Emily Carey is leaving. Unless you’re well-practiced in the actual art of spoiler-dodging online, you knew this was coming. HBO has been forthcoming about little or no in terms of their hit Game of Thrones prequel series, House of the Dragon, but they’ve been transparent about this: After episode 5, the actresses portraying Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower might be replaced with older ones, because of a major mid-season time jump. Emma D’Arcy will take over for Milly Alcock, and Olivia Cooke for Carey. But anticipating the move does little to melt the actual blow, given how audiences have connected with Alcock and Carey’s version of those characters.
Carey, 19, is thankful for the appreciation, if a little bit relieved she’s not locked right into a multi-year contract. And he or she’s perhaps not unhappy she needn’t portray the more ruthless version of Alicent, a sworn enemy of Rhaenyra in the approaching Dance of the Dragons civil war. Carey’s young Alicent just isn’t a villain, as Carey herself proclaimed to an audience at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this 12 months. On the time, fans weren’t thrilled with this concept. But in hindsight, it’s true: Her Alicent is a victim greater than an instigator, a witless child forced to play the games of a toxic hierarchy. Only in episode 5 does she make the primary in a protracted string of power moves, lashing out for a sliver of control.
That episode 5 scene, wherein Carey wears the colours of House Hightower to signal her loyalties at Rhaenyra’s nuptials, took quite a few takes for Carey to get right. It was her final shot, her parting gift to a series that has already begun to alter the Wonder Woman actress’s life. But she’s completely satisfied with where she leaves Alicent as Cooke takes over.
“I had these butterflies in my stomach, and I used to be like, ‘That is the moment, Em. That is the last take,’” Carey says. “‘That is your last big moment on this show. You’ve got to make it and make it occur.’ I channeled that from Emily’s thought process, which went very naturally into Alicent’s thoughts of, ‘That is your big moment. You’re making your entrance.’”
Below, Carey discusses with ELLE.com how she settled into the world of Westeros with little initial familiarity, how she grew comfortable acting alongside Alcock and Paddy Considine, and whether she would consider returning to the role in the long run.
Since you weren’t originally a Thrones superfan, what was your entry point to this role? Where did you begin to acquaint yourself with this massive world, so that you’d understand it whilst you were in it?
It’s lots. I don’t think I can recall my entry point. To start with, our show is—there’s a lot newness [apart from] Game of Thrones. Yes, there’s lots that correlates and responds, but additionally we’re a prequel. The books gave me lots more context as to the world and the history behind it than Game of Thrones [the show] did.
But what was great about Thrones was watching it put into context what was at stake for these characters. I attempted watching it the second that I booked [Dragon]. I used to be also attempting to read our script at the identical time. And as I said, I’m not into this genre in any respect; I much prefer a cheesy rom-com, which just isn’t really in Thrones. So there was sort of a language barrier. It felt very Shakespearean, which is something that I’m not used to.
So I’d read it and be like, “Hold on. This person isn’t actually that person because their names sound the identical, but then that’s a spot, not an individual.” It was so confusing. After which after all, trying to look at the unique show at the identical time? I used to be getting so lost, so I’d pause for a bit. After which I picked up each time I had breaks whilst we were shooting. By Christmas, I managed to look at all of it.
As a viewer of Thrones and as an actress on Dragon, how would you describe the difference between the 2? Not a lot by way of plot, but in mentality and aesthetic and approach?
I feel, for me, the most important difference was approach. How the creative team and the producers approached this show, as compared to the unique, was very, very different. As a 17-year-old young woman coming onto this show, never having seen Game of Thrones before, and just watching that first season in a single go—I used to be a bit like, “This is basically scary. What are they going to make me do on this show?”
It was daunting. After which, the second I stepped into the rehearsal room, they’d an open dialogue going about feminism and ladies on this show, and the way the intimacy scenes were going to be handled, and a mess of other things. And [those concerns] were type of put to bed very, in a short time. And all of us felt very comfortable. So I feel the approach for this, a minimum of, from season 1 of Game of Thrones may be very, very different.
I feel visual-wise, after all, we’re seeing the Targaryen dynasty at its peak. That is probably the most extravagant it ever was in its history. So I feel, visually, it’s lots more magnificent than Thrones.
Within the book, Alicent is a reasonably obvious villain. We’re meant to see her as such. But within the show, there’s far more expansion into why she makes the alternatives she makes, the ways she’s pressured from childhood into these decisions, how she’s a product of her surroundings. And we would have liked to feel that tension most keenly between you and Milly Alcock, who plays Young Rhaenyra. I’m curious how the 2 of you jumped into that dynamic, knowing how much of the show hung in your reference to one another.
