Emily Carey is used to playing younger versions of major characters; she played the younger version of Lara Croft in the 2018 Tomb Raider movie, and the younger version of Diana in 2017’s Wonder Woman. And on House of the Dragon, she spent a full five episodes playing the younger version of Alicent Hightower, who is played by Olivia Cooke after the show skipped ahead by 10 years between Episodes 5 and 6.
Carey and Cooke didn’t really talk about playing Alicent Hightower, although they did run into each other on set; as Carey told Interview Magazine, everything was filmed at the same time: “[T]here’d be days I’d run into Olivia in the makeup trailer and it would be like, ‘Oh, this is weird. Hello.’”
Carey spent a lot more time with Milly Alock, who played a young Rhaenyra Targaryen, Alicent’s best friend. Both of them made a point to get to know each other before coming to set. “Luckily for us, the chemistry came quite organically,” Carey said. “We get along great in real life. So it all happened very naturally.”
The House of the Dragon cast was “taken aback” by the scale of the production
It must have been nice to have someone to hang out with and relate to between takes; Alcock and Carey are both new to the industry, after all, something that can’t be said of many of the heavy-hitters on this show. Then again, little can prepare you for the scale of a series like House of the Dragon, no matter how much acting experience you have.
“I’ll be honest, even some of these legendary actors were taken aback by the scale of the set,” Carey said. “This is probably one of the biggest TV shows ever, and its predecessor, Game of Thrones, is definitely one of the biggest TV shows ever. It’s a strange little bubble to be in, especially when it was all top-secret. Throughout the first few months of filming, we actually couldn’t tell anyone what we were doing, so we sort of clung to each other. We’d go out for drinks and have a debrief at the end of each week. We literally couldn’t talk to anyone else. But at the same time, I don’t think I would’ve wanted to. As I said, it’s such a niche experience. I don’t think we’ve let go since.”
I don’t think you ever really can prepare yourself. I prepared myself for the release in every way I thought I could, and then it released and I was like, “Wow, I was so not prepared for that.” There’s no YouTube tutorial. But going into shooting, I definitely tried not to think about Game of Thrones or the fans, just because it would distract me from the job at hand. The only people on that you should be trying to—please is the wrong word, but keep happy—are the creative team that is on set with you. So I just put a lot of trust in them, and if Miguel [Sapochnik] and Ryan [Condal] were smiling, I assumed I was doing okay, and I tried not to think about what Twitter might say when the episode came out.
It’s a “bittersweet” feeling to leave Alicent Hightower’s story partway through
Carey doesn’t have to worry about that anymore, because she’s off the show and probably won’t be coming back unless House of the Dragon drops an unexpected flashback on us. That means she can take the notoriety she gained from the Game of Thrones prequel and use it to pursue other projects, but as she says, “it’s a strange feeling leaving a character’s journey halfway through.”
I feel like Alicent’s story feels unfinished, because it is—which is why Olivia’s finishing it. But it’s an odd feeling. I wouldn’t say it’s an uncomfortable or sad feeling. Of course it’s bittersweet, but I’m just so excited to see what Olivia does. You never get to see yourself in 10 years. Obviously, and by yourself I mean the character I’m playing. I’m just excited to be able to watch the show and sit back and appreciate it for what it is rather than critique my own performance. It’s just an honor to be the younger version of Liv of all people. I’ve admired her for years.
You know, maybe a cameo would be fun. We’ll see what House of the Dragon has in store when it returns for a second season, probably in 2024.
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