available of the House of the Dragon panel at San Diego Comic Con, a full video of the House of the Dragon panel at San Diego Comic Con dropped on YouTube’s Films That Rock channel.

1:10 – Moderator, Jason Conception, introduces the panelists to the stage: Fabien Frankel, Eve Best, Steve Toussaint, Matt Smith, Emma D’Arcy, Olivia Cooke, Paddy Considine, Milly Alcock. Emily Carey, Ryan Condal and George R.R. Martin.

2:05 – Emma D’Arcy reads Miguel Sapochnik’s text message. “Hey, Comic Con. I’m gutted that I can’t be with you there today. This is fairly typical for me. The first time I had to catch a plane to Belfast for Game of Thrones I forgot my passport. So the fact that the first time I get to come and do Comic Con with you lot for House of the Dragon I get Covid feels about right, I am deeply honored that so many of you have turned up to show your excitement for House of the Dragon. We’ve dedicated at least the last three years of our lives to making this show and hope that it is everything you want it to be plus maybe a little bit that you weren’t expecting. And you’ll finally get to see what we’ve been cooking in less than a month. I hope you like dragons. If I wasn’t highly infectious, I’d be dancing in the streets of San Diego with excitement right now, but instead that duty must fall to our incredible cast,” (“FYI,” D’Arcy adds). “This show would not have been possible without their passion, their talent and their relentless hard work. They have elevated the show to another level, as you’ll see. Anyway, enough of me. Fire will reign! Peace out, mate.”

4:24 – Ryan Condal says: “This series begins at the absolute pinnacle of the dynasty, the height of power and wealth and influence. They have the most dragons that they’ll ever have and it’s just before the bloom starts to come off the rose.”

4:52 – Paddy Considine talks about sitting on the Iron Throne (“it shouldn’t be a relaxing experience, sitting up there”) and how Viserys is “A kind man … who’s trying to keep the peace time going within the kingdom … but he’s also carrying something else that’s a kind of secret that’s revealed in the show that kind of refers to the potential fall of man in the future. So there’s lot so different things going on.”

6:27 – Matt Smiths discusses Daemon’s relationship with his brother, Viserys. “It’s complicated. I mean, that was the sort of heartbeat, for me, really, and I had such a fabulous time with Paddy. Yeah, it’s quite a complicated relationship but I sort of hope that me and Paddy found a lot of depth and lot of richness in the work that we did. But really, everything is about his brother, for Daemon.”

6:58 – Eve Best is asked what Rhaenys’ moniker, The Queen that Never Was, means to her. “It really pisses her off, I think. She should have been the queen” (Audience members cheer) “Thank you very much. And it’s kind of annoying that she isn’t, and it’s also kind of annoying that people keep reminding her that she isn’t.”

7:48 – Steve Toussaint discusses his character, Corlys Velaryon, “a self-made man.”

Steve

8:45 – Fabian Frankel chats about his sword fighting learning curve, and how he accidentally smashed Matt Smith in the face with a sword on their first day of training.

9:14 – Emma D’Arcy talks about what motivates Rhaenyra. “I think Rhaenyra is fueled by that old Targaryen stuff and I think probably the journey she goes on in this series is one of working out when to let that fire burn and when to dampen it.”

9:46 – George R.R. Martin describes tumultuous emotions of handing his creative work over to adaptation. “I was nervous at the beginning because, you know, these books, these characters are like my kids and when you give your kid to people for adoption you wonder how they will be treated. Will you recognize them when they come back to you and all that but I‘ve been very, very fortunate, here, and I think Ryan has done a great job of adapting the books – so far,” he added, to knowing laughter from Ryan Condal and the audience. “And our cast here is amazing. I haven’t had a chance to meet them. Unfortunately, with Covid I didn’t get to visit the set and hang around as I did on a certain other show in the past. I’ve seen nine of the ten episodes and it’s pretty amazing. Pretty amazing. I’m really very happy.”

