The Crabfeeder unmasked: House of the Dragon actor digs up secrets of Craghas Drahar

·7 min read
The Crabfeeder unmasked: House of the Dragon actor digs up secrets of Craghas Drahar

Warning: This article contains spoilers for House of the Dragon season 1, episode 3, "Second of His Name."

Fire and Blood, George R.R. Martin's compendium of Targaryen history that inspired HBO's House of the Dragon, makes little mention of Craghas Drahar, the Myrish prince-admiral known by his foes as the Crabfeeder. What we know about this figure, as chronicled in the book's passage titled "Heirs of the Dragon: A Question of Succession," doesn't even fill an entire page. So, as with other story elements to House of the Dragon, the makers of the TV series decided to expand the scope of this character.

Daniel Scott-Smith, the actor who plays the Crabfeeder in episodes 2 and 3, shares some of that character expansion with EW, including details that may not have been obvious from the screen time he got on the show.

"He's a nasty character. So as an actor, it's a dream," Scott-Smith, who's had small roles in Men in Black: International and Dune, says over Zoom from the U.K. "It's nice when you have details, as well, but it's also nice when it's a completely open book. That gave us the freedom to do what we wanted with the character, which, on a creative level, was incredible for me and I think for the directors, as well, because we could play with it and build our own version of Crabfeeder."

House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon

HBO; Simon Annand 'House of the Dragon' actor Daniel Scott-Smith dishes on the Crabfeeder

Fire and Blood tells us that Craghas commanded the armies and fleet of the Triarchy, which was the alliance of three of the Free Cities across the Narrow Sea — Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh. It was under his watch that these forces laid claim to the Stepstones, an important trade route between Westeros and Essos. But he became greedy and demanded high tolls from ships in exchange for safe passage. Sometimes those tolls included human trafficking. Craghas was nicknamed Crabfeeder for his unique way of doing away with pirates: staking them in the sand on the beach of the Stepstones and letting the crabs eat away at them when the tides came in.

Scott-Smith confirms some of the newer aspects to Craghas as seen in House of the Dragon. First, yes, that is greyscale on his left arm — the same kind of disease that afflicted Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram) and Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) on Game of Thrones.

"Craghas Drahar is seen as the bad guy, but for any bad character there's always got to be a journey of how they got to that point," Scott-Smith says. Through discussions with Greg Yaitanes, the director on episodes 2 and 3, they began unpacking the character. "We wanted to remember that there's two sides to him. So we spoke about the idea of him being a prince, or that he calls himself a prince, so he came from some sort of higher House," the actor explains. "We spoke about that and the gradual decline to where he is, how the greyscale might affect him physically, even mentally."

The hair, make-up, and prosthetics team added further details to the skin around the greyscale to make it look more raw. Then they layered the visual of psoriasis on top of it.

"We wanted to show the more prince, royal side, but then we also wanted to show the more feral side, which came through when he holds the hammer," Scott-Smith continues. "We wanted the idea of the hammer turning him into more of a beastly character."

The mask was another big part to the character. Scott-Smith confirms it's the same kind of mask worn by the Sons of the Harpy in Meereen in Game of Thrones. That was another aspect he discussed with Yaitanes after landing the role. He recognized it from watching the original series.

"It was definitely a nod to that for, I guess, the fans, because it's something familiar for them," Scott-Smith says. "And we spoke about the idea of him being the first person to wear this mask and it becoming iconic and, therefore, it's built from that [for Game of Thrones]... Why is he wearing the mask? How does he feel about that? It's a power statement, so he's quite happy wearing it."

House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon

HBO Craghas 'Crabfeeder' Drahar (Daniel Scott-Smith) as seen in 'House of the Dragon'

A lot of this character work may not come straight through for any casual viewer of House of the Dragon. Craghas is first glimpsed in episode 2, and then the final battle in the War of the Stepstones sees his demise at the hands of Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) in episode 3. (Scott-Smith says he hasn't yet met Smith as his scenes were filmed on completely separate days than the Doctor Who veteran. Daemon's slaying of Craghas occurs in the Stepstones' caves off camera.) Craghas doesn't speak either, nor does he ever remove his mask. But for those watchers who look for details, elements like the mask and greyscale were meant to evoke visual connections to the original series.

Scott-Smith didn't know what role he was auditioning for in 2021. The production was referred to by its code name "Red Gun," and the role was listed as "CF," which he now knows stood for Crabfeeder. The audition was dialogue-less. "It was all very physical," he recalls. "They wanted to see how I would physically embrace the character. In the actual breakdown, it said, 'Ideally, if you had a mask to wear, that would be great.' I didn't have a mask, so I [thought] maybe I won't get it because of that. But they were asking me about the hammering, how I'd physicalize that. They wanted to see the animalistic qualities with how I would eat something. So it was lots of little bits."

He clarifies that he didn't actually have to eat anything on camera for the audition, but rather "it was very much just ripping things off the bone and that kind of thing." He jokes, "I can't imagine Crabfeeder particularly cares about dinner etiquette."

Scott-Smith's work began a few weeks later in 2021 when a full base casting of his body was taken. This was used to ensure the mask and prosthetics would fit exactly right, but also for the mold of the Crabfeeder's severed torso in the final seconds of the Stepstones battle.

House of The Dragon
House of The Dragon

HBO Not even the fires of Caraxes can defeat Craghas on the beaches of the Stepstones

When filming first began on House of the Dragon, Scott-Smith would arrive seven hours before cameras rolled so the crew could apply all the necessary makeup and costuming, including a partial wig to evoke the decaying character's last remaining wisp of hair, and separate effects for a greying eye. "They got it down quite a lot, and by the end I think it just took about four or five [hours]," the actor says.

The final shot we see of the Crabfeeder is not of Scott-Smith but of that mold made for him at the beginning of the process. Daemon drags his adversary's remains out from the caves and onto the beach where the forces of Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) are clashing with the Triarchy. (Fire and Blood features an illustration of Daemon decapitating Craghas' head, but it seems that, too, was tweaked for the show.)

Scott-Smith says "it's a strange experience" to gaze upon his own dead body — even if it is just a prosthetic. "I don't think many people would experience that normally, but it was quite surreal," he says. "It was cool, though."

House of the Dragon airs Sunday nights on HBO and HBO Max.

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