House of the Dragon trivia: Dragons, wigs and true story inspiration - 12 surprising facts about the Game of Thrones prequel

Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon airs weekly on Sky Atlantic with NOW. Here are some surprising facts about the making of the prequel series.

By Alex Fletcher Updated: 12 September 2022 - 5.27pm
Paddy Considine as King Viserys in House of the Dragon
Stream House of the Dragon weekly on Sky Atlantic with NOW

It's been three years since we lasted visited Westeros for the explosive season 8 finale of Game of Thrones.

Airing on Mondays on Sky Atlantic with NOW, spin-off prequel series House of the Dragon takes us back to the land of fire and blood for a story set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones.

House of the Dragon is the story of the Targaryen dynasty and is based on George R.R. Martin’s hefty Fire & Blood novel.

It’s a story about a family at war, a story about dragons and a story about tragedy. It has the same landscape, the same inspiration, and similar tones to Game of Thrones, but it’s also its own show with a different story to tell.

Here are 12 surprising facts about House of the Dragon...

1. It wasn't the first Game of Thrones spin-off idea

Way back in 2018, plans for a Game of Thrones successor series began with a show titled Bloodmoon.

Bloodmoon was set in the Age of Heroes and The Long Knight, it was created by Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Golden Circle), Naomi Watts and Jamie Campbell Bower (Stranger Things) were in the cast and they even filmed a pilot.

However, George R.R Martin had little involvement in the series – it was based on a time period mentioned only in passing in his books – and when the pilot was finished, HBO opted not to make it into a series.

House of the Dragon showrunner Ryan Condal thinks that the lengthy process of choosing the first Game of Thrones spin-off show was worth the wait.

“This was the successor show that George was most excited about,” said Condal, speaking at Comic Con.

“It dives into the story of the Targaryen Dynasty. That’s something we hear about in Ice of Fire, the original book, but we never get a real sense of it. This series begins at the pinnacle, at the height of the dynasty, with all their wealth and influence; and the most dragons they’ll ever have! It’s just before the bloom starts to come off the rose.”

2. More Game of Thrones spin-off series are coming

Matt Smith in House of the Dragon

It might not be on the scale of the Marvel Universe quite yet, but if you loved Game of Thrones it looks like there should be plenty of successor shows coming in the next five years.

HBO have started work on a series based on the adventures of Jon Snow (Kit Harington), set after Game of Thrones ends.

There are also plans for a series on seafarer Corlys Velaryon, titled The Sea Snake, a series following warrior queen Nymeria and an adaptation of The Dunk and Egg, a series of novels from George R.R Martin set before Game of Thrones. And if that wasn’t enough, there are also three animated series currently being developed.

If you like fantasy TV shows, you’re in luck.

3.  House of the Dragon is based on the true story of the English Civil War, The Anarchy

Matt Smith and Emma D'Arcy in House of the Dragon

Talking to fans at Comic Con 2022, George R.R Martin explained how House of the Dragon was inspired by real events that took place in the 12th Century.

“Game of Thrones was based very loosely on the War of the Roses. This show was based on an earlier period of English history, called The Anarchy,” said Martin.

"Henry I, the King of England, his only legitimate son drowned while trying to cross the English channel. That left him with only one legitimate child, his daughter Matilda. He named her his heir and made all the Lords of the Kingdom swear an oath to her. And when he died, most of the lords of the kingdom forgot about that oath or said, ‘No, it doesn’t apply’.

"Her cousin, Stephen, then crosses the channel and takes control. It begins this period, The Anarchy, where Matilda and Stephen fought. That was the inspiration.”

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4. George R.R. Martin thinks the series has made improvements on his book

Martin has watched nine episodes out of the 10 from House of the Dragon season 1 and the series have been given a double thumbs up from the Thrones mastermind.

He even believes that the show has made some improvements on his book with the character of King Viserys, played by Paddy Considine.

"For years, as some of you may recall, I have been saying the TV version of Shae, as portrayed by Sibel Kekilli, was a deeper, richer, and more nuanced character than the Shae in my novels," he wrote on his blog.

"In a similar vein, I am vastly impressed by the show’s version of King Viserys, played by Paddy Considine, who gives the character a tragic majesty that my book Viserys never quite achieved.

"Kudos to Paddy, Ryan and his writers, and Miguel and the other directors."

5. Births are the new weddings

Milly Alcock portrays young Rhaenyra Targaryen & Emily Carey portrays young Alicent Hightower

If weddings were a signal to Game of Thrones fans that something dramatic was around the corner, births have a similar impact in House of the Dragon.

Talking about their significance in the show, director Miguel Sapochnik told The Hollywood Reporter: "In medieval times, giving birth was violence.

"It’s as dangerous as it gets. You have a 50/50 chance of making it. We have a number of births in the show and basically decided to give them different themes and explore them from different perspectives the same way I did for a bunch of battles on Thrones."

