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House of the Dragon: cast, story and what we know so far

House of the Dragon
(Image credit: HBO)

It’s now more than two years since Game of Thrones aired its final episode. That’s not the end of TV’s adventures in Westeros, however, as prequel series House of the Dragon is coming to HBO and Sky Atlantic in 2022.

The first Game of Thrones spin-off is currently in production, and it’s a tale of blond ambition. Based on A Song of Ice and Fire author George RR Martin’s Fire and Blood, his 2018 history of the Targaryen dynasty, House of the Dragon is set some 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones. It takes place after a new king of Westeros, Viserys Targaryen (played by Paddy Considine) has taken the Iron Throne.

While plot specifics are thin on the ground, HBO has been remarkably candid about other aspects of the Seven Kingdoms show, releasing cast information and detailed character summaries that give us a hint of what we’ll be seeing in the show. We’ve also seen the first official images from the show.

After Game of Thrones eighth and final season proved extremely divisive, the pressure is on House of the Dragon to restore our love affair with Westeros. Here’s what we know so far about the hotly anticipated prequel series, including the release date, cast and possible story.

House of the Dragon release date: 2022

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There is no official release date confirmed for House of the Dragon, though HBO has said it's coming in 2022. Given the amount of effects work required on a show that'll feature numerous fire-breathing dragons, we'd be surprised to see it arrive much before next spring. That's the timeframe George RR Martin's working to, anyway – in an interview with Chicago's WTTW TV station (reported by the Sun), the Westeros creator said: “It'll probably be on next spring, I guess."

Production on House of the Dragon was briefly halted in July 2021 after a member of the production tested positive for Covid-19. According to Entertainment Weekly, however, shooting resumed two days later, and the hold-up is not expected to delay the release date.

As well as launching on HBO and HBO Max in the US, the series has been confirmed for release on Sky and Now in the UK, following a new deal Sky TV signed with HBO in October 2019 that will keep HBO shows on the platforms "for many years to come". 

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? A prequel series to Game of Thrones, set some 300 years before the original series, and focusing on the Targaryen dynasty.
  • When can I see it? House of the Dragon will debut in 2022 – possibly around the spring.
  • Where can I see it? House of the Dragon will launch on HBO and HBO Max in the US, and will air on Sky Atlantic in the UK.

House of the Dragon cast: who's confirmed and who's rumored

The key House of the Dragon cast looks like this:

  • Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen
  • Olivia Cooke as as Alicent Hightower
  • Emma D'Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen
  • Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen
  • Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon – or The Sea Snake, as he's known
  • Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Velaryon
  • Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower
  • Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria
  • Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole
  • Graham McTavish – character unknown

Now that House of the Dragon has begun filming, HBO has been pretty open about who's in the cast, and who's playing which characters. This will no doubt head off leaks about the show – though there's one additional cast member who's confirmed his involvement in the series before an official announcement, which we'll detail below. 

We're going to be careful on spoilers, here, because if you go digging into the events of Fire and Blood, you might end up ruining part of the show's story. Below, we're going to stick to what HBO has revealed so far, so you only know how the characters are starting off in the show. 

First up, Paddy Considine is playing King Viserys Targaryen, who's selected by the lords of Westeros as the successor to the previous king – Jaehaerys Targaryen. HBO describes him as a 'warm, kind and decent man', whose main goal is to continue his grandfather's way of doing things. But since when does being a 'decent man' ever get you anywhere in Westeros, except dead? Viserys is also the namesake of Daenerys's older brother.

Let's go to the highest-profile piece of casting in the show. Playing Viserys' younger brother Prince Daemon Targaryen is Matt Smith of The Crown and Doctor Who. Described as an unmatched warrior, he's the heir to the throne of Westeros – he's also capable of riding dragons, and he sounds like trouble waiting to happen. Not everyone in Westeros seems to be a fan of Daemon, as we'll touch on below. 

