The Hollywood Reporter has reported that Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One female lead) has been cast as Alicent Hightower, Emma d’Arcy has been cast as Rhaenyra Targaryen, and Matt Smith (Doctor Who, The Crown) has been cast as the “rogue prince”, Daemon Targaryen. This follows rumors along those lines about Smith over the last couple of weeks.
Princess Rhaenyra (depicted by Magali Villeneuve), Queen Alicent (depicted by Doug Wheatley), Prince Daemon (depicted by Marc Simonetti)
All three are principal characters in the Dance of the Dragons, the civil war that tears apart the realm. Indeed, when GRRM first wrote about the Dance in The World of Ice and Fire (affiliate link), he took the material and created two separate works that he published separately: “The Rogue Prince”, about Daemon and his brother King Viserys I (played by Paddy Considine), and “The Princess and the Queen”, referring to Rhaenyra and Alicent.
Here’s how HBO has described the characters, as reported by THR:
Cooke will play Alicent Hightower, who is described by HBO as “the daughter of Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, and the most comely woman in the Seven Kingdoms. She was raised in the Red Keep, close to the king and his innermost circle; she possesses both a courtly grace and a keen political acumen.”
D’Arcy is set as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, described as “the king’s first-born child, she is of pure Valyrian blood, and she is a dragonrider. Many would say that Rhaenyra was born with everything … but she was not born a man.”
Smith will portray Prince Daemon Targaryen, who is the “younger brother to King Viserys and heir to the throne. A peerless warrior and a dragonrider, Daemon possesses the true blood of the dragon. But it is said that whenever a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin in the air.”
On top of these castings, three directors have been added to the series, per THR:
As for our thoughts on these castings, the most interesting part to us is that D’Arcy is one year older than Cooke, whereas Rhaenyra is about 9 years younger than Alicent. Obviously, both actresses are in the age range where hair, make up, and costume can allow them to play a wider range of ages than their actual ages, but this may suggest that the show will be making both characters more direct and immediate rivals than was the case in Martin’s telling of the event by placing them in the same peer group.