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Paddy Considine remembers the time an acting coach gave him a perfect example of how to not play a king.
Considine — best known for his roles on Peaky Blinders and In America — recalled how an acting student came onto a stage playing a king with all the majestic self-importance that he could possibly exude.
“He was doing all the kingly stuff you could imagine,” Considine says. “And the coach told him: ‘We don’t need to see all that nonsense. We already know you’re the king — you’ve got a fucking crown on your head!’”
“I don’t have to play a king at all — the ceremony around him and ritual tells you he’s a king,” he says. “All I’ve got to play is the human, you just play the man.”
Below, the actor takes a few questions about landing the role and explains why Dragon isn’t just another fan service prequel.
When did you first get wind of this project, and what was your reaction?
My agent said, “They’re making a prequel to Game of Thrones and they’re looking at you to play the king.” I knew the show and [Dragon director Miguel Sapochnik] directed one of my favorite episodes, so I was pretty excited. But I was a bit cautious because sometimes I’ve been offered things in the past and it sounds exciting, and then you get the script and you just have three scenes or something. I didn’t want to be in the background waving a sword. I got the first three scripts and it was a really rich, beautiful and conflicted character. A beautiful character. I’ve been waiting for a role like this, if I’m being honest.
King Viserys is, as you say, complicated. How would you describe him?
King Jaehaerys kept peace in the kingdom for many years. Then Viserys was chosen to be king over his cousin Rhaenys — whether that was because he was a man, I don’t know. But Viserys is a great scholar and I think the responsibility was given to him because he was peaceful like Jaehaerys. He’s a good man, but a bad king in that he tries to please everybody. At the heart of him, he’s also a dragon, too, and there’s only so much Viserys can take. There’s a part of his DNA where he does have that [anger] in him and he has to hold his temper. So he’s not a cliché king. He’s a very human man with huge emotions and responsibilities that weigh on him physically and mentally.
He’s also a Targaryen who no longer rides a dragon, which had to be a least a little bit of a bummer for you.
Yes. He’s retired from dragon riding. He rode the infamous Black Dread, who is dead now. It’s a shame for me because all my nephews thought it was exciting their uncle was going to be a dragon rider. I could see their little faces getting more and more disappointed when I told them, “Well, I don’t actually ride a dragon.” Viserys sees dragons as atomic bombs. He knows their power. And he also understands the Targaryens wouldn’t be the force they were in the world without them. So he understands their importance and is very responsible about how they’re used and that they’re not to be messed with.
How does he feel about his brother, Daemon [played by Matt Smith]?
He loves his brother very much, but he knows if his brother turns up at a wedding there’s going to be trouble. Being king has estranged him from Daemon. Daemon has a head for adventure and can behave irresponsibly at times. He’s always pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable, and Viserys is always making excuses for him. Hopefully, we see their love tested in the show.
You’ve been in some big productions, what stood out to you about this one?
The sets were phenomenal. You could have moved into the Red Keep and literally lived there. All of us could have. It was ridiculous. I’ve never been on a set where you just keep walking around and finding rooms and staircases.
So many U.K. actors were in the original series, did you speak to any of them before taking this on?
No, I don’t know anybody! If you’re in Doctor Who, I think it’s a good idea to speak to the Doctor that came before you and find out a bit about passing the torch. It’s the respectful thing to do. But this was different. This is hundreds of years earlier. There doesn’t seem to be the need. They were part of creating a phenomenon which we’re very grateful for, but House of the Dragon is our journey. So I have nothing but respect, but I didn’t feel the need to speak to any of them considering I live 300 years before those guys.
How do you think House of the Dragon compares to the original show?
I think it can work. I don’t want it to be one of those Easter egg-y shows — “Oh there’s Boba Fett’s helmet,” and all that. There will be little things where fans will go, “Is that what I think it is?” But it’s not a show relying on Easter eggs to get by. It’s a great narrative. It’s a family drama. There are all kinds of great stuff in it. It’s very much steeped in the world of Game of Thrones and not a spinoff where they’re trying out new stuff. Hopefully, fans dig it.
House of the Dragon airs Sunday nights on HBO.
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