Set 200 years before the original HBO series and based on the prose story Fire & Blood, House of the Dragon follows the firey Targaryen family in its glory days ruling Westeros. Here at San Diego Comic Con 2022, nearly the complete main cast - including Matt Smith (Prince Daemon Targaryen), Olivia Cooke (Alicent Hightower), Paddy Considine (King Viserys Targaryen), Emma D’Arcy (Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen), Steve Toussaint (Lord Corlys Velaryon), Eve Best (Princess Rhaenys Targaryen), Fabien Frankel (Ser Criston Cole), Graham McTavish (Ser Harrold Westerling), Milly Alcock (Young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen), and Emily Carey (Young Alicent Hightower).
They will be joined by Games of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin, as well as House of the Dragon's showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik.
The House of the Dragon panel is happening nearly one month to the day of the HBO show's planned debut on August 21, and Popverse is live in a packed Hall H to deliver the news straight to you. So follow along live with our play-by-play or come back later to read the whole report all at once.
People are still moving into Hall H ahead of the House of the Dragon panel, one of the most anticipated of the entire weekend. How do you follow Shazam and Dwayne Johnson? With a lot, a lot, a lot of dragons, apparently. Jason Concepcion, the moderator of the panel, has walked onstage.
Concepcion says, "let's get a little spicy, shall we?" They're showing an extended trailer for House of the Dragon.
The panelists are brought onstage; it's a packed line-up: Paddy Considine (King Viserys Targaryen), Matt Smith (Daemon Targaryen), Olivia Cooke (Alicent Hightower), Emma D’Arcy (Rhaenyra Targaryen), Stevie Toussaint (Corlys Velaryon), Eve Best (Rhaenys Velaryon), Fabien Frankel (Criston Cole), Graham McTavish (Harrold Westerling), Milly Alcock (young Rhaenyra Targaryen), and Emily Carey (young Alicent Hightower), as well as co-showrunner Ryan Condal, and the iconic George R. R. Martin.
Miguel Sapochnik, who showruns alongside Condal, was meant to attend but has Covid. D'Arcy is reading out a statement from him, as he apologizes for not being here, praises the cast, and talks about his excitement surrounding the show.
What can we expect from the show? Condal: "Fire and blood." Martin: "And dragons!" It's the history of the Targaryen dynasty, and begins at the pinnacle of the dynasty. "It's just before the bloom starts to come off the rose," Condal says.
Considine says that the Iron Throne is "lovely! I got very comfortable on that throne. I got very territorial about it."
King Viserys was a good man, Considine says. "I think that's why he was chosen as king." Says he wanted to imbue him with humanity. "There's great tragedy in him," but he's carrying a secret that will be referred to in the show - something that might refer to the fall of man.
Matt Smith gets cheers before even speaking. He says that his character, Daemon Targaryen, shares a very complicated relationship with Viserys (his brother).
Rhaenys Velaryon is the "queen that never was," and it "kind of pisses her off," says Best. "And it kind of pisses her off that people keep reminding her that she was never the queen."
Toussaint says that Corlys Velaryon is a famed nautical man, who went on nine voyages that are behind the wealth that he has at the start of the series. "He's a self-made man," he says.
Fabien Frankel says that the fight scenes are going better than when they started; his first fight scene with Matt Smith ended with him smashing him in the face. "I thought I was going to get fired."
The journey of Rhaenyra in the series is knowing when to let the fire burn, and when to dampen it, says Emma D'Arcy.
Martin says that he was nervous about the series at first, likening the adaptation process to giving children up for adoption. "He's done a good job... so far," he jokes about what Condal's work. He's seen nine of the first season's 10 episodes, and "I'm very happy."
Condal talks about how the dragons have their own personalities. There are 17 dragons throughout the show at its height. "It was important to differentiate how they behaved and acted, how they bonded with their riders," he said; it was one of the first things they started working on, working from Martin's descriptions from the books.
"We've designed dragons that you won't even see in season one," Condal teases, saying that the process was so much fun that they kept going.
The cast agree that putting on the wigs was when they realized they were getting into character. "It's like a Targaryen rite of passage," says D'Arcy. "It was when I realized I was doing this series."
If the cast ruled, what would their first decree be? "I'd allow them to dye their hair," Smith says. "Pants! I'd allow women to wear pants," says Olivia Cooke, complaining that going to the restroom during shooting was difficult because of the costumes.
D'Arcy and Alcock, who play the same character at different ages in the series, say that they've not really collaborated on the role. D'Arcy says she had the easier role, because she considered Alcock to be as if she was looking at old photos of herself.
What makes the best ruler of Westeros? According to Martin, someone who doesn't necessarily want the role, although he admits that might make for boring stories. "Nobody wants to watch someone building roads." Viserys is close to that ideal, he suggests. "I enjoy the way that Paddy embodies Viserys," Condal, adding that he brought an inner fire to the character, showing a desire to keep everyone together and stop things from falling apart. "But it's Game of Thrones, so everyone has their own political ambitions."
Viserys is an anomaly in the Game of Thrones world, Condal says, because he's political instead of personally ambitious.
Why is Westeros so resistant to female rulers? "My books are based on history," Martin says, saying that he's drawing from real world misognistic history, with this era specifically drawn on the Anarchy period of the United Kingdom, between 1138 and 1153. "I don't think Game of Thrones is any more sexist than reality," he says.
How does everyone deal with the fictional language of the show? Can people order lunch? The cast agree that Milly Alcock is best at it, but she says that the best she can do is order a cappuchino. Paddy Considine throws some out there to audience applause.