I feel we were quite lucky, within the sense that Milly and I get along rather well in real life as well. She’s like a giant sister. She’s amazing. She’s so cool. But we made a degree to get to know one another before we stepped on set. So we FaceTimed a number of times while she was still in Australia. Looking back on it, we were so cute and polite to one another. After which we met within the rehearsal period, and we went for drinks, and we just talked about how crazy all of this was.
I knew, for her, she’d moved literally the world over in a world pandemic. And, for me, it was my first job as an adult. It was my first job with no chaperone and being completely by myself. So we were just type of clinging to one another for dear life at the start of the method, and we still are, to be honest.
We were very lucky with this to have such a protracted rehearsal period. It sort of felt like a play. It felt like theater within the rehearsals, which for me was a lot fun because that’s how I began. And so we worked really hard at this relationship, offscreen and onscreen, because we knew how much weight it needed to hold. Because, as you said, it deteriorates so quickly, you will have to indicate that closeness just straight from the get-go.
We had so many conversations and explored teenage friendship. Because I feel it’s one of the interesting dynamics you’ll be able to placed on screen, a friendship between two young teenage girls. I feel there’s a lot depth to it, and there’s a lot you’ll be able to do with it.
The perfect friend that you will have at 14—as a girl, especially—you think that it’s going to be your best friend ceaselessly. There’s no other option. It’s like a partner. You only wish to be with that person on a regular basis, and you think that it’s never going to finish. And I actually think you’re never going to have that closeness ever again. It’s toeing the road between platonic and romantic since it’s just all-consuming love for that one person. And in order that’s something that we talked about lots, and I feel it was so essential.
One in all the things I loved throughout your scenes as Alicent was how we, as an audience, could watch the myriad emotions moving across your face. We could see the conflict and the need and the disgust and the love as Alicent gets close with Viserys. How did you and Paddy Considine make this extremely strange dynamic feel comfortable for you as actors, but as complicated because it needed to be on screen?
It’s interesting what you said about with the ability to see Alicent type of cycling through emotion, because I remember—there have been two scenes where there have been so many various ways for me, as an actor, that I could have played it.
The primary one is the go-visit-the-king, wear-your-mother’s dress scene with Otto. After which the scene directly following that, where she goes in to see Viserys for the primary time. As an actor, there have been so many routes I could have taken it. And it was not possible to know which way. My first proper day on set was that scene with Paddy. And so I used to be very scared.
And I remember saying to Miguel [Sapochnik, co-showrunner], “How should I play this? Since it might be the fear she’s alone on this room with a person, the king. It’s also her best friend’s dad. It’s very weird. Is it the determination that she must get the job done? Is it the duty? Is it the greed for power? Is it the upset that she’s been put into this case?” After which Miguel just went, “Yes.” [Laughs.]
He was like, “Play with this confusion. Play it. Just all of it.” I’m glad that reads on screen because I desired to keep the confusion. And Paddy is, after all, an exceptional actor and in addition only a gem to work with. He’s so caring and type. And after every take he’d take a look at me and go… [Thumbs up.] I’d be like, “I’m good. Thanks, Padds. We’re doing good. We’re doing good.” He’d check in each time to be sure that that I used to be completely satisfied with the work that we were doing.
In fact, again, being 17 after I began this job and reading the script going, “It’s a completely grown man. I’m very scared.” I didn’t know find out how to react. After which me and Paddy ended up bonding over Drag Race. He’s an enormous Drag Race fan. And so am I. So unlikely friendship formed, which I feel reflects what’s on screen.
I feel Alicent and Viserys bond over this shared trauma. They find this unlikely bond, this emotional vulnerability with each other that they’ll’t really have with anyone else.
In a weird way, I feel Alicent knows find out how to comfort him because she’s seen her own father undergo something similar. She knows how men reply to emotions on this world, especially throughout the partitions of the Red Keep. She knows what it’s prefer to have an enormous amount of pressure in your shoulders.
We all the time said that they’d an enormous amount of affection for one another, but they were never in love. I feel Viserys and Aemma were one hundred pc in love, meant-to-be soulmates.
A number of the time, Miguel would actually direct Paddy when the camera was on me because he knows that’s how I work. He has a person process for every body he works with, and he makes you’re feeling such as you’re the one person within the room, which is so incredibly rewarding. But he would notice that sometimes I get in my head a little bit bit. And so he’d be like, “Okay, you don’t must give it some thought. I do know you. You only work very organically.” So he’d direct Paddy and would know exactly what to inform Paddy, and Paddy would play the precise right thing to impress the correct response out of me, which I feel is completely fascinating.
