Before Daenerys Targaryen was the famous “mother of dragons” in “Game of Thrones,” her ancestor, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, would become the first reigning queen of Westeros.
Milly Alcock, 22, who stars as Rhaenyra in the first five episodes of the “GoT” spin-off series “House of the Dragon,” told The Post she hadn’t seen “GoT” before getting the part.
“But of course I knew about it,” she said. “I understood that it was very large and very popular. [After getting cast], I watched to prepare. I binge the entire 8 seasons in 2 weeks. It was intense and I quickly became a fan and understood why everyone loved it.”
“House of the Dragon” (Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO) is set approximately 200 years before the events of “Game of Thrones,” and follows the ancestors of Daenerys and Jon Snow, the silver-haired, dragon-riding Targaryen family. As Sunday’s series premiere introduced, King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) sits on the Iron Throne and has just named his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra, his heir – despite the fact that it’s not the norm for women to rule, and his advisers fear this will plunge the empire into chaos.
Alcock, 22, is an Australian actress (“The Gloaming”) who now lives in London. She was still living at home in her mother’s attic when she got the call that she’d landed the high-profile role.
“I was in shock and disbelief. It took me until I was doing pre-production to fully process it, and allow myself to get excited about it, and not feel like I was going to be fired,” she said. “The throne room was just so cool. Every time you stepped on the set, the novelty didn’t wear off.”
While they enjoyed Emilia Clarke’s performance as Daenerys, it didn’t draw her inspiration to play Rhaenyra, she said. “Of course there are similarities in their basic morals as humans, but in the end they move around the world very differently.”
Instead, she drew inspiration from two other sources.
‘Cate Blanchett in ‘The Golden Age’ and Audrey Hepburn in ‘Roman Holiday’. If you could combine those 2 women, I think that would be Rhaenyra. She is witty and sassy, but she has to constantly perform and live up to that royal role. But you can see below the surface, she’s not feeling well.”
As the first episode of “House of the Dragon” shows, Rhaenyra has an unusual relationship with her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith, “The Crown”) that has a flirty undertone (the Targaryens are pretty pro-incest, so that part is don’t care much for them).
“Me and Matt came to a mutual understanding: that… [the relationship] charged, but it’s below the surface,” Alcock said. “It’s almost like they’re having two conversations in each scene. It’s like what they actually say, and what they say in their body language, and in their eyes, and in their tone. It was a lot of fun to play with and work with Matt. He’s such a generous actor, and he’s so kind and thoughtful, it heightened my performance.
“I think Rhaenyra is at an age where she can’t tell the difference between platonic love, romantic love and lust because she hasn’t lived long enough and lived through those experiences. So I think she understands there’s a feeling here [with Daemon]but she’s not quite sure where it lands and how to interact with it and navigate it, which is what makes those dynamics so interesting.”
Since “Game of Thrones” was the biggest show in the world during its run from 2011 to 2019, Alcock said the cast of “House of the Dragon” felt a sense of pressure.
“Of course we did. But not while we were shooting. Only in this part we were reminded how big it is. I don’t really know how to approach it. It’s extremely intimidating. So I’ve been a little more withdrawn than I normally would be. Just gain the confidence to deal with that fandom – you want to do them justice. It’s quite interesting as an actor that there is already a fan base, as opposed to a fan base that comes to you.
“It’s almost like they have to accept us first. It will be interesting to hear everyone’s reaction.”