“I don’t want it to be one of those Easter egg-y shows,” says Viserys’ actor on how the ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel avoids fan service and explains how not to play a king.
Paddy Considine recalls an acting coach showing him a perfect example of how not to play a king.
Considine, best known for his roles in Peaky Blinders and In America, recalled an acting student who walked onto a stage dressed as a king with all the majestic self-importance he could muster.
“He was doing everything a king could do,” Considine says. “And the coach said, ‘We don’t need to see all that nonsense.'” We already know you’re the king — you’re wearing a fucking crown!'”
That is precisely what the 48-year-old English actor kept in mind while playing King Viserys in HBO’s House of the Dragon.
“I don’t have to play a king at all because the ceremony and ritual around him tells you he’s a king,” he says. “I only have to play the human; you just play the man.”
The actor answers a few questions about landing the role and explains why Dragon isn’t just another fan service prequel in the video below.
When did you first learn about this project, and how did you react?
“They’re making a prequel to Game of Thrones, and they’re looking at you to play the king,” my agent said. I was excited because I knew the show and [Dragon director Miguel Sapochnik] directed one of my favourite episodes. But I was wary because in the past, I’d been offered things that sounded exciting, but then you get the script and you only have three scenes or something. I didn’t want to be the guy waving a sword in the background. I received the first three scripts, and the character was extremely rich, beautiful, and conflicted. A lovely character. If I’m being honest, I’ve been hoping for a role like this for a long time.
As you say, King Viserys is complicated. How would you characterise him?
For many years, King Jaehaerys kept the kingdom at peace. Then Viserys was chosen as king over his cousin Rhaenys — I’m not sure if it was because he was a man. But Viserys is a great scholar, and I believe he was given the responsibility because he was peaceful, like Jaehaerys. He’s a good man, but he’s a bad king because he tries to please everyone. At the heart of him, he’s also a dragon, and Viserys can only take so much. There is a part of his DNA that contains [anger], and he must control his temper. So he’s not a stereotypical king. He’s a very human man with strong emotions and responsibilities that weigh heavily on him both physically and mentally.
He’s also a Targaryen who no longer rides a dragon, which must have been a letdown for you.
Yes. He’s given up dragon riding. He rode the infamous Black Dread, who is no longer alive. It’s a shame because all of my nephews thought it was fantastic that their uncle was going to be a dragon rider. When I told them, “Well, I don’t actually ride a dragon,” I could see their little faces grow increasingly disappointed. Viserys considers dragons to be atomic bombs. He is aware of their power. And he understands that the Targaryens would not be the world force they are without them. So he understands their significance and is very concerned with how they are used and that they are not to be messed with.
What about his brother, Daemon [played by Matt Smith]?
He adores his brother, but he knows that if he shows up at a wedding, there will be trouble. Being king has caused him to be estranged from Daemon. Daemon has an adventurous spirit and can be reckless at times. He’s constantly pushing the limits of what’s acceptable, and Viserys is always making excuses for him. Hopefully, the show will put their love to the test.
You’ve been in some major productions; what struck you about this one?
The sets were incredible. You could have moved into the Red Keep and lived there for a while. We all could have. It was hilarious. I’ve never worked on a set where you just walk around looking for rooms and staircases.
Were you in contact with any of the original series’ actors before taking on this project?
No one knows who I am! If you’re in Doctor Who, I think you should talk to the Doctor who came before you and learn more about passing the torch. It’s the right thing to do. But this was unique. This was hundreds of years ago. There doesn’t appear to be a need. They helped to create a phenomenon for which we are grateful, but House of the Dragon is our journey. So I have nothing but respect for them, but I didn’t feel compelled to speak with any of them because I lived 300 years before those guys.
How does House of the Dragon compare to the original show in your opinion?
I believe it is feasible. I don’t want it to be one of those Easter egg shows, with “Oh, there’s Boba Fett’s helmet!” and other such nonsense. There will be moments when fans will wonder, “Is that what I think it is?” But this isn’t a show that relies on Easter eggs to survive. It’s a fantastic story. It’s a drama about a family. There’s a lot of good stuff in there. It’s very much rooted in the world of Game of Thrones, rather than a spinoff where they’re experimenting with new ideas. Fans should enjoy it.