11:03 – Ryan Condal discusses dragons. “There are 17 of them at the height of this. So, it was really important to … differentiate them, not only in the way they looked but the way they behaved and acted and the way they bonded with their riders … like, Caraxes is very cantankerous and agitated and he’s always moving and flexing. He never sits still, much like his rider … We’ve designed dragons that you won’t even see yet in season 1 because we’re having such a great time with the designers … There’s much yet to come and I think you guys will like it a lot.”

12:57 – Emma D’Arcy talks about the transformative power of wearing a Targaryen wig.

13:21 – Matt Smith and Eve Best argue over whether the best dragon is Caraxes or Meleys.

13:36 – The moderator asks the cast what their first decree would be if they ruled Westeros. The answers: hair dye and pants.

14:47 – Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy discuss the strange process of playing the same character at different stages of life.

15:45 – Conception asks the cast what traits would define the ideal ruler for Westeros and everyone turns to George for the answer. “I do think if you lived in Westeros you might like a king who’s more concerned with building roads than fighting wars,” he says.

17:21 – Ryan Condal praises Paddy Considine’s performance as Viserys, whom he describes as “a very modern ruler” who respects more than might and strength.

18:44 – Conception asks why Westeros is so stubbornly sexist and anti-Queen.

21:53 – Milly Alcock and Matt Smith say they share a lot of scenes speaking High Valyrian together

22:01 – Paddy Considine speaks High Valyrian! Enjoy it now because, he says his High Valyrian lines were cut from the show

22:43 – The cast discuss Rhys Ifans’ high jinks.

24:06 – Paddy Considine talks about his prop knife (the Catspaw, mayhaps?) that he wanted to take home with him.

Paddy

27:27 – Emily Carey discusses her practice of journaling as Alicent to get into character. “For Alicent we had so much creative freedom … to sort of make up this whole backstory for her. Obviously when we find Alicent she doesn’t have a mother and there were some gaps we had to fill to sort of figure it all out. I just started journaling with the advice of Miguel and Ryan. I managed to come up with some form of backstory and it proved to be very, very useful … For the relationship between Alicent and Otto, family is such a keyword, because it’s all about bloodline. I mean, that’s kind of what the show’s all about … I think [journaling] just gave me a deeper understanding of Alicent. I think she’s so multifaceted, there’s so many layers to her. I think lots of people are expecting her to be the villain of the show already, but I think bringing her in younger, there was a lot more to explore … I’ve never had the freedom to be able to create a whole human being like this before. It was so much fun being able to go so in depth with her.

29:04 – Conception asks if there are such things as heroes and villains in the world of House of the Dragon. Unsurprisingly, the question goes to George. “I’ve always believed [that] the most interesting characters are grey characters … all of these characters have good in them, have evil in them and it’s a matter of what choices they make.”

31:03 – The cast describes what it’s like to ride and fight dragons

33:50 – Condal and Martin discuss their working relationship and how it all started with “a bit of light fan-stalking.”

36:26 – Olivia Cooke talks about how it feels to have House of the Dragon premiering in less than a month: “Ew, ew, ew. It’s weird, isn’t it? Because, you know, there’s this behemoth that we’re following in its footsteps and there’s a massive pressure that we feel to give you guys what you want but also make it different and to also put our own stamp on it and we’re so grateful for what came before which was so amazing and just hope that this has the same legacy because, God, we worked our bones off for a year and, you know, [Condal and Martin] worked for longer and, yeah, man. I just hope you like it.

37:42 – Steve Toussaint talks about playing Corlys Velaryon. “It does feel great because other than … certain people’s viewpoints about someone who looks like me playing this part, it hasn’t really played a part in the role, in my experience on my job with my fellow actors. As I said, there are people outside who find it a little hard to stomach that someone who looks like me would play this part but that’s an issue that they have to deal with and I don’t have to.”

