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House of the Dragon: release window, cast, and more on the Game of Thrones prequel

Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith in House of the Dragon
(Image credit: HBO)

The Game of Thrones prequel series, House of the Dragon, is just around the corner. The new HBO show is coming our way sometime this year, although it doesn't have a specific release date yet. Official details are still hard to come by at this point, but that hasn't stopped us from putting together all the information about the fantasy series that's currently out there.

For one thing, we've got the lowdown on the cast and which characters they're playing, including Matt Smith and Emma D'Arcy as two new Targaryens. We also know that the series will take place around 300 years before the events of the original series, during the Targaryen civil war, and HBO has released a teaser to pore over too. And that's just the start – for all that and more, scroll on to find out everything we know so far about the Game of Thrones prequel series.

What is the House of the Dragon release window?

The first teaser trailer has confirmed House of the Dragon will release in 2022. An exact release date has yet to be announced, however. 

HBO's Casey Boys previously gave an update on the spinoffs: "House of the Dragon is the only one shooting," he said. "All the other ones are in various stages of development. People may think we have 10 series shooting at the moment. There's one that will be on the air in 2022. We'll see how the other scripts come along."

House of the Dragon trailer

The first teaser trailer for House of the Dragon is here. In it, we get a good look at the more lethal looking Iron Throne, as well as the series' key characters, and what looks to be plenty of intense drama. "Gods, kings, fire, and blood. Dreams didn't make us kings, dragons did," says Matt Smith's Daemon Targaryen in a voiceover. Check it out above. 

Who's in the House of the Dragon cast?

House of the Dragon

Image credit: Getty (Image credit: WarnerMedia)

Fabien Frankel (who recently appeared in the Netflix and BBC One crime series, The Serpent) will play Ser Criston Cole, common-born, Dornish son to the Steward of the Lord of Blackhaven. Variety describes Cole as having "no claim to land or titles; all he has to his name, his honor, and his preternatural skill with a sword".

Graham McTavish, star of Outlander, confirmed to Stylist that he has a role in the series – but didn't give anything else away: "I'm enjoying that, yes," he said. "I'm really having a lot of fun. We've just started. It's a very big project, so we're getting to know each other. They're lovely people. It's great, but I can't tell you too much. I can't tell you really anything about the story! But it involves a lot dragons." Speculation after McTavish was reportedly glimpsed onset in costume has pointed to Harrold Westerling, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard (H/T Radio Times). 

Steve Toussaint, Rhys Ifans, Eve Best, and Sonoya Mizuno also recently joined the project. Toussaint will play Lord Corlys Velaryon, a powerful lord of House Velaryon (a Valyrian bloodline as old as House Targaryen) and the most notorious nautical adventurer in the history of Westeros with the world's largest navy. 

Ifans will play Otto Hightower, the loyal Hand of the King, while Best will be Princess Rhaenys Velaryon, a dragonrider and wife to Lord Corlys Velaryon. Mizuno, meanwhile, will play Mysaria, a woman who arrived in Westeros with nothing, but rose through the ranks to become the most trusted ally of Prince Daemon Targaryen, the heir to the throne.

Then we've got Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith, who will play Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Prince Daemon Targaryen respectively, while Olivia Cooke has signed on to play Alicent Hightower. The two Targaryen royals play key roles in the climactic Dance of the Dragons, the Targaryen civil war that takes up a large chunk of George R.R. Martin's Fire & Blood, the novel on which House of the Dragon is based.

Expect to see these characters play major roles in the events of House of the Dragon, and given their lasting presence in the book, it's likely we'll see them across several seasons. Though, as Game of Thrones proved, TV series aren't always 100 per cent faithful to their source work. Interestingly, young versions of two of these characters have been cast – Milly Alcock has joined the lineup as a younger version of Rhaenyra Targaryen, while Emily Carey will be the young Alicent Hightower.

