Olivia Cooke plays Alicent Hightower like she’s “barely keeping it together”

House of the Dragon episode 8
House of the Dragon episode 8 /

The 2023 Emmy nominations are announced in just a couple weeks, and fans of House of the Dragon are hoping to see Olivia Cooke’s name among the hopefuls. Cooke plays Alicent Hightower, the scheming wife of King Viserys I Targaryen and the step-mother/former best friend of the king’s daughter Rhaenyra, who was going to become the heir to her father’s throne…at least until Alicent and he had a son.

This is a rather complicated relationship which gave Cooke a lot of room to play. “What do you do when you’re living in the same house as someone that you’ve got all this acrimonious tension with, who’s also your ex-best friend but now also your daughter?” she asked TheWrap. “It’s a really fascinating, deeply troubled relationship that has this invisible string of tension between them at all times.”

"It’s wonderful, casting your mind back to your fledgling childhood friendships and how those little injustices, those rejections and those moments of discovery impact you even as an adult. Finding those moments within Alicent and Rhaenyra’s relationship implants a memory that you can draw upon when you have those scenes that are more tempestuous."

Olivia Cooke didn’t talk to Emily Carey about playing Alicent Hightower on House of the Dragon

That said, it took a while for Cooke to really come into playing the character, in part because Alicent tends to keep her cards close to her chest. “She’s a bit of an enigma to start off with,” Cooke said. “We found her as we went on, and I think it was really only by the end of filming the series that we were like, ‘Oh, OK, there she is.’ It was a discovery all the way through.”

Cooke only starts to play Alicent halfway through the first season of the show, after the story jumps ahead 10 years. For the first five episodes, a younger Alicent is played by Emily Carey. Although you might expect the two actors to sit down and compare notes, they didn’t. “We never discussed the character, really,” Cooke said. “I wanted to leave that up to her interpretation. I don’t think I’m in a position to lecture or guide.”

Cooke figures that because so much time passes between the actor switch, trying to maintain a sense of continuity wouldn’t have been very useful. “So much changes in the 10-year time jump, as things do in life,” she said. “I look at myself two years ago, and I’m like, God, what a wildly different person I am today.”

Will Olivia Cooke get an Emmy nomination for House of the Dragon?

Then there’s Alicent’s relationship with her father Otto, who arranges the marriage between her and the king — who is many years her senior — in the first place. “She’s always known that Otto is trying to position her in the best way possible, but to what gain has always been unclear until later on in the series where it is truly revealed that Alicent has been a pawn in his hand since the day she was birthed,” Cooke said. “It’s a lifelong deceit. You question every single decision that your father has made on your behalf: Was it for you? Was it for the realm? Or was it just for him to go down in the history books and create this legacy for himself?”

Overall, Cooke tried to play Alicent as if she was “barely keeping it together” and wracked by “subterranean tensions.” I think she did a great job. If she’s on the list of Emmy nominees come July 12, it will be well deserved.

I’m also looking forward to what she’ll bring in the second season of House of the Dragon, which is due out on HBO and Max sometime in the summer of 2024.

Next. Emilia Clarke won’t be in the Jon Snow show, but will watch for Kit Harington’s sake. dark

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