If there’s one thing you want from a Game Of Thrones prequel series called House Of The Dragon, it’s plenty of those scaly, swooping, fire-breathing titular monsters. In Thrones, dragons were almost mythical, with Daenerys Targaryen bringing her three – Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion – to life long after the remarkable beasts were thought extinct. The dragon action made for some of the most memorable, exciting moments of the entire series (‘Dracarys!’), and so learning that there are a total of 17 fire-breathers flying around in the new spin-off show, nine of which we’ll meet in the first season (confirmed by co-runner Miguel Sapochnik), is music to our ears.
The biggest task for Sapochnik and his team when taking on these hot-headed creatures? Figuring out what they look like. “I’ve got a book which has hundreds of [concept] designs,” Sapochnik says. “The first thing you want is not to do Drogon. So I came up with a whole theory about how there were three different kinds of dragons, based on their different skulls. We came up with all kinds of stuff. But in the end, we ended up back at Drogon,” he laughs. “There’s something about Drogon. It’s like the Millennium Falcon. It hit something.” Although the beasts may have ended up looking fairly familiar, they are most definitely not all the same. “Each new dragon has its own personality. That’s what’s going on now in our last part of the animation – we’re applying personal character traits to each of the dragons,” Sapochnik explains. “One of them got a [bad] leg. Another one’s much more like an eagle, because she’s kind of neurotic. And another one’s like a curmudgeonly old granny.” Not the kind with a cheeky bag of Werthers Original in her purse, we’re guessing.
For the Targaryens, as we saw with Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys in Game Of Thrones, the bond they share with their dragons is incredibly important, and intuitive. “There’s a very symbiotic connection between the dragon rider and the dragon,” explains Matt Smith, who plays Daemon. “You’ve got to master it from an early age, and it’s a death-defying experience trying to tame it. For want of a better analogy, it’s a bit like Avatar.” For the House Of The Dragon cast, connecting with their dragons’ mechanical stand-in was a little more fun. “We had an animatronic buck, which is controlled by a device that the director can use to plan each flight path,” recalls Emma D’Arcy, who plays Rhaenyra. “Honestly, having done my first day on the buck, my takeaway was that every member of production ought to have the right to have a go. They should allot time slots. The most acting I had to do was wipe the grin off my face, because I can’t overstress how thrilling it is.” Who’s up for a House Of The Dragon interactive experience? The queue starts here…
Read Empire’s full House Of The Dragon feature – speaking to showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, plus stars Paddy Considine, Emma D’Arcy, Olivia Cooke, Matt Smith, and Rhys Ifans, and packed with exclusive images – in the upcoming issue, on sale Thursday 4 August and available to pre-order online here. House Of The Dragon airs on Sky Atlantic / NOW from 22 August.