Cooke has spoken a little about the series, saying there will not be any gratuitous violence against women, which Thrones was accused of on multiple occasions. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable in being a part of anything that has just egregious graphic violence towards women for no reason whatsoever, just because they want it to be tantalizing in a way that gets viewers," she said. "I was lucky enough to read the [prequel] script before, and it has changed a lot from the first few seasons [of Thrones]. I don’t think they’d be in their right minds to include any of that any more.”

In October, the series' lead was announced: Paddy Considine as King Viserys I, an ancestor of everyone's favorite Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen. Viserys is chosen by the Lords of Westeros to succeed the Iron Throne and apparently wants to innocently carry on his grandfather's legacy. However, as the original series showed us, good men don't always make good leaders.

Fire & Blood features a lineup of Targaryen rulers from Aegon I to his sons, Aenys I and Maegor I, all the way up to Aegon III. We expect even more silver-haired dragonriders to take the reign as casting details continue opening up in the (presumably) near future.

HBO recently cast its first Lannisters, with returning Game of Thrones actor Jefferson Hall joining House of the Dragon as twins Jason Lannister and Ser Tyland Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock and Hand of the King for Aegon III Targaryen, respectively. 

The latest round of casting news also reveled that Ryan Corr (Wolf Creek 2, The Water Diviner) has been cast as Ser Harwin "Breakbones" Strong, who HBO describes as "the strongest man in the Seven Kingdoms." Meanwhile, David Horovitch (Miss Marple) will play Grand Maester Mellos, one of King Viserys's close advisors.

Graham McTavish (The Hobbit, Netflix's Castlevania, Preacher) has been cast as Ser Harrold Westerling, loyal member of the Kingsguard. Bill Paterson (Amazing Grace, Miss Potter) is playing Lord Lyman Beesbury, Lord of Honeyholt and Master of Coin on King Viserys's small council. Gavin Spokes (She Stoops to Conquer, Utopia, Warrior Kings) is Lord Lyonel Strong, Lord of Harrenhal and the King's Master of Laws, and Matthew Needham (Stutterer) is set to portray Larys Strong, son of Lyonel Strong.

When is the House of the Dragon set?

Image credit: HBO

Image credit: HBO (Image credit: HBO)

The beginning of House of the Dragon will date back to roughly 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones. That might seem like a while back, but it's actually much more recent history than the canceled Naomi Watts prequel, which was set to take place "thousands of years" before Game of Thrones and explore the early history of ancient houses as well as the origin of the White Walkers.

Considering Westerosi societies were very much thriving, and turbulent as ever, during the timeline containing House of the Dragon, expect to see political interworkings akin to Game of Thrones explored in the prequel series. Whereas the canceled prequel would've more likely focused primarily on fantasy elements, House of the Dragon is based on a book very much centered around ancestral hierarchies, warring nations, and a massive civil war. That should equate to a prequel series more tonally similar to Game of Thrones, a show as much about dragons as the dark underbellies of society and the ruling class.

For the uninitiated, House Targaryen is very much affiliated with dragons, going all the way back to Aegon the Conqueror's fire-breathing conquest over the seven kingdoms where House of the Dragon picks up.

What's the House of the Dragon story?

Image credit: HBO

Image credit: HBO (Image credit: HBO)

House of the Dragon is based on Fire and Blood, a novel by George RR Martin covering the rise and fall of the Targaryen dynasty as recorded by a maester in pre-Game of Thrones time. Since that book has been out for about two years, we have a pretty good idea of what we can expect to see from House of the Dragon's plot.

The book picks up with Aegon's Conquest, which marked the very beginning of a new world order, the establishment of King's Landing as the world capital, and the physical formation of the Iron Throne. 

Together with the help of his twin sisters, Rhaenys and Visenya (not to mention their three dragons), Aegon Targaryen I successfully subdued six of the seven kingdoms of Westeros, whether by conquest or their voluntary submission. The only kingdom to prevail unconquered was Dorne, which Rhaenys left unharmed after finding its castles abandoned and only women and children occupying its seat.

From there follows a turbulent run of Targaryen kings and queens; good, evil, and everywhere in between; leading up to the great civil war between Aegon II and his half-sister Rhaenyra over their father Viserys I's throne. That long struggle endured for two years, through which several large-scale battles were fought until both Aegon II and Rhaenya died mysterious and grizzly respective deaths.

