Matt Smith: “Dreaming of the (Game of Thrones) Throne”

The Crown's former Prince Philip joins a new royal family. That, "equally dysfunctional", of House of the Dragon, the prequel series of Game of Thrones. Ready to meet his dragon?

It's been over a decade since Matt Smith – dressed in tweed – appeared on televisions around the world as the eleventh incarnation of The Doctor in the long-running and much-loved sci-fi series Doctor Who, a role that earned him immediate status as british icon. Since then, his choices have only confirmed what was previously a suspicion: Smith does not fall into the prestigious category of Andrew Garfield, Riz Ahmed and Ben Whishaw, to name three excellent British actors who are living a successful career thanks to their ability to transform any introverted character into a puppy that the public adopts by showering them with love. No, Smith belongs to another genre. Inside are Daniel Kaluuya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy. Maybe Tom Hiddleston too: unpredictable actors, tormented in their choices to the core, very uneasy. Actors who by themselves define a project, a film, a series. Smith tried it first with Doctor Who and then with The Crown, where in the first two seasons he masterfully portrayed Prince Philip, earning an Emmy nomination.

With the role of photographer Robert Mappletorpe in between and the protagonist of Last Night in Soho, Edgar Wright's psychological thriller, today Smith arrives where perhaps few expected to see him, but where it makes a lot of sense that he is: the main character of House of the Dragon, the highly anticipated prequel to Game of Thrones whose first episode airs on 22 August on Sky and Now TV at the same time as the US. Set about 200 years before the events of the Throne, this new series is centered around the Targaryens. At the head of a prosperous and happy kingdom for decades, the family from which Daenerys descends enters a crisis when the problem of the succession of King Viserys (played by Paddy Considine) arises. Having no sons, her choice is between daughter Rhaenyra (Emma D 'Arcy) and her brother Daemon, played by Matt Smith in a platinum blonde wig. The first is intelligent, cultured, has excellent manners and rides dragons very well. The second is the black sheep of the family, humoral and violent.

In the first episode (the only one we have previewed) between the two there is an understanding that at times leads to sexual tension. Also in the first episode, Smith sees himself naked in a sex scene (the first of many, since he himself complained that there are too many), but you also see all those that are the classic ingredients of Westeros or blood, thirst for power, betrayals. In short, everything that fans of Game of Thrones will surely like, who will find a familiar setting and aesthetic here – the two showrunners are Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal, already very involved in the mother series – but at the same time new characters and intrigues. "Of course I was and am a fan of the Throne," says Smith via Zoom. "I watched it in real time, episode after episode, week after week. But I believe this is an original project in its own right. I followed my script using George R.R. Martin as if they were the bible ».

What are the biggest differences between the two series?

«Our story is different in that the focus is more localized. We tell a family drama that takes place in one place, while the Throne was both in the north and in the south and had different settings. Here the focus is all on a family, within its dynamics. That said, I think the other elements are all there: war, overwhelming love, passion, anger. Everything is there right from the start and fans of the Throne will meet again. I would add that what has already happened will also happen with Dragon. The audience will love the characters and the actors who play them because the cast is phenomenal and from here a new generation of brilliant actors will be born ».

Who is Daemon as a man, under the armor?

“I'm still trying to figure it out. It depends on which side of the bed gets off in the morning. '

Well if you don't know …

“It's just that he's not a monolithic character. He is not just a thing and he is not black or white. He is a very complicated man. He is three dimensional. To understand him you have to know where he comes from, you have to know his path. At any moment you never really know what he will think, what he will do and this is a feature that as an actor I find quite attractive because he allows me to use my instincts. The truth is that these characters, mine as well as the others, are very well written and during the episodes they all undergo enormous transformations and this is what makes them so rich and so interesting for us who play them."

At least tell us what motivates you.

“I don't think he's driven by ambition for the throne. I think he's actually a strangely loving man, deep down. Love drives him more than anything else. He's just a little bit crazy, perverted and twisted. '

«My character in House of the Dragon? He is moved by love. He's just a little bit crazy, perverted and twisted "

Are the Targaryens a normal family?

«They sleep, they wash, they complain, they have fears: so I would say yes, they are human. And as such they are exposed to the same setbacks and hassles – whether it's an uncle's betrayal or an argument with your cousin – that we normal humans are exposed to. Of course, maybe in their case it's all a bit more extreme, but what I mean is they are not aliens ".

Do royal families all look alike? What do the Targaryens have in common with the Windsors?

“All families are dysfunctional. Prince Philip and Daemon are both blond, they are both nonconformists in some ways and they are both not on the throne, so I suppose there is a similarity in that. However, it is true that in one case we are in an intensely fantastic world while in the other it was real lives … What I can say is that they are both very interesting characters to play ".

Is there more responsibility in playing a real prince than a fictional one?

"There is a different kind of pressure, of course, but there is also a lot of material to draw from, there are sources, photographs, books. It is a very interesting process because on the one hand as an actor you are trying to create something that looks like the real person, on the other you want something that is unique to you. It's a very interesting tension. As for Filippo, I'm really proud to have played him: I always thought he was a total rock star ».

"I'm proud to have played Prince Philip: I always thought he was a total rock star"

In House of the Dragon there are also other protagonists: dragons, in fact. Each character has one, and each dragon has a different personality. Can you tell us about him?

“He's called Coaxes and he's short-tempered. He is moody, difficult, but he is very loyal. In many respects he is a bit like Daemon: there is in fact a kind of symbiosis between them, one could not exist without the other ".

In the first episode we also hear her speak Valyrian, the ancient language of the Targaryen. Was it difficult to learn?

“I don't deny that it took a lot of practice. But it was like learning any foreign language. The interesting thing is that thanks to this I understood something new about my character. Do you know when it is said that speaking a different language reveals different parts of the personality? Well, it's true, it happened to me with Daemon and it was exciting ».

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