I do know you left Twitter for some time due to Thrones fans who disagreed together with your take that Alicent just isn’t a villain. Do you continue to feel defensive of her?
A hundred percent. I feel, if you will have a strongly formed opinion of Alicent, whether you hate her or love her, it implies that I’ve done my job well. You recognize what I mean? Nevertheless it was something I said at Comic-Con, all I said was she just isn’t the villain, and that clip was taken out of context. And what people didn’t see is, initially, that George [R.R. Martin] actually backed me up after I said it.
And he writes great characters. That’s absolutely what he likes to do. He writes characters which you could root for sooner or later, after which they do something completely disgusting the following day and also you hate them for it, but you continue to wish to love them. And I feel people forget that after I’m talking about Alicent I’m talking about my Alicent. [Dragon] was so top secret we haven’t even read the scripts that weren’t in. So I haven’t read Olivia’s Alicent; I haven’t seen Olivia’s Alicent.
It’s 20 years between my Alicent and hers. They’re two different versions of the identical person. Circumstance changes that. People pushing her, pushing her around. Persons are expecting to seek out this offended woman, and so they’re now being presented with a young girl who’s being pushed into becoming this offended woman. In fact, I read the book. I do know that she makes some questionable decisions.
But I feel what’s clear in the primary few episodes is that my Alicent doesn’t have a selection. And even when she’s given this privilege of selection, it’s still being made by men. The selection remains to be continuously, consistently, being made by men. And that’s what’s so heartbreaking in regards to the demise of the friendship because neither [Rhaenyra or Alicent] are on top of things at any point within the story.
But even the primary half of the season features so many time jumps. How did you navigate embodying Alicent in each of those barely different iterations?
I’ll be honest. It was difficult. I could go from playing Alicent at 14 into Alicent at 18, Alicent with children, being a grown woman, into a baby version of Alicent, all throughout the same day. I’d go from one costume to the opposite. I’m so glad that we had the rehearsal period because, from the rehearsal period, I could work out what each of those versions of Alicent were.
I journaled as my character because I find that’s something that helps me. And, especially with these time skips, I discovered it so useful to give you the chance to jot down at the tip of a rehearsal day, after which come back to it literally five months later and reread it repeatedly, and it will get me back into the precise way of thinking that I used to be in that day.
I feel, by episode 4, that’s where she’s really found her feet as queen. Because that big moment in episode 5, the green dress moment, it goes against every little thing and each way that I’d describe Alicent in 1, 2 and three. It’s like, if I were to explain Alicent’s personality, I’d not go, “Oh yeah, she’s going to crash a marriage and wear the flawed color and begin a war.” That’s not what she would do. So I had to seek out this very, very gradual journey of years and years to get to that final point in 5, where we see that spark of the offended woman that Olivia is then going to play from 6 onwards.
I anticipate that scene getting a number of traction online. Is it overwhelming to you, being on a series this gigantic in each scope and fanbase?
Inside these 4 partitions of my little flat, nothing has modified. I went out to purchase sweet potatoes yesterday. It’s the primary time I’d left the home for the reason that show had got here out, had a mask on, was picking up a reusable produce bag and filling it with sweet potatoes, and someone was like, “I like House of Dragon!” And I used to be like, “Oh, cool.” I sort of forget that I’m in it, I suppose.
But then I’m reminded 24/7. My sponsored ads on every type of social media: House of Dragon, House of Dragon. I turn on my TV, I am going to look at something on Now TV or Sky News, it’s like House of Dragon, House of Dragon. On buses and billboards, I step outside my house, and the bus stop is like, House of the Dragon. It’s overwhelming. It’s intense. I’ve been constructing a number of Lego to manage.
I do know that is the last we expect to see of you on this show. But would you come back, should there be some type of flashback scene in future seasons?
I mean, in all honesty, I don’t know. This show is so incredibly top secret, even after we were working on it, we weren’t even allowed hard-copy scripts; every little thing was on iPads.
If I used to be offered, I feel I’d love to return, depending on what I’m doing. But I suppose we’ll see. I mean, I’m quite glad that I get this huge profession push, and I’m not tied into something for 10 years. I get this big platform, and hopefully I don’t burn out. And I can use it to maneuver on and do other cool things. I mean again, we’ll see. I don’t know. But, to this point, just riding within the wave.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Lauren Puckett-Pope is an associate editor at ELLE, where she covers news and culture.