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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for House of the Dragon, episode eight.]
From the opening scenes of House of the Dragon, viewers knew King Viserys’ days were numbered. Plagued by a form of leprosy, the king wasted away, week after week, losing body parts and manifesting grotesque boils, and all the while discontent in his court festered over his choice of heir (his daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen). In episode eight, Viserys became a Gothic spectral figure of death, with half his face hid by bandages or a gold mask, as he desperately tried to convince his feuding family to set aside their differences and prevent a civil war.
Actor Paddy Considine (Peaky Blinders) gave a heartbreaking performance of a man giving every last ounce of energy to stopping a Targaryen doomsday, only to utterly fail. It’s a portrayal that also seems likely to generate Emmy buzz.
Last spring, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Considine via Zoom for a previously unpublished interview about his character’s fate in general.
“I think it’s very noble and dignified how he goes,” Considine said. “He’s suffering terribly from an affliction. He basically gets a form of leprosy that creeps into body, his bones start to fail him. His lungs start to fail him. He’s just dying a slow and horrible death. By the end of it, he looks like an old man. He’s not! He’s a young man. He’s only so many years older than his brother, Daemon. But it’s aged him. And it’s a metaphor for what power does to people, even though he doesn’t use it for his own personal gain. He doesn’t get drunk on the power, he’s responsible. But the demands of being a king take their toll on the physical body. So it was interesting playing that decline in him. He’s just trying to do good. He gets to say a few words before he leaves, which I was grateful for.”
Asked what was Viserys’ biggest mistake, Considine said his character should have rejected the opportunity to become king in the first place.
“The only mistake he made was becoming king,” he said. “He should have said, ‘No, give it to Rhaenys. I don’t want it. I’m going to fly some dragons and have a good time with the ladies in nefarious places of town.'”
Considine considered, and then came up with another regret, one that was apparent during the dinner scene when Alicent’s children were lashing out at Rhaenyra’s.
“I think he neglected to be a good father to his second family,” he says. “I think he neglected putting any effort into those children. They didn’t like him. I was on set one day and one of the actors playing one of my son says, ‘You hate us.’ And I went, ‘What?’ What do you mean? That I hate you as people — like Paddy [the actor] hates you?’ And he was like, ‘No, Viserys hates us, because you hate your children.’ I was like, wow, that’s amazing. That was so profound for him to say that.”
“Viserys doesn’t hate his children,” the actor added. “He just doesn’t love them the way he loves Rhaenyra. Because Rhaenyra’s mom Aemma is the love of King Viserys’ life. In a way, he’s responsible, because he was so dogged about wanting a male heir, and there were several failed pregnancies, and he feels greatly responsible for pushing her to have a child so many times. That’s his big regret. That’s part of the reason he chose Rhaenyra as his heir — there’s a bit of guilt there.”
The actor adds he’s looking forward to watching what comes next as a viewer, since the king’s death marks a major turning point in the drama.
“What happens beyond this is total mayhem,” he said. “It’s like everything Viserys worked hard to prevent happening, happens. It’s absolute destruction and mayhem and madness.”
At this point, Considine surprised by pulling out a harmonica and playing a few notes on it. “I’m playing a gig on Thursday, so I’m practicing some chords,” he explained. Indeed, in addition to embodying a doomed a king, Considine has a band, Riding the Low, which has been around since 2009 and has released two albums.
For some specific insight into episode eight, THR also interviewed director Geeta Patel about Considine’s long walk in the throne room, his final dinner, Alicent’s inner conflict and what happened to Dyana.
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