39:41 – The floor opens to fan questions. The moderator beseeches the audience not to “throw away” their turn by asking questions the panelists can’t answer.

40:14 – Hilariously, the very first fan “question” is a guy telling Matt Smith, “It’s morbin’ time!” to which Smith replies, “It’s what?” The fan then explains that it’s a reference to Smith’s recent film, Morbius, then proceeds to ask him (40:38) if Smith’s character in Morbius, Milo, would fit in well in Westeros. Smith’s answer: “Well, I mean, he’s a vampire, so I think he’d struggle, first off … I think he would be a fish out of water, in truth. I don’t think he’s got the chops to do it.”

41:26 – Eve Best praises a Rhaenys cosplayer, “Oh my God you look amazing! You look so much better than I do.”

Rhaenys

42:04 – The Rhaenys cosplayer asks Best what drew her to the role of Rhaenys.

43:53 – A fan asks Matt Smith how it feels to play more sinister characters than the 11th Doctor.

44:55 – A fan asks George R.R. Martin if he has a cameo in House of the Dragon. Martin replies, “For the last couple years since Covid hit I’ve hardly left my house. I’ve been, you know, trying to stay away from Covid and also, you may not know, but there’s this book that I’m writing. It’s a little late.” Pause for audience laughter and applause. “I don’t see [myself] visiting the set or doing anything until I finish and deliver that book and then if the show’s still going, who knows, maybe I’ll show up. I did do a cameo in the original pilot of Game of Thrones but they reshot most of that pilot so I was left on the cutting room floor and I was supposed to be, at a certain point, I was supposed to be a severed head in that scene where Joffrey makes Sansa look at all the severed heads on the wall. I was going to be one of them but then they found out how expensive it was to make a severed head and they just bought a box of used severed heads, one of whom was George W. Bush, which got us in a lot of trouble when people noticed that and I don’t think he’s there any longer but if you get one of the old DVDs you can see that. Now, who knows maybe I can yet become a severed head at some point.”

46:47 – A fan asks Martin what aspect of the plot was hardest to adapt into House of the Dragon. Martin hands the question over to Condal who says “It’s a really interesting challenge because [Fire and Blood] is not a traditional novel. It’s not written in prose, it’s a history book, as George calls it, a fake history … so the trick is, I think, painting in the lines, [where] you have point A and point C but you don’t really know what point B was, and that’s the fun of the invention of the show. To me the most challenging thing is just the sheer amount of time that the story covers because it’s the story of a generational war, so it was figuring out how to structure it in such a way that we could move people through this very complex timeline in a very simple way so that people didn’t get lost, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job, but that was certainly a brain bender for the writers and I, and thank you Sara Hess, who’s somewhere in the audience for saving our bacon on that.” Hess is an executive producer for the show who also wrote episodes six and nine, so it’s likely we’ll see the greatest time jump of the season in the Hess-penned sixth episode.

48:29 – Martin then adds, “the challenge with anything as big as Fire and Blood or A Game of Thrones and its sequels before that [is that] there’s always this tendency to simplify. ‘Oh, there are too many characters!’ … the audience is more sophisticated than sometimes people making television assume, and that’s one of the great things about working for HBO is [that] they’re willing to tackle things that are a little more challenging than you would get at the over the air networks, or some other things.”

48:37 – A fan asks what hitherto unexplored parts of Westeros we’ll get to see in House of the Dragon. Condal answers that we’ll see more of King’s Landing and Dragonstone but “I think Driftmark, which is the home of House Velaryon, the great Sea Snake and his family, is a new world that we explore quite a bit.”

50:44 – A fan in an amazing dragonrider cosplay asks the panelists what symbols they would choose for their own House sigils.

52:21 – A fan asks how much of Targaryen history we’ll see on House of the Dragon and Martin waxes poetic about how history is “just one damn thing after another.”

53:46 – The very last fan question is “Have you banned coffee cups from the set?” The answer: “No.”

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