Matt Smith And Emma D'Arcy Say Their House Of The Dragon Characters' Love Language Is High Valyrian

The upcoming "Game of Thrones" prequel, "House of the Dragon" centers around the high drama and political intrigue that embroiled House Targaryen almost two centuries before Daenerys Targaryen vied for the Iron Throne. 

The family, by any measure, is completely dysfunctional. (And also incestuous. And also prone to murderous intentions when they're not being incestuous or riding dragons.) They also all speak a language called High Valyrian, a language different than the Common Tongue (aka English) they, along with the rest of Westeros, also speak.

There are scenes in "House of the Dragon" where two major characters — Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and Rhaenyra (played at different ages by Milly Alcock and Emma D'Arcy) — speak to each other in the ancient language of their homeland. I had the chance to take part in two separate roundtable discussions with "House of the Dragon" stars Smith and D'Arcy, where I asked them what it was like to learn High Valyrian and what it meant for their respective characters. Read on for their answers.

'You try and marry the two'

"I actually really enjoyed the process," D'Arcy said about their experience learning High Valyrian. "It's like a fully functioning language — it's fully operational and so it's really gratifying to unpick."

Smith, on the other hand, initially wasn't excited by the amount of High Valyrian he had to learn. "I had pages of it. Reams," he shared. "At first, I dreaded it. But when I got to it, I quite enjoyed learning it and quite enjoyed performing it."

D'Arcy and Smith and the other "House of the Dragon" actors who had to speak the fantastical language were sent an English translation of their lines as well as a direct English translation and an audio recording of the lines in High Valyrian so they could get an ear for how to pronounce everything.

Being able to parrot the words, however, wasn't enough for either actor. "You get the sense of it and then you learn the language side of it and then you try and marry the two," Smith said.

D'Arcy was also keen to find ways to embed meaning into their High Valyrian lines. "We did lots of different things like using gesture while practicing to just try and embed meaning into the sentences and looking at the English translation or saying the High Valyrian," they shared. "I really enjoyed it."

'It forms an envelope around them and plucks them out of the world'

For Smith in particular, he found that speaking High Valyrian as Daemon opened up another side of his character. "I found it really informative, actually, because it allowed me to understand a different sort of authenticity to Daemon that isn't in the Common Language that I speak," he shared. "He's a different person in that language. And I was like, 'Oh, that's who he is at his core.' And the fact that he speaks it only to Rhaenyra is really telling."

D'Arcy agreed that there was something "intensely intimate" about Daemon and Rhaenyra talking to each other in High Valyrian, and agreed that it was like their love language. "It forms an envelope around them and plucks them out of the world and takes them to a different plane or somewhere incredibly private," they said. "Even if they were in public, it creates an immediate intimacy and privacy. And it's historic — so much of Rhaenyra's identity is her grappling with Targaryen identity and trying to work out where she fits in that timeline, in that ancestry. And again, that language is something that ties her right the way back."

"The House of the Dragon" premieres on HBO at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday, August 21 and will be available to stream on HBO Max