6. There are 17 dragons!

We’re at the height of the Targaryen rule, which means dragons galore. And no expense or effort has been spared on giving these creatures their own looks and personalities.

“There are 17 of them at the height of this. It’s important to differentiate them and it was one of the earliest things we started concepting on,” said showrunner Ryan Condal.

“George, who writes very detailed books, gave us the gift of colour, size and age. We took those things and tried to extrapolate them and add personality. So Caraxes is very cantankerous and agitated and he’s always moving and flexing, much like his rider.

“We built out from Syrax and Caraxes and Vhagar the biggest dragon alive right now. We’ve designed dragons you won’t even see in season 1. There’s much yet to come.”

And which is the best one? Matt Smith, who plays Daemon Targaryen, is totally unbiased in his verdict that his dragon is the finest.

“Caraxes is the best dragon. He’s the most handsome,” he adds.

7. How do they ride the dragons?

Matt Smith in House of the Dragon

We’ve all seen footage of actors interacting with green screens over the years, but what happens when you actually have to ride a non-existent dragon?

Milly Alcock, who plays the young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, explained to fans at Comic Con that it’s quite an unusual experience.

“You’re propped up on what looks like a mechanical bull you would find in a bar or a pub,” said Alcock.

“And they harness you in and are lifted six feet off the ground and there’s four guys with leaf blowers and you just have to dodge around.

“It feels strangely alive, because it makes noises as its moving. It is weird. It feels like a live thing.”

8. Steve Toussaint couldn't care less about casting response

Steve Toussaint in House of the Dragon as Corlys Velaryon

It wouldn’t be 2022 without a bit of a furore about casting for a major TV show and when it was revealed that Steve Toussaint would play Corlys Velaryon, some closed-minded fans got the hump.

On social media, Toussaint faced a sadly predictable and unpleasant response from those who didn’t believe a black man should be in the House of Velaryon.

Luckily, Toussaint appears to have taken the more ignorant responses in his stride, revealing that it “feels great” to bring some on-screen diversity to the Game of Thrones universe.

“Other than certain people’s viewpoints about someone looking like me playing this role, it hasn’t really played a part in my experience on the job,” he said.

“There are people on the outside who find it hard to stomach, but that’s an issue for them to deal with; I don’t have to.” Perfectly said.

9. Paddy Considine wants to keep his weapon

When asked about any favourite props at Comic Con, Paddy Considine revealed that he is still campaigning for HBO to give him a knife that is very special to King Viserys.

“My knife - it’s a very important knife - I wanted to keep it. But they’re very hot on that in the show,” he told fans.

“Trying to nick it was hard. I thought they would give me one at the end. If anyone at HBO is listening…”

10. The wigs and costumes aren't easy work for the cast

Paddy Considine as King Viserys

The famous Targaryen long white hair meant that a large number of the cast had to sport wigs during their time on set.

A self-confessed fidget, Matt Smith joked that it would be the one thing he would change on the show if he had the powers as the ruler of Westeros.

"I’d allow them to dye their hair. The wigs were a pain in the arse,” he said at Comic Con.

Olivia Cooke, who plays Lady Alicent Hightower, had her own costume complaints.

“Going to a portaloo on the top of a mountain in so many skirts and tights and thermals,” she explained. “You end up just covered in mud.”

11. Heroes and villains aren't so clear-cut

Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole

The cast and creators of House of the Dragon believe that their show is less sure of its heroes and villains than Game of Thrones.

George R.R Martin told The Hollywood Reporter: "It's powerful, it's visceral, it's dark, it's like a Shakespearean tragedy. There’s no Arya - a character everybody's going to love. They're all flawed. They're all human. They do good things. They do bad things. They're driven by lust for power, jealousy, old wounds - just like human beings. Just like I wrote them."

Talking at Comic Con, he added: “We’re not going to have anyone called Lord Evil or Mr Atrocity or anything like that. But there is certainly evil. I always believe the most interesting characters are great characters, capble of generosity and good but the next moment capable of being selfish or doing something bad.

“All these characters have good in them and evil in them and it’s about the choices they make. And I like that the readers are divided on who is the hero and villain and I hope viewers of the show will be too.”

12. They filmed the wedding of Alicent and Viserys but it was cut from the show

Tania Tyatyambo Couper, a hairstylist and make-up artist on House of the Dragon revealed on her Instagram page that not only were there originally plans for Kings Viserys wedding to Alicent Hightower to make it to screen - they actually filmed the scenes.

The wedding was cut from the show, presumably due to time constraints. It means we never got to see Emily Carey with an incredible hair, tiara and wedding dress combo on screen.

"The dress, the hair, the tiara... such a shame it didn’t make the edit," wrote Couper.

"Cutting room floor. Sad times..."

Stream House of the Dragon weekly on Sky Atlantic with NOW from Monday 22 August

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