Let's flip to another Targaryen. Truth Seekers’ Emma D'Arcy plays Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, Viserys' first-born child – it sounds like her only big drawback in this show is being a woman, when the world around her favors men in positions of power. But hey, she's also capable of riding dragons, and she's of pure Valyrian blood. Milly Alcock will play a younger version of Princess Rhaenyra.

Ready Player One’s Olivia Cooke plays Alicent Hightower. She's politically savvy, and is closely aligned with the king and his allies – and she's the daughter of Rhys Ifans' Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King. Hightower doesn't trust Daemon, and regards his status as heir to the throne as a fraught state of affairs. The younger version of Alicent will be played by Emily Carey.

Steve Toussaint plays Lord Corlys Velaryon, also known as the Sea Snake. He's got big nautical energy, possessing the largest navy in Westeros, and being a famous adventurer on the high seas himself. The Velaryon bloodline is as old as House Targaryen, HBO says. Interestingly, in March 2021, it was reported by Deadline that HBO was considering a spin-off focusing specifically on this character.

Eve Best plays Corlys's wife, Princess Rhaenys Velaryon. She was in contention to rule Westeros, except the Great Council bypassed her status as heir to elect her cousin, Viserys, as king. The reason? He's a man, and she is not. That's bound to be the source of some major tension on the show. 

Other characters include Devs' Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria, who HBO says has been "sold more times than she can recall". She's escaped a life of degradation, however, and now finds herself as the closest ally of Prince Daemon Targaryen, making her a fairly powerful figure in Westeros.

Last of the officially announced cast is Dornish lad Ser Criston Cole, played by Fabien Frankel. He's a commoner, but since HBO notes he kicks ass with a sword, you can expect him to play a key role in the larger story of House of the Dragon.

Finally, The Hobbit actor Graham McTavish confirmed to Stylist that he's part of the cast for the show, after he was reportedly spotted on-set. Who he's playing, though, remains a mystery, since he hasn't been officially added to the cast by HBO yet. The actor's clearly in an epic fantasy place right now, seeing as he's also got a role in The Witcher season 2.

We'll update this cast list as we learn more about who's participating in this enormous show. 

House of the Dragon: what's the story about?

House of the Dragon

Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon in House of the Dragon. (Image credit: HBO)

The new Game of Thrones prequel series focuses on House Targaryen, so expect ambition, incest and, of course, winged, fire-breathing reptiles. George RR Martin confirmed the latter on his blog, admitting, "I can say there will be dragons. Everyone else has said that, so why not me?"

As mentioned, the new show is based on Martin's 2018 book Fire and Blood, which managed to annoy a section of the fanbase by not being The Winds of Winter, the long-awaited sixth novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire saga – it's been 10 years since the previous instalment, A Dance With Dragons, landed in bookstores. Instead the book is a history of the dragon-riding Targaryen family – the author himself has described it as the "GRRMarillion", a nod to the dense JRR Tolkien non-novel that recounts the pre-Lord of the Rings history of Middle-earth. 

In terms of chronology, House of the Dragon will be set 300 years before Game of Thrones. The series promises to tell the story of House Targaryen – but nothing else has been shared about the plot, other than what we've learned in the character descriptions above. 

There's likely to be plenty of familial in-fighting – the Targaryens were dysfunctional long before Viserys and Daenerys came along – alongside origin stories of other major Westerosi houses like the Baratheons, Tyrells and Lannisters. 

In other words, House of the Dragon looks set to have the same mix of epic battles, political intrigue and betrayals as Game of Thrones, with one major difference – this being a prequel, we know exactly where it's heading.

Who's making House of the Dragon?

A Twitter announcement in October 2019 revealed that George RR Martin created the new Game of Thrones prequel series with Ryan Condal. Condal is best known for showrunning USA Network alien invasion drama Colony, and scripting Dwayne Johnson-starring game adaptation Rampage.

Condal will write the show and share showrunning duties with Miguel Sapochnik. Sapochnik directed some of Game of Thrones most epic episodes – including season 6's 'Battle of the Bastards' and season 8's 'The Long Night' – and will helm multiple episodes of House of the Dragon, including the pilot. 

