How Do The Recast House Of The Dragon Actors Fit Into The Show?

Time jumps in television shows can be difficult to navigate, especially when recasting actors. In the case of "House of the Dragon," Milly Alcock and Emily Carey both gave fantastic performances as Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower respectively, so saying goodbye to these two actors hasn't been easy for viewers. The show is well-written, but it's fair to say that Alcock and Carey are the reason we've all come to care so much about these two young women over the past five episodes. The show's sixth installment, "The Princess and the Queen," reintroduced us to these characters 10 years later, and while they do bear a rather striking resemblance to their teenage counterparts, they are now played by different actors.

Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke have moved into the roles of Rhaenyra and Alicent, who weren't the only younger characters to be recast. Siblings Laenor and Laena Velaryon are played by new performers as well. John Macmillan is now in the role of Laenor, formerly portrayed first by Matthew Carver and then Theo Nate. Nanna Blondell has stepped into the shoes of Laena, who was initially played by Nova Foueillis-Mosé, and followed by Savannah Steyn.

Recasting characters we don't know all that well is one thing, but Alcock and Carey are particularly difficult to replace, as fans have spent the first half of the season with them. The showrunners have been upfront about this aspect of the series from the start, so it's not actually a surprise to see different faces. Their younger counterparts will be missed, but how well are the new actors fitting into the show?

Transforming into a different person

One very important detail worth noting is that Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke were both cast as Rhaenyra and Alicent before Milly Alcock and Emily Carey. The younger actors were always meant to only portray them early on, while D'Arcy and Cooke will remain with us for the rest of the series — which has already been picked up for a second season. The now-sole showrunner Ryan Condal told Variety that it was important to them to cast young performers that bear a resemblance to their adult counterparts, but that the most vital aspect of the process was finding brilliant actors. Based on the performances of Alcock and Carey, it's safe to say they succeeded.

Despite the fact that the adult actors were cast first, the bar was significantly high for D'Arcy and Cooke when they arrived on the scene in episode six. Thankfully, both actors have turned in excellent performances so far. According to Entertainment Weekly, at the request of the showrunners, neither D'Arcy or Cooke spent time discussing their parts with Alcock and Carey, and therefore did not influence each other's performances. After all, 10 years will indeed transform you into a different person. Not literally, of course, but there's no doubt that in that time, these characters would go through major changes warranting a fresh face.

The princess and the queen

The transition was actually rather seamless. I fully believed both actors in their respective roles and the change honestly wasn't nearly as jarring as I was expecting it to be. Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke nailed it. The years have hardened both characters, but despite how drastically these women may have changed, they still felt like Rhaenyra and Alicent. The chasm between these two former friends has only widened in the past decade and it shows in every interaction between them.

I was sold on the adult actors pretty early on in the episode, but there was a moment for each that really cemented those feelings. For Alicent, it was the one in which she tells Aegon (Ty Tennant) he challenges Rhaenyra's succession simply by existing. It was great work from Cooke, who was every bit a mother terrified for her child. I was also struck by how difficult it would be to root for Alicent if we'd started out with this episode as our introduction to her. Carey laid some very important groundwork in that respect. As for D'Arcy, their performance as Rhaenyra bids farewell to Harwin (Ryan Corr) was incredibly nuanced, layering so many levels of emotion across the princess' face at once. You could really feel her inner struggle.

We hardly knew you

Laenor and Laena Velaryon's recasting went was smooth by default because we hadn't spent nearly as much time with the younger actors who played them, but both John Macmillan and Nanna Blondell do fine work in the latest episode. Macmillan in particular appears to be having a blast in the role of Laenor. 

Still, "House of the Dragon" has been moving at a breakneck pace and while this has worked for the most part, it has done Laena something of a disservice

Blondell was quite compelling in the role and I did feel emotional when she called upon Vhagar to end her life. The exchange between her and her dragon was a heartbreaking moment that the audience would've felt on a much deeper level had we gotten to spend more time with this version of Laena — not that we got to know any version of her all that well. Personally, I would've loved to see her claim the legendary dragon in the first place, but alas, there's quite a bit we missed in those ten years.