The team behind House of the Dragon, HBO’s upcoming Game of Thrones prequel series, has a lot to say about what fans can expect.

During their Saturday panel at San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H, stars including Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke and Paddy Considine, in addition to Blood & Fire author George R.R. Martin, whose book is the basis for the project, spoke to the crowd about what’s in store when the highly anticipated series launches Aug. 21.

The series centers on the conflict in Westeros dating back 150 years before the original series, and executive producer Ryan Condal explained that the series kicks off when the Targaryens are thriving and have 17 dragons, which is the most they would have. “It’s just before the bloom starts to come off the rose,” he said.

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Martin said that he’s seen nine of the 10 episodes from the first season and feels a mixture of emotions. “It’s pretty exciting,” he shared. “You’re always nervous at the beginning because these books, these characters are like my kids.”

He continued, “I’ve been very fortunate here. I think Ryan has done a great job of adapting the books — so far — and our cast here is amazing.”

Paddy Considine, who plays King Viserys, said that his character will have a tough time maintaining stability, despite his best efforts. “He’s a kind man who’s trying to keep the peacetime going within the kingdom,” said Considine, teasing a secret that Viserys is concealing. “There’s great tragedy in it. He loves his family and cares about his position, but he’s carrying something else.”

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Smith promised that things will get tense between his character, Prince Daemon Targaryen, and his older brother, Viserys. “It’s a complicated relationship,” the actor said. “Everything is about his brother for Daemon.”

Steve Toussaint portrays Lord Corlys Velaryon, who he described as a self-made man. “At the time we meet him, he’s an extremely wealthy man in his adventures,” he said.

Not all of the drama took place in front of the cameras. Fabien Frankel, who plays swordsman Ser Criston Cole, admitted to accidentally making unexpected contact with Smith during the early going. “Our first rehearsal with Matt, I smashed him in the face with a sword,” he said. Smith concurred and added, “Scarred up pretty good.”

Emma D’Arcy, who plays Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, said her character is motivated by fire. “I think she is fueled by that old Targaryen stuff,” she teased.

Cooke acknowledged that viewers might expect her character, Lady Alicent Hightower, to be the show’s villain, but she said things won’t be that simple and that the show introducing Alicent at a young enough age gives her a lot to explore. “She’s so multi-faceted — there’s so many layers to her,” the actress said. “I never had the freedom to create a whole human being like this before.”

This led Martin to point out that any aspects of good and evil will be handled in a subtle way. “We’re not going to have anyone who’s called Lord Evil or Mister Atrocity,” he quipped. “But there’s certainly evil. I’ve always believed the most interesting characters are great characters.”

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When asked by a fan whether he would appear in a cameo, Martin implied that he’s too busy working on the final book from A Song of Ice and Fire. “There’s this book that I’m writing — it’s a little late,” he said.

Toussaint referenced dealing with any criticism about a person of color appearing in this world. “That’s an issue they have to deal with,” the actor said confidently about any haters. “I don’t have to.”

Cooke emphasized that the team has worked so hard on the show that she hopes that it can live up to fan expectations. “We’re so grateful for what came before, and we just hope this has the same legacy,” she said. “I just hope you like it.”

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