Olivia Cooke on Her Game of Thrones Prequel Character


Wanting to return to fire, ice, games, and thrones, but impatient to wait for George R.R. Martin to finish those books already? Lucky for you, plenty of Game of Thrones spin-off series are in various stages of development — including HBO Max prequel series House of the Dragon, based on Martin’s novel Fire and Blood.

After a COVID-related shutdown, production on the series is back in swing. And when House of the Dragon actor Olivia Cooke spoke with our own Christina Radish for Cooke’s upcoming film Naked Singularity, she dove in briefly but tantalizingly about the prequel, reckoning with fan expectations, and the moral complexities required to play Queen Alicent Hightower.

Image via HBO

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While Cooke admitted she wanted to keep many of her Queen’s details close to the chest (“I don’t know if I can say anything without really giving it away”), she revealed that “she’s very complex and I think people are gonna want to see the worst in her.” We do know that Queen Hightower is in a familial, King Lear-feeling battle for power with her husband King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and her stepdaughter Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) — Hightower wants the throne for her sons, Targaryen wants it for herself. It wouldn’t be a story in the GoT-verse without such a potent, morally complicated conflict at its core, but to hear Cooke reveal that we’ll “see the worst in her” is promising indeed.

Cooke also believes that “it will take some time” for an audience to fully understand her and her motivations.

“What’s amazing about Game of Thrones, like we saw in the past series, is that one season, you hate a character, and the next, you absolutely love them and will go to the ends of the earth for them. You just don’t know what you’re gonna get with these characters. They’re so well-written. Such is the human condition, you can do some horrendous things, but then you can also do some wonderful things as well. It’s very complex, and it’s not black and white at all.”

Olivia Cooke and Rhys Ifans in House of the Dragon

Image via HBO

Of the show’s relationship to the original Game of Thrones and how it relates to an audience’s expectations — and her own process as an actor — Cooke said that “it does help that the story is of a hundred years prior. We’re in the world of Game of Thrones, but you can also put yourself in a different headspace as well and know that, for an actor, you don’t have to necessarily follow on from what anyone else is doing. But at the same time, yeah, it’s utterly bizarre, after the year or year and a half, of fucking 10 years that we’ve had, looking down and just being like, ‘What am I wearing? What am I doing? This is mad.'”

It sounds mad, indeed, and I suspect fans of GoT would desire nothing less. And according to Cooke, a powerful group of artists and craftspeople are busting their backs to make this show the best it can possibly be: “The crew is a hundred strong. The artistry involved is mind-blowing. The sets that have been created are fucking gorgeous, and the costumes. Down to the tiny prop that you hold in your hands, there’s just so much thought that goes into it and so much history as well. It’s amazing to work on a film, a TV show, or anything where everyone is just so passionate about it.”

Be on the lookout for our full interview with Cooke soon. House of the Dragon comes to HBO Max 2022.

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