An interview long in the making, we finally got to sit down with Ryan Condal, lead writer, executive producer, and now sole show runner of House of the Dragon last week to talk about the show. After Linda had a chance to say hello, she headed off to keep an eye on our very rambunctious puppy Lancelot, we started the interview. We open up with a question on post-production, and then get into the weeds on favorite book characters, depictions of violence, heraldry, a forgotten Valyrian house, the change from book canon when casting the Velaryons, whether Ryan will continue with the show after completing this particular story, and more.
Ryan Condal behind the scenes with a maquette of Caraxes. ©️ Ollie Upton/HBO
The release of the DracARys augemented reality app was a fun approach by HBO to market House of the Dragon, letting anyone with a mobile phone have their own pet dragon. While we were never stirred by Pókemon-mania, we’d each had Tamagotchi when we were young and playing with the app definitely inspired some nostalgia. So much so, that we check in with our dragons several times each day, and rush outside whenever there’s a notice of something interesting (such as the first visit by a dragon from Westeros).
Given our interest, and seeing that there’s a small but active community for the app, we reached out to HBO to see if we could talk to the creatives and developers behind the app. HBO led us to Victor Piñeiro and Samantha Garrison from HBO Max, as well as Kevin Young at The Mill, who kindly answered our many questions.
A dragon soars over Bohus Fortress
One does not simply… NOT say hi to Kristian Nairn!
Hodor may not have the most interesting story arc. He is not even a knight (can you hear it? It’s Finn Jones and Daniel Portman screaming: “kniiiiiights FTW, yo!”) He does not plot unfathomable schemes we then remember for the ages (or does he?), nor does he have a sharp, clever tongue ready to outwit or charm at whim. He doesn’t even own a monster-pet like Dany or a pet-pet like Tommen. Up until recently, he was just the bulky simpleton pushing the Bran-mobile around. Now he also kicks skeleton asses while possessed, which qualifies for some awesomeness, but still the question remains…
Why do we all LUV Hodor? What’s in a name (a name repeated once and again and again)?
You are so NOT finding it out here!
Woot. Not what I expected. Yeah, the “H-word”. Yeah, “hi” is an “H-word”; I meant the other one. The one with “Ho”. Hehe. “Ho”.
MARINO: Kristian, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.
There are a number of more or less obvious differences between Ms. Kate Dickie and Lady Lysa Arryn. Firstly, Kate is blonde. Yeah, I know. And it makes you look twice, as in “am I in the right queue?” Another major difference has to do with her mouth. Kate’s mouth only knows about smiling; a mirthful, joyous laughter that can be heard at quite some distance emerging from it. Lysa, she was not too much into the “being happy” attitude. Finally, Kate Dickie is not a jealous, tortured soul full of regret who breastfeeds her eight-year-old son. At least not that day, as far as I know.
Since my back was already pretty mauled, I chose to kneel opposite the Lady Lysa, much to her surprise. While she greeted me and I prepared my recording thingies we engaged in some small talk, mostly my going all “OMG YOUR SCOTTISH ACCENT IS SO CUTE!” and Kate going “OMG I NEVER REALIZE I HAVE AN ACCENT!” We were kind of shouting, yes.
MARINO: Hi Kate, thank you for being here (wherever here is now!) There is this famous sentence which Jaime Lannister utters, “the things I do for love”, to justify his actions. Does Lysa feel the same?
It occurred to me that being thrown down the Moon Door is no laughing matter, but since I have no actual experience, I chose not to press the matter further. I know nothing!
After dealing with a knight and a dead almost-king, with all their courtly eccentricities, I decided it was high time for a dose of less noble chatting; hence, Podrick Payne. Squire extraordinaire, brothel cruising legend and so-so horse rider, Daniel Portman’s Pod has won the favor of the fans thanks to his humility, devotion and courage, traits which make him a most rare Westerosi bird indeed. Even non-squires such as you and I can empathize with him at some level (not necessarily about the brothels.)
