The series is set in the world of Westeros, first introduced in the television drama Game of Thrones, but set some 150 years before the events of that series. At this point in the world’s history the royal house of Targaryens is in charge, politically empowered by their stable of 17 fire-breathing dragons.
But as you should expect from a Game of Thrones story, politics soon complicates family life, as the court is split between those who advocate for King Viserys’ daughter Princess Rhaenyra (Australian actress Milly Alcock) to succeed, and those who back his brother, Daemon (Matt Smith). “It’s [set] just before the bloom starts to come off the rose,” the show’s producer, Ryan Condal said.
Paddy Considine, who plays King Viserys, described the Targaryen monarch as “a kind man who’s trying to keep the peacetime going within the kingdom. He loves his family and cares about his position, but he’s carrying something else.”
Smith, the former star of The Crown and Doctor Who, won the loudest applause from the Hall H audience as he took to the stage. The 39-year-old British actor described the relationship between King Viserys and his character, Prince Daemon Targaryen, as complicated. “Everything is about his brother for Daemon,” Smith said.
HBO, and the show’s Australian broadcaster Binge, are gambling that House of the Dragon will command the same fealty from its audience as the long-running hit Game of Thrones. And following in that show’s footsteps was daunting said actress Olivia Cooke, who plays Lady Alicent Hightower.
“There’s this behemoth that we’re following, and this massive pressure that we feel to give you guys what you want, to make it different, but also to put our own stamp on it,” she said. “We’re so grateful for what came before which was so amazing. And we just hope this has the same legacy because we worked our bums off for a year [to make it].”
Making a rare public appearance, the creator of both Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, George R.R. Martin, said a cameo in the new series was not likely. At least not yet.
“You may not know, but there’s this book that I’m writing, it’s a little late,” Martin said, referring to the still-unpublished final book of the Game of Thrones cycle, The Winds of Winter. Aware it is more than a few years overdue, the audience cheered.
“I don’t see me visiting a set or doing anything until I finish and deliver that book,” Martin said. “If the show is still going who knows, maybe I will show up.”
The 73-year-old novelist and screenwriter revealed he had filmed a small role in the Game of Thrones pilot back in 2009, but when the heavily-reworked first episode was changed his scene was cut. “They re-shot most of the pilot so I was left on the cutting room floor,” he revealed.
A second proposal, that Martin would appear as a severed head in a scene where the deranged Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) forces his betrothed Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) look at a wall of severed heads. But the effect was deemed to be too expensive. “So they just bought a box of used severed heads,” Martin said.
But even that was not without its own controversy, Martin noted. One of the heads used in the scene was a prop head of former president George W. Bush. When it was noticed, back in 2012, HBO was forced to apologise and digitally erase it from future broadcasts. “If you get one of the old DVDs you can see it,” Martin said.
“Who knows, maybe I can yet become a severed head,” Martin quipped.
San Diego Comic-Con runs until Monday, Australian time.
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