HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon premieres in a mere couple of weeks, and HBO is getting the word out. They’ve launched an official podcast hosted by Jason Concepcion and Greta Johnsen, and the first episode features interviews with stars Paddy Considine and Matt Smith, who play King Viserys I Targaryen and his younger brother Daemon Targaryen respectively. And by the sound of it, these two are very invested in their characters.
Matt Smith is pretty famous after appearing in stuff like The Crown and Doctor Who, but Considine has had a robust film and television career himself. It sounds like he has a great conception of who King Viserys is, and what his strengths and weaknesses are. “Just because he’s a good man, doesn’t mean that he’s weak, he’s just trying to do the right thing,” Considine said during the interview. “He’s not willing to go to war to please a few. You know, I think his job is always to see the bigger picture.”
"Jaehaerys was a peacetime king and Viserys sees a virtue in continuing that. But at the same time, there is a part of him that’s egotistical. Later on in the show there is a scene where he basically says, ‘How will I be remembered?’ And he says, ‘People don’t remember good kings. They remember tyrants, they remember warriors.’ And my job, and I said to [showrunner Miguel Sapochnik] early on, I said, ‘Look, he’s a dragon, and we’ve got to make sure early on that, as good a man as he is, that he’s not a pushover.’"
House of the Dragon is based on the book Fire & Blood by A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin, who has said that he was particularly impressed by what the show has done with Viserys, who does appear a bit more “weak” on the page. “I don’t think Viserys is driven by power at all,” Considine continued. “He’s driven by responsibility…I don’t think power drives Viserys, that’s not his weakness, I think his virtues are his weakness. He’s too kind.”
Family is hard: The brotherly relationship between Viserys and Daemon Targaryen
One of the people Viserys may be too kind to is his brother Daemon, who has a long history of volatility. “He can’t fix his brother and I don’t think he thinks he can,” Considine said. “What he does is occupy his brother. ‘If we keep Daemon over there and put him in charge of that and keep him busy, you know, well, no one’s talking about him and then everything’s fine.'”
"Viserys does love Daemon, massively, they just can’t articulate it between each other. Daemon, in Viserys’ eyes, is a fuck up. He’s always bringing trouble to his door. You know, but a part I think of Viserys envies Daemon, because part of him wishes that he could go off and do what Daemon does."
What’s emerging is a picture of a pretty complex brotherly relationship, where there’s love on both sides but also a lot of bottled up emotion. There’s a part of Viserys that wishes he could let loose like his little brother Daemon and just go around the world having adventures, but he knows that’s not where he’s needed. And Daemon, as violent and intimidating as he can be, still follows the lead of his big brother, even when they’re at odds, as Matt Smith explains: “[O]stensibly most people are afraid of Daemon and, interesting for someone to say that Viserys is weak, [because] as soon as Viserys goes, ‘Oy, Daemon. Wind your neck in,’ Daemon does. Your word is law. And Daemon shuts up and eats his porridge when he’s told to, but only from him.”
Interestingly, Matt Smith says he wanted to make Daemon more of “a fragile creature” than he was on the page, and it seemed to pay off; many people who have seen the series premiere say Daemon was the highlight. And it makes for an interesting dynamic between the brothers. “I felt that, even when we were making it, that Daemon just wanted Viserys to say, ‘I love you,’” Considine mulled. “And Viserys sort of knew that, but, begrudgingly it’s like, ‘I’m not going to say that to you.’ He doesn’t hate Daemon. He doesn’t hate him at all. He’s just not going to give Daemon what he wants.”
Daemon Targaryen is “a f**king agent of chaos”
Perhaps the reason Viserys is being withholding is because Daemon has such a reputation for causing trouble. ”I think he’s a fucking agent of chaos and he just enjoys placing these little bombs everywhere,” Smith said. Then there’s Viserys’ Hand of the King Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), who fears what would happen if a loose cannon like Daemon became king and tries his best to poison Viserys against his brother.
That said, Smith doesn’t think Daemon really has interest in ruling the Seven Kingdoms. “I think [Daemon’s] only interest in power is in, sort of, usurping it for shits and giggles,” he said. “And you know, oddly, he says to his brother, you know, ‘You’re weak’ but I think that’s all about him going, ‘I don’t feel recognized.’ Everything Daemon does is a response to going, ‘I want you to recognize me’ You know what I mean? ‘Please. I love you. I love you. I love you.’ He’s his annoying little brother.”
"What’s weird about Daemon, I’ve found, and I don’t know if I projected this onto him but, for someone who on the page looks sort of disloyal and irreverent and all these things, actually there’s a real sense of value and loyalty about him. And there’s a sort of weird sensitivity to him. And it’s about going, ‘Yeah, but that’s my birthright. You’re stealing what is, essentially, my birthright’…I think he probably knows he’d be a terrible king, but, also, I think he’d have a good time doing it…They should make that show."
One spinoff at a time. And Considine is very sure which member of the family is best suited to sit the Iron Throne. “Me.” Obviously.
House of the Dragon honors Game of Thrones while standing on its own
As for the show more generally, both Considine and Smith are excited about how it preserves and honors the legacy of Game of Thrones while still striking out on its own. “What I liked about the scripts was that it didn’t feel like it was a spinoff,” Considine said. “They weren’t shooting it particularly differently, you know? Like, reimagining everything and it’s going to look like The Matrix or something. It was well within the world of Game of Thrones. And I think that’s a smart move. I think that’s really good. And I thought it was well within the framework of what I’d watched. So, I was excited about doing it.”
"At times we had to…establish…that this is our experience. We acknowledge [Game of Thrones] and appreciate it…but we can’t forever be in the debt of it. It’s like, ‘Well, you’ve hired us. This is a year of our lives, now.’ We’ve got to do our jobs. So, we had to, sort of, get on with things and make this experience unique for us too, if that makes sense.”"
We’ll see how they do when House of the Dragon premieres on HBO and HBO Max on August 21.
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