Daniel Portman may share some traits with young Payne. As opposed to Finn Jones and Gethin Anthony’s more openly extrovert demeanor, the Glasgowite looks more serious and contained. Ultimately, he is a most polite and straightforward lad who just seems a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of the Con. Welcome to my world, Pod!
MARINO: Hi Daniel, thank you for taking these questions.
Gethin sounded like Renly but looked like a normal guy. A normal, very handsome, guy, that is. His hairstyle was way cooler than in the series, IMHO, and the many girls queuing in front of me seemed to agree and approve the whole package, judging by the pretty heavy swooning and giggling. Such was the presence of the late Renly Baratheon, First (and Last) of His Name!
The man did seem to be having a good time: he smiled and laughed profusely, shook hands a-plenty, spoke cheerfully and had nice words for all and each fan, all while deftly personalizing the items people offered him. And he still found the time for posing for more selfies per minute than the World Health Organization would recommend.
When my turn was about to come, I felt I might squee a little, but I managed to contain any inadmissible sounds within my vocal apparatus. Gethin stood up to greeted me (so nice of him; 100 points to House Baratheon) after washing his hands clean with some sort of magickal elixir. His grip was strong, as one would expect from a king wearing a t-shirt and a pair of jeans.
Marino: Hello Gethin!
Marino: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me.
Just like his alter ego, the Knight of Flowers, Finn Jones is a very passionate, energetic individual.
Understandably, the fans are really pleased with his enthusiasm; he does get carried away while chatting, and I could hear him utter the “F-word” more than once (tee-hee!) His slender frame and that mop of quasi-alive curly blondish hair are quite striking, even more so with him sitting close to the mighty Kristian Nairn.
When my turn comes, Finn’s hand darts towards mine and shakes it effusively. A quick smile. Bright eyes. It shows today’s just the first day of the Con. I check my recording device (or “Phone”, as I am fond of calling it), like this:
Marino: OK, let’s try this… Hello?
Finn stretches his body from the other side of the table and with the grace of a shadowcat starts throwing words at the device.
“Man, he speaks fast,” I find myself thinking. I wish the few thousand people around would lowered their voices a few decibels, but since it seems unlikely, I ready my ears and buckle up to fight Ser Loras Tyrell in the merciless arena of light-speed-interviewing.
Marino: Finn, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. We didn’t get to see much of you last season, but Loras is in a difficult place right now with his wedding looming on the horizon and all the politicking. How is he faring?
Well-met, fellow ASOIAFers and AGOTers! This is Marino Santirso-Dayne, the Pale Dornishman, straight from Northern Spain. Pleased to meet you all!
It has been my pleasure and distinct privilege to attend the London Film and Comic Con 2014 in, well, London, as a proud herald of this most excellent site in order to have a chat with some of the many Game of Thrones guests invited this year. I wish I had more time to properly
... I mean, to properly engage in intimate and revealing one-to-ones while sipping Earl Grey, but imagine if you would an event with thousands upon thousands of attendees all looking forward to meeting their idols; it turns out it’s quite an ordeal to secure a few minutes with the guests, and once at the venue, the prospect of carrying a bone china tea set, however tempting, became much less appealing and practical than when I was daydreaming in my couch.
Concluding our interviews from February, I had the chance to meet and talk with Isaac Hempstead-Wright—the adorable Bran Stark, who I had last met years ago during the first season filming—and Thomas Brodie-Sangster whose portrayal of Jojen Reed has been a study in maturity and understated performance.
When Isaac saw me, his genuine pleasure at meeting again reminded me of the cheerful, enthusiastic child I’d met years earlier. He’s grown up in a lot of ways—I remarked that Kristian Nairn has mentioned how glad he is that he hasn’t had to carry Isaac on his back any longer thanks to that!—and he (and Thomas) both gave some very thoughtful answers to the questions posed.
So, what can you say of any visions you have this season?
In the books, Jojen knows the date of his death and what happens to him. Is this something present in the show?