How did the cast keep their spirits up during the shoot? There was a chocolate table that was "flirted with" until the end of the day, when it was ravaged. Rhys Ifans, who's not present, was collectively judged as someone who'd keep spirits up, mostly by making fun of Fabien Frankel.
Paddy Considine says that he really liked a specific knife prop from the show, and admits surprise that, because he likes it so much, HBO didn't give the knife to him after production. (HBO, please give him a knife.) "I did steal something," he admits. "I'll never say [what it is] because they're realize it's missing. Come after me."
Did the cast use their own family history in bringing the Targaryen story to life? "My own family history doesn't feature incest and murder as far as I know," says Toussaint.
Emily Carey writes journals as her own character, Alicent Hightower, while on set. She says that she was given a lot of space to create her own backstory. "I managed to come up with some form of backstory, and it came in very useful," she says. "It gave me a deeper understanding of Alicent," she says. "I've never had the freedom to create a complete human being like this before."
Is this a story with a hero and a villain? "It depends how you define those terms," Martin says. "We're not going to have anyone called Lord Evil or Mr. Atrocity, or anything like that." He says that the most interesting characters are morally complicated, and that's what he wants Westeros to be filled with. "All of these characters have good in them, have evil in them. It's a matter of what choices they make."
Martin says that he likes that readers disagreed about who were the heroes and villains of the books, and he hopes viewers of the show will feel the same.
Paddy Considine: "The only dragon I've ever ridden in my life was the one from the Never-Ending Story." Apparently, he found it in an abandoned warehouse in Germany and "gave it a little ride." (This is in response to being asked what it's like to ride a dragon in the series.)
Alcock says that riding a dragon in the series is, basically, riding a mechanical bull in front of a number of people with lead blowers. "It feels weirdly alive," adds Best. "It feels like it's a live thing. Is that just me?"
Frankel also says that it's "hard to keep a straight face" when acting with dragons, because in reality, it's just a prop master holding a ball on a stick until the CGI is added.
Ryan Condal is talking about meeting George R.R. Martin, which came about because he was shooting a different series in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Martin lived. The two had dinner, and "we stayed in touch!"
The moral of this story is, apparently, that we should all ask writers to dinner when visiting new locations.
How are the cast and crew feeling, a month out from its premiere? "It's weird, isn't it?" says Cooke, admitting that there's pressure to deliver something that lives up to Game of Thrones, and satisfies fans, but isn't a slavish copy of that earlier show. "We worked our bones off" on the series, she says. "I hope you like it."
Toussaint talks about being a Black man in a fantasy setting. "It does feel great because, apart from certain people's viewpoints about someone who looks like me playing this role, it's never been an issue." Says, about such racists, that it's their problem, not his. "I just have to say the lines convincingly."
Somehow, we've ended up in a conversation about Paddy Considine is a boxer or not. He jokes that he could definitely take Dwayne Johnson, who they all saw backstage.
It's fan question time, and the first fan tells Matt Smith, "It's Morbin' Time!" to his confusion. The question is, amazingly, how would his Morbius character fit into the Game of Thrones universe. "That's a very good question," Smith says charitably. "I'm glad you watched a completely different movie."
Eve Best is asked about what drew her to play Rhaenys Velaryon, and she's at a loss for words. "It's an amazing thing, an amazing creature," she says. She hadn't seen Game of Thrones before, and was intrigued to learn more about the world. "We didn't have any information in the script we were sent, all the names were changed, so I didn't really know what it was. My agent kept saying, 'it's a really, really amazing show.'"
Matt Smith is asked how it feels to play more sinister roles after playing the Doctor for so long. "It's quite good to have breadth as an actor," he says, saying that he was looking to play something darker after playing the Doctor.
Will we see George R.R. Martin in a cameo at some point in the series? Maybe not, he says; he's been staying inside since Covid, and "you may not know, there's this book I'm writing, it's a little late." Says that maybe he'll appear in the show after he's finished writing. He did cameo in the original pilot of Game of Thrones, but it was cut from the finished cut. He was supposed to be a severed head in one scene, but it was too expensive to make it happen, he says.
What was the most difficult part of the story to adapt on the screen? "It's a very hard story to adapt because it's very long, and very complicated," Martin says. "It's a really interesting challenge, because it's not a traditional novel," Condal says. "It's a history book." The trick is painting between the lines that were present in the book; also, he says, structuring this story that continues across generations in the original book.
"The challenge with anything as big as Fire and Blood is that there's always this tendency to simplify things. There's so many characters," Martin says. "But people learn to keep track of them. I don't want to underestimate the audience." Says that HBO is willing to tackle things in a more challenging manner than would happen on network television.
There's a lot of King's Landing in the show, and a lot of Driftmark, too, says Condal.
If the cast had Houses, what animal would be their sigils? Martin says that his would be a turtle. Olivia Cooke says that she'd choose a badger.
Martin says that he loved researching sigils in history, but that the reality is more boring than it seems, because everyone chooses lions.
Will we get a chance to learn the bigger history of House Targaryen in the series? "That's what the series is about," says Condal. Martin says that there is a greater history from even before the period when the series begins. "If I could live to be 140, instead of 73, maybe I could write some of those stories," he says.
One last question: Have you banned coffee cups from the set? "No," says Matt Smith. "They're everywhere."
And that's the end of the panel, as Concepcion reminds everyone that House of the Dragon debuts on HBO on August 21. Thanks for reading along!