Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE House of the Dragon

Emma D'Arcy on how being a 'Game of Thrones' newbie helped with 'House of the Dragon'

Emma D'Arcy went into House of the Dragon blind, and it turned out to be the right decision.

By Matthew Jackson
Emma D Arcy As Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen in

There was a time, just a few years ago, when Game of Thrones felt like not just the biggest TV show in the world, but perhaps the biggest pop culture thing in the world. In an age of streaming and DVRs, it was that rare series that everyone felt like they had to watch together on Sunday nights, lest spoilers ruin the experience. The battle for the Iron Throne became a big communal experience, something many fans are feeling all over again with House of the Dragon. But for HotD star Emma D'Arcy, that wasn't the case, and they're actually happy about that.

Speaking to Interview Magazine about their journey to playing Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen on House of the Dragon, D'Arcy explained that, while they were certainly aware of Game of Thrones as it blazed a path to pop culture dominance, they weren't watching along with everyone else. Instead, D'Arcy didn't watch the series until after being cast in the HBO prequel, something that brought an added layer of calm to the audition process.

"I hadn’t seen it before I auditioned, which I honestly think is the only reason I’m able to do the job," D'Arcy said. "There’s no way I’d have made it through the audition process if, at that time, I had the love for the show that I have now. I think I’d have buckled under the pressure."

RELATED STORY: 'House of the Dragon's Emily Carey was initially 'scared' about Alicent Hightower’s sex scene

After landing the role of Rhaenyra, D'Arcy went back and watched Game of Thrones in the lead-up to making House of the Dragon, and spent some time reading Fire & Blood, George R.R. Martin's history of House Targaryen which serves as the basis for the new series. 

"Not least because it’s very exciting to read ahead and get spoilers on your own story," D'Arcy explained. "Highly recommend that."

Apart from the experience of becoming a fan of the Game of Thrones world in between getting the part and shooting the first season of the new series, D'Arcy also highlighted the "sheer scale" of the House of the Dragon production, which rivals Game of Thrones in the level of detail and size brought to each episode. 

"Fundamentally, the ultimate challenge is having the stamina to shoot for that long, and you’re doing these huge scenes that maybe have at least 20 to 30 cast members, then hordes of supporting artists in these huge rooms, and they’re playing at high emotional stakes," D'Arcy said. "And you might be doing that for two weeks. Finding new resources to mine after 10 days of one emotionally demanding scene is challenging." 

But working on a massive HBO fantasy hit isn't the only main takeaway from House of the Dragon. D'Arcy, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, also credits the series as a major tipping point in terms of merging their personal and professional lives. 

"This is the first job in which I’ve brought my nonbinary identity to work," D'Arcy explained. "And part of that was because HBO asked me what pronouns I use, and I thought a lot about whether this was the right time. The reason it’s important is that there was a point, earlier in my career, where I really worried that it wasn’t possible to be an actor if you aren’t a cisgendered person. Typically, within casting sites, there are two columns, and I wondered if those two identities were going to have to live separately in order for me to have a career. The reason I decided to be honest in my presentation professionally is that I really hope that younger people who want to do this work know that there is absolutely space and that space is opening up."

Not bad for a show about a dragon civil war. House of the Dragon airs Sundays on HBO. 

Looking for more fantasy adventure? Check out the entire Harry Potter saga streaming now on Peacock.