Other confirmed producers include Vince Gerardis, Sara Lee Hess and Ron Schmidt. Directors Clare Kilner, Geeta V Patel and Greg Yaitanes are also working on the series. Variety reports that House of the Dragon will be the first show to make use of the V stage, a new virtual production stage at Warner Bros Studios' in Leavesden, UK.

Composer Ramin Djawadi returns from Game of Thrones to score House of the Dragon.

Is there a House of the Dragon trailer?

House of the Dragon

Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower and Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower in House of the Dragon. (Image credit: HBO)

With filming only having just begun, don't expect any official House of the Dragon trailers to appear for a good while yet. Any you'll see out there on YouTube are fan edits, made up of old footage. We'd expect to see a first look at House of the Dragon towards the end of the year, when HBO previews its coming attractions for 2022.

What happened to the Game of Thrones prequel series Blood Moon?

The other prequel series looked set to be massive. One of five potential spin-off shows ordered into development by HBO, a show set 8,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones looked the most likely to get a greenlight. HBO even shot a pilot episode over the summer of 2019. 

Scripted by Jane Goldman – who boasts Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class and Kingsman on her impressive resumé – the untitled series would reportedly have told the story of the First Men, the Children of the Forest, and the creation of the White Walkers. Naomi Watts headed up an impressive cast that also included John Simm (Life on Mars, Doctor Who), Miranda Richardson (Blackadder II, Good Omens), Jamie Campbell Bower (The Twilight Saga: New Moon, King Arthur) and Naomi Ackie (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, The End of the F***ing World). 

All looked promising until October 2019, when it turned out HBO had decided not to pick up the show. So what gave the broadcaster the fear? 

"In development, in pilots, sometimes things come together, sometimes they don't," HBO President of Programming Casey Bloys told Deadline. "One of the things I think Jane [Goldman] took on beautifully, which was a challenge, there was a lot more world creation because she set hers 8,000 years before the [parent] show, so it required a lot more. One of the things about House of Dragons [sic], there is a text, there is a book so that made it a little bit more of a road map for a series order.

"I think Jane did a beautiful job, it was a big challenge but there was nothing that I would point to and say, 'Oh, that one element did not work.' Just overall it did not quite gel."

As for whether House of the Dragon will eventually be joined on HBO by more shows set on Westeros, Bloys simply said: "For me for right now, I think getting House of the Dragon on the air will be the number one priority. There are no other blinking green lights or anything like that. Sometime down the road who knows, but there are no immediate plans."

In February 2021, Bloys again weighed in on the franchise's future beyond House of the Dragon. "I've never wanted to do this with a mandate that you must have three series by this time or you must exploit adult animation or you must do that,” he told Deadline. "It’s really coming from, would that be interesting, is that good, do we have a writer we believe in. That’s kind of the approach we are taking. I think you have to because if you don’t do that, it would lead to putting shows on for the sake of it."

This remained he situation in June 2021. “Any script that is development or script that is pitched becomes news and it inevitably get reported and people assume they are in production,” Bhoys told Deadline. “Only House of the Dragon is in production, the rest is in development, and we will make a decision.”

While HBO is staying tight-lipped, other Westeros-set shows reportedly in development include 9 Voyages (focused on House of the Dragon character Lord Corlys Velaryon) and The Tales of Dunk and Egg (about the early days of King Aegon Targaryen). The Hollywood Reporter also reports that several animated spin-offs are in development, but says that Flea Bottom (a potential live-action series set in Kings Landing slums) has been abandoned. For now, however, House of the Dragon is the only Game of Thrones spin-off you need to worry about.

Should you care about House of the Dragon?

By the time House of the Dragon arrives, we think curiosity for a Game of Thrones prequel series will be higher than it would've been two years ago, when the show ended divisively. The big names in the cast and shift in timeframe do make the series sound intriguing – the pressure will just be on to make the stakes feel as grand as they were in the main series, which is tough when we ultimately know what happens to House Targaryen.

Still, we have missed seeing CG dragons destroy stuff over the past couple of years. If nothing else, hopefully this series will have plenty of that.