Dragons Descend on Europe as HBO’s ‘House of the Dragon’ Makes London, Amsterdam Debuts

HBO’s dragons have descended on Europe.

House of the Dragon, the hotly-anticipated Game of Thrones‘ prequel made two major splashdowns across the Atlantic over the last week.

On Monday night in central London, Sky — HBO’s long-time U.K. partner — put on a show worthy of a king with a premiere in Leicester Square the scale of which hasn’t been seen since before the pandemic. As well as from taking over two cinemas — the Odeon Luxe and Cineworld — a castle (presumably non-permanent) was erected in the center of the square, the doors to which were opened to introduce each of the show’s lead cast.

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And the entire cast was in attendance for what was described as “homecoming” (much of House of the Dragon was shot across the U.K.), including Matt Smith, Paddy Considine, Olivia Cooke, Emma D’Arcy, Milly Alcock, Emily Carey, Rhys Evans, Fabien Frankel and Steve Toussaint, alongside showrunner and series co-creator Ryan J. Condal.

“There are no villains or heroes in this, only grey people who do good things and bad things,” said Condal on the red carpet.

Considine, who plays King Viserys I and is arguably the best-known member of the cast alongside Smith, said that the thing that “impressed” him most when he read the script was that it didn’t feel like just a spin-off. “And the first episodes really hit the ground running,” he added.

Meanwhile, HBO, which is part of Warner Bros. Discovery, also held a red carpet gala and launch party for House of the Dragon in Amsterdam on Thursday, Aug. 11 that also welcomed most on-screen talent and major execs.

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The European premiere took place in the suitably regal setting of the Beurs van Berlage, a 19th-century former grain exchange building in downtown Amsterdam. Visitors were treated to an immersive House of the Dragon experience involving prop replicas from the series, including a selfie-ready version of the Iron Throne.  

Toussaint, who plays Lord Corlys Velaryon, aka The Sea Snake, in House of the Dragon, said showrunners Condal and Miguel Sapochnik “walked a tightrope” on the series between creating “something that was clearly in the Game of Thrones world, but without just repeating with Game of Thrones did so well. If Game of Thrones was mainly the story of these warring factions from all over the realm coming together to fight for the throne, this series is ostensibly about a single family tearing itself apart. And everything hinges on the friendship of two women [Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower].”

Olivia Cooke, who plays the older version of Alicent Hightower in the series, noted that while the original Game of Thrones was painted with a broad brush, “following all these infamous families warring against one another,” the new series is told on a more intimate scale.

“It’s based around this single family, the Targaryens, so almost like a kitchen sink drama, but done on a massive scale, with huge sets. And dragons. So it feels much more intense, much more personal.” 

Emily Carey, who plays Alicent Hightower, a teenage lady of the court in House of the Dragon, said she hoped fans of Game of Thrones would judge the new show on its own merits. 

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“We want people to view it as a different show. It’s not a continuation, it’s a spin-off, a prequel series with new characters. But it is in the same world, so people will feel they are coming home, to the comfort they found in the original show,” she said. “I think people who know the book it was based on [George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood] will be surprised about how morally gray the show starts out, how unexpectedly certain characters are initially portrayed before they get pushed to their limits.”

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