Milly Alcock says fame of playing Rhaenyra has left her anxious

Over the past decade, George R.R. Martin’s Song of the Ice and Fire franchise has become one of television’s hottest properties. The original Game of Thrones made megastars of Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Richard Madden, and others. With HBO’s prequel series House of the Dragon already a huge hit, 22-year-old Milly Alcock, who plays Rhaenyra Targaryen, says the publicity has left her anxious and strained.

Alcock is central to the story of House of the Dragon, with many fans comparing her to Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen from the original Game of Thrones.

Working on the House of the Dragon set was “incredibly intimidating” for Milly Alcock

Speaking with NYLON and determined to make everyone feel old, Alcock says she didn’t watch GoT on its first broadcast as she was too young.

“I watched the original show when we were doing pre-production because I was about eight or nine or something when it first showed up, so it wasn’t really appropriate,” says Alcock. “So I would cycle to the library every day and just study it, as if I would for a test or exam, to try and get a grasp of what was at stake because Westeros isn’t Earth. So I spent a lot of time trying to contextualize what everything meant and how I could translate that to us, where we live.”

Like Game of Thrones before it, House of the Dragon is a significant production, with HBO pouring resources into the show as it not only aims to emulate the success of its predecessor but also challenge Amazon’s big new fantasy show, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. So far, HBO has succeeded; House of the Dragon is currently doing better than Amazon’s Tolkien prequel effort in terms of reception and ratings.

For Alcock, making the step-up from much smaller budgeted Australian television was daunting.

“It was incredibly new and exciting and daunting because I’ve only ever done Australian TV, so the budgets are immensely different; they’re not in the same league. It was just quite a shock [to see] that was a way that you could make film and television. I didn’t fully understand how big of a scale something like that could be until I stepped on set, and I was mortified. You quickly adapt, and it all becomes quite normal. But the first two or three months, I just thought I was going to get fired constantly. It was incredibly intimidating.”

House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon. Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

However, the intimidation that Alcock feels hasn’t been limited to her work on the House of the Dragon set. Immediately thrust into the spotlight, Alcock as Rhaenyra Targaryen has been at the forefront of publicity and fan reception, with fan accounts, memes, and tributes pouring across the internet as soon as the first episode had concluded.

“It just makes me incredibly anxious,” says the actress. “Me seeing my face constantly is straining. No one should have to do that. It fuckin’ sucks, man. I don’t know how the socialites of the world can do that. It’s kind of driving me off the wall. It’s an incredibly difficult space to navigate.”

The anxiety of fame is something that Alcock says is alien to her, having not yet had similar starring roles like co-star Matt Smith, nor coming from a family with a background in acting like Emily Carey (Alicent Hightower).

“There’s very few people who’ve had an experience like how I’ve had, and finding them is really difficult. I don’t really know anyone who’s kind of gone through what I’m going through. All of my friends are very normal and go to uni and just do very basic things, and my family’s not in the arts whatsoever, so it’s strange. It feels like someone’s opened Pandora’s box, and you’re kind of just looking through the looking glass. It’s a bit Alice in Wonderland-y. It’s fucking weird.”

Milly Alcock in “the first phase of panic” about what to do next after House of the Dragon

Unlike Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon features significant time jumps between each of its episodes, with the biggest one looming as Milly Alcock will leave the show this coming Sunday, with her role as Rhaenyra being taken over by Emma D’Arcy. Alcock says that she’s unsure of her next move in acting but hopes it’s something different.

“I hope I get employed again. I do. I’ve got nothing going on at the moment. I’m in the first phase of panic. It’s like the pre-phase of panic. Of ‘I’m never going to work, it’s never going to happen again,’ as all freelancers know that feeling,” says Alcock. “I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow. I really don’t. So hopefully, something fun and exciting comes along, but I just really want to do something completely different to House of the Dragon.”

Whether we’ll see more of Milly Alcock as Rhaenyra Targaryen seems to be up in the air; with Emily Carey telling The Hollywood Reporter, there have been talks about both of them returning in season 2.

“It’s been spoken about, conversations have happened, but, in all honesty, I know absolutely nothing, and I have no idea,” said Carey. “Of course, I would love to come back. It depends on how it’s received and where they want to take the show next. I’m just going with the flow!”

Milly Alcock’s final performance as Rhaenyra Targaryen can be seen this Sunday in episode 5 of House of the Dragon, “We Light the Way,” on HBO and HBO Max.

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