This past February, I had the opportunity to interview a number of actors in London. One of the ones I was most eager to meet—because she had been rather difficult to get an interview with previously!—was Sibel Kekilli, who plays Shae. Although given the early date of the interview it was difficult to approach anything discussing her big turn this season, it was a good chance to catch up with the actress.
An award-winner in her native Germany for her powerful work in films such as Head-On and When We Leave, Kekilli proves to be a very enthusiastic interview subject—a lot of exclaimations, a lot of smiles, and not a little laughter.
What was it like, when you first got involved in Game of Thrones?
Continuing our interview series—this is the first of several we’ll release in the run up to the final episode of season 4—I had the pleasure of speaking to Liam Cunningham (who I’d interviewed back in Season 2) and Carice van Houten (brand new interview subject!) regarding season 4. Both were charming, as expected, and had great fun talking back and forth as they answered questions regarding their fondest memories, their weirdest scenes, and more.
Carice, we know Liam prefers to learn the story through the scripts and was advised by the producers that he didn’t need to read the books. Do you feel the same about it?
How would you describe the journeys of your character?
One of the actors who has been most elusive among the regular cast has been Aidan Gillen. We’ve hoped to interview him for a number of years, but could never make it work… until, that is, earlier this year when I traveled to London to take part in a round of interviews with Gillen, as well as a number of actors.
I recall back when the show was announced that all sorts of names flew about for various roles, but Gillen’s name was easily the most common fan suggestion for Petyr Baelish. Those suggestions were largely based on his role as Carcetti in HBO’s groundbreaking The Wire, I suspect, but I admit at the time I hadn’t gotten past the show’s first season so didn’t know him from there. But we here at Westeros.org also latched onto the name when it was suggested, because of his charming, fearless, devilish performance as Stuart Russel T. Davies’s Queer as Folk.
With many notable roles under his belt, in film, television, and theater, the Dublin-born actor proves a very knowledgeable, extremely thoughtful interview subject. He takes his time with all his responses, thinking them through. And, as you’ll see, he’s more familiar than most of the actors with the source material….
Without being too spoilery, what sort of character does Littlefinger takes this season?
How much do you know about what lies ahead for your character? You’ve read the books, I know, but do you know what lies beyond that?
With Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Bryan Cogman’s been the member of the Game of Thrones production we’ve had most opportunities to interview, and as always it’s been a pleasure as we range around various behind-the-scenes aspects of the production, as well as some in-depth discussion of Bryan’s work as a writer for this season in regards to “Oathkeeper” and “The Laws of Gods and Men”>. See below for the full interview, as we discuss filming in Iceland, the growth of the scale of the production since the early days, who Bryan’s idol is, and more!
All right, welcome back to what’s turning into an annual chat, Bryan. I think Nikolaj’s the only person we’ve interviewed as often at this point.
Hah. As I recall, this season included your first trip to Iceland for filming—usually none of your material was shot there, is that right?
Iceland really looks stunning. This time around the shooting was in the summer. Lots of sunlight, relatively warm weather?
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview a number of actors in London. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has been our most frequently interviewed actor, I believe—he’s always been quite game to talk to us!—but they’ve always been just with him. This time around, Gwendoline Christie joined him, and I finally got to see at first hand what the show is like as the two actors spark off one another, sending zingers one another’s way with much laughter. And sometimes the zingers aren’t just directed at one another, as you’ll see below ...
Nikolaj, since we spoke last year we’ve seen that your character has become more human and likable. Do you feel that progression continues this season?
Last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with a number of the actors involved in Game of Thrones, to talk about the journey so far, and perhaps to draw out a few hints about what’s to come. First up in this interview series—leading up to and into the next season—I had the pleasure to talk with Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) and Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane), the latter of whom I’ve never had the pleasure of interviewing before. We have a chance to talk the joys of Vine, the pleasures of Iceland, and how their characters get along as season 4 commences.
Maisie, many people have mentioned you as a very impressive actress. Do you have any method you use, or have you just picked things up since you started the show?
How does it feel not to get to act with Sophie?