Milly Alcock on How the Prequel Shocked Her – The Hollywood Reporter

Milly Alcock was at a friend’s house when she got the phone call from her agent that would change her life.

The 22-year-old Australian actress had auditioned for House of the Dragon multiple times via Zoom, reading lines for a mysterious character named “YR.” She had never watched Game of Thrones (she was only 10 when the original show debuted) but she knew this was potentially the biggest opportunity she had ever had. When the call came that she landed the pivotal role of the young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, she needed all of her acting skills to not immediately give the news away.

“I got the call and I obviously couldn’t tell anyone and I just kind of like sank to the ground,” she recalls during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter via Zoom. “I asked my friend if he had any wine and I couldn’t really tell him why. He thought something really awful had happened. He was like: ‘Someone’s sick, someone’s dead, something catastrophic has happened.’ I couldn’t tell anyone for so long.”

Yet the surprises didn’t stop there for the actress, who had won the Casting Guild of Australia’s Rising Star Award in 2018 for the TV drama Upright but has said she was washing dishes and living in her mother’s attic at the time she landed Dragon. Alcock discovered that the younger version of Rhaenyra wasn’t simply a character who appeared in a few flashbacks, but was rather the ensemble drama’s focal point for the first part of the season until Emma D’Arcy takes over the role for the rest of the show. “I was surprised,” she says, and, indeed, still seems unsure what to say about her prominence in the show. “I was just really shocked.”

The actress quickly binged Thrones and then arrived on the Dragon set in London to discover the environment she’d be filming in — such as a 35,000-square-foot, interconnected, multilevel Red Keep set.

“It felt like I had been literally picked up from Australia and someone had just dropped me in the middle of, like, the ocean with nothing around,” she says. “I’d done Aussie television where our whole show’s budget is less than one episode [of Dragon]. I’d never been on a hundred-million-dollar set like that before. So there was a lot of responsibility of having to carry Rhaenyra, and it was interesting because me and Rhaenyra had similar trajectories in our story — the way that we kind of navigated an unforeseen world we really expected to be in, and learned how to face those challenges.”

One challenge that’s different from typical TV is that both Thrones and Dragon use “source” lighting — every scene attempts to emulate lighting that has a visible source in the world of the show — such as sunlight, moonlight or torchlight. (It’s why some interior scenes can look a bit dark.)

“Because there’s no electricity in this world, everything is lit by fire,” Alcock says. “So all the lighting that you see in the show would have people that come around and light everything on fire and the set would get incredibly hot. I would get really sweaty and stand like this (extends arms) with two girls with hair dryers. So it was all very glamorous.”

Alcock had a chance to bond in advance over FaceTime with co-star Emily Carey, who plays Alicent HIghtower, and took a long walk with actor Fabian Frankel, who plays the knight Ser Criston Cole. But one performer she was discouraged from meeting was the other Rhaenyra.

“Me and Emma were like, ‘Let’s meet up,'” Alcock recalls. “We wanted to have a meeting with [director Miguel Sapochnik] and have a discussion about Rhaenyra’s progression as a character. And Miguel didn’t want us to meet — which was really interesting! So we never had that discussion. Miguel was like, ‘Just trust that you that you both have it.’ I think he was aware we would be trying to mimic each other.”

Sapochnik, who is also showrunner along with Ryan Condal, also advised Alcock to lean into Rhaenyra’s stillness as a royal figure. “She’s quite stoic in the way that she likes to present herself, and I’m quite a fidgety person,” she says. “And [Ryan and Miguel] kept reminding me that there’s strength in stillness. She doesn’t have to prove herself, she has that status.”

Another challenge was conquering the dragon rig, which is a bit different in the new show than the all-green room dreaded by actors on Thrones. The new setup uses a Volume stage, the same technology employed on The Mandalorian where a giant video wall projects backgrounds during stage filming so the actor can see their environment in real-time rather than having it added in postproduction.

“Someone would take you through the motions of how you’re going to move so you could preempt how the [dragon was going to turn],” she says. “Then they would pop you up and they’d blow air at you. It was really fun. But I didn’t know what to do with my face [expressions]. I haven’t done any action stuff. You’re not actually moving, you’re just going to… somewhere.”

Alcock has since received considerable praise from critics for her performance in the show. So while she might not be appearing in Dragon for a long time, just like when she was in the dragon rig, she’s definitely going somewhere.

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