Brothers in arms: Matt Smith and Paddy Considine unpack their 'complicated' arc on House of the Dragon

·7 min read
Brothers in arms: Matt Smith and Paddy Considine unpack their 'complicated' arc on House of the Dragon

Warning: This article contains spoilers from House of the Dragon season 1, episode 4.

Matt Smith and his House of the Dragon costar Paddy Considine did not go the same route when filming finished on the Game of Thrones prequel series.

Smith, 39, is on the move when he calls on his cellphone from the streets of London in June of this year. He searches for a quiet spot so the background noise of the city doesn't distract from the interview. The Doctor Who alum explains how he's been all over the place.

"I'm much commonly known as an idiot," he says. "I took a couple of weeks off and then I went straight back in and did another film." That film was Starve Acre, a horror movie he shot with Morfydd Clark, who plays Galadriel on Amazon's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. "Now, I think I'm going to take what's called a Mediterranean summer and go spend some time in Italy or somewhere nice like that and not do very much."

Considine's idea of a vacation is going on tour with his band, Riding the Low. After production wrapped, the actor known for roles The World's End and The Outsider rallied the ensemble for a string of shows leading up to a concert in Glastonbury at the end of the month, while also preparing to record an album for late summer, early autumn. The bright sounds of a harmonic can be heard logging into Zoom. Considine, 49, blows a few notes through the instrument at the start and end of our conversation. "It's a great escape from everything else," he says of his music.

That and RuPaul's Drag Race. Considine and Emily Carey, the then-17-year-old playing his on-screen wife, developed a rapport over their shared love of the drag queen competition show. Carey remembers a moment from shooting the jousting scenes in episode 1: as the stunt team rehearsed the tourney, she says Considine stood up in full Viserys costume and shouted, "Two jousters stand before me. Are you ready to joust. For. Your. Life?!"

House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon

Ollie Upton/HBO King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) has a very complicated relationship with his brother, Prince Daemon (Matt Smith)

As Prince Daemon and King Viserys Targaryen on House of the Dragon, Smith and Considine's personalities are much further at odds. Viserys is "a man who's king, but he's not," Considine notes of his character. "He shouldn't really be a king because he's not a natural leader, but he's just a good man. That's not the qualities you need to rule that kingdom." Daemon, on the other hand, may not be what viewers would call a "good" man, but he is a leader, able to rally his men in the City Watch and to be pronounced King of the Narrow Sea after conquering the Stepstones. You just don't always know where his allegiances lie. Not even Smith could tell you for sure.

"There's a strange ambiguity to Daemon," the actor notes. "You never really know what he's thinking or what his intention is and what his ambition is. It could be one of many things. I thought that was quite interesting to sit with."

The ambiguity becomes more apparent by episode 4 of House of the Dragon. Smith recognizes the Targaryens "are a mad, strange family," and the madness comes out when Daemon takes his niece, the Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), out into the streets of King's Landing disguised as small folk. Daemon loves Rhaenyra, maybe too much. They nearly engage in incestuous sex in a pillow house. As Carey's Alicent Hightower later quips to Rhaenyra, Targaryens sure do have "queer customs."

But the relationship is not so cut and dry for the viewer. Viserys named Rhaenyra his sole heir to the Iron Throne, snubbing Daemon in the process. Is Daemon actually trying to open up his niece to certain pleasures he fears she will miss, as he claims? Is he trying to purposefully taint her reputation as heir to the throne, just as she's attempting to find herself a suitor? Is all of this Daemon's attempt to marry Rhaenyra and ascend the Iron Throne?

It's difficult to say. Daemon stops himself from going all the way with Rhaenyra, but word gets back to the king anyway, sending the two brothers into yet another violent squabble in the throne room. Smith describes Daemon's relationship with Viserys is "really complicated."

House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon

Ollie Upton/HBO Matt Smith's Daemon Targaryen makes a splash in 'House of the Dragon' episode 4

"I think it's complicated because it's familiar and normal in many ways," he explains. "It's very brotherly and like any kind of brotherly relationship, there are different power dynamics. One time one is in control, then the other is in control. Hopefully you'll feel a sense of history and brotherhood when you watch it."

Considine made his own creative choices with the portrayal of Viserys that isn't wholly prevalent in George R.R. Martin's Fire and Blood, the book the inspired House of the Dragon. He wanted to bring "dimensions" to the king. "As much as Viserys is a good man trying to keep the peace, he still has the dragon inside him. That's something that I wanted to bring out at certain points," Considine says.

He also calls Viserys is "a tragic man." Once the king commands Rhaenyra to marry Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate), son of Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint), he fires Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) as Hand of the King on Rhaenyra's insistence. Otto was, after all, the one who first told the king about the rumor — even if it was half true. (Looking at you, Ser Criston Cole.) Viserys now sees how Otto orchestrated his marriage to Alicent and feels betrayed.

"He understands the politics of what it means to be king," Considine remarks of Viserys. "He understands what the throne does to people's egos, particularly the people around him. He understands the game of thrones. When I played the character, I always had that in the back of my mind. There's a possibility that people are conspiring around you at all times, and it's absolutely so important that you find the anchors, the people that you can really, really trust. So it's a difficult life being the king."

House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon

Ollie Upton/HBO Paddy Considine and Matt Smith as King Viserys and Daemon Targaryen

The weight of the crown is eating away at him, as symbolized in the festering cut Viserys received from sitting the Iron Throne. By episode 3, the king had lost two fingers. That deterioration continues in episode 4 and will continue moving forward. "He's actually suffering from a form of leprosy," Considine says. "His body is deteriorating, his bones are deteriorating. He is not actually old. He's still a young man in there. He's just, unfortunately, got this thing that's taken over his body. It becomes a metaphor for being king, and the stress and strain that it puts on you, and what it does to you physically, what it does to you mentally."

Still, being a brother sounds more challenging in the Targaryen family. If it's true what they say in Westeros, that the gods toss a coin in the air for the birth of every Targaryen, Daemon's coin is still flipping. "It hasn't quite hit the ground yet," Smith remarks. "He's always kind of flipping sides, I suppose, in many ways aligning himself with his brother or he's not... I don't think it's about an ambition to throne and all that. I think a lot of it is about his brother."

Listen to more of EW's interviews with Matt Smith and Paddy Considine on the Game of Thrones podcast West of Westeros.

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