The resulting power void fell to the young Aegon III to occupy, which resulted in the death of "the last dragon." The end of Fire and Blood doesn't lead directly into the events of Game of Thrones, closing out roughly 150 years before the fateful day Robert Baratheon shows up at King's Landing to enlist Ned Stark as Hand of the King. The gap between the end of Fire and Blood and the beginning of Game of Thrones hasn't been written about in depth, but Martin has said he plans on writing Fire and Blood part 2 when he's finished the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Game of Thrones followed the books closely and with little deviation for the first four seasons, after which substantial changes to the characters and plot were made at least partly due to the source work not being finished at the time. For those reasons, it's hard to tell how faithfully House of the Dragon will tell the stories from Fire and Blood. With Martin at the helm and Fire and Blood published in its entirety, it's a good bet the show and book will align quite nicely.

While not giving anything away about the plot, HBO content chief Casey Bloys has said the series "looks spectacular," adding: "The cast that Miguel [Sapochnik] and Ryan [Condal] have put together looks good." 

If you're wondering about the dragons, have no fear: there'll be a lot of them in the series. "I've always thought this was a cool story, it's one I like, so I'm looking forward to seeing it come alive on screen," Martin told The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of podcast. "And of course I'm looking forward to the dragons. Obviously, I love the dragons. We had three of them in Game of Thrones, but now we got like 17 of them. And hopefully, they'll each have their own personalities, they'll be instantly recognizable when you see them, the colors and all of that because the dragons do have personalities in the books, and it'll be great to see that come alive. And the dragon riders. That's all pretty cool."

We spoke to co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik about his sci-fi movie Finch, and the director compared that movie to the prequel series: "[They're] very, very, very different. As I said, Finch is two actors and a dog. House of the Dragon is lots of dragons and lots of actors. [Laughs] They're very different experiences. But the practice is the same if you're a director, which is I always ask myself in any project that I'm involved in, whose story is it? Whose point of view is it? What am I trying to say, and is that getting in the way of telling the story? So I approach things from the same perspective. I think that making Finch was a welcome respite from making Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon. But it doesn't mean that I wasn't on set now and then, with an RV and a dog and a couple of actors, and I didn't wish that I had a dragon there too."

Sapochnik also talked to The Hollywood Reporter about how the tone of House of the Dragon will differ from Game of Thrones. "I think we were very respectful of what the original show is," he commented. "It wasn't broken, so we're not trying to reinvent the wheel. House of the Dragon has its own tone that will evolve and emerge over the course of the show. But first, it's very important to pay respects and homage to the original series, which was pretty groundbreaking. We're standing on the shoulders of that show and we're only here because of that show. So the most important thing for us to do is to respect that show as much as possible and try and complement it rather than reinvent it." 

He added: "This is something else, and should be something else. It's a different crew, different people, different tone. Hopefully, it will be seen as something else."

House of the Dragon photos

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Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)
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Steve Toussaint in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)
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Olivia Cooke and Rhys Ifans in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

The first official look at House of the Dragon shows off Matt Smith and Emma D'Arcy as Prince Daemon and Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon, and Rhys Ifans and Olivia Cooke as Otto and Alicent Hightower. While not much about the plot can be gleaned from the images, those distinctive blonde wigs are back.

There's also a video and some photos from the set, showing off what appears to be a House Targaryen camp (H/T Wiki of Thrones)

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House of the Dragon concept art

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House of the Dragon

(Image credit: WarnerMedia)
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House of the Dragon

(Image credit: WarnerMedia)
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House of the Dragon

(Image credit: WarnerMedia)

Here's some concept art HBO revealed for House of the Dragon. It isn't much, but it does give us our first look at what the dragons might look like. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they look pretty similar to the winged beasts we saw in Game of Thrones. The last one in particular looks a lot like Drogon with the redish hue to its scales. And we've seen it before, but that last shot is probably the official House of the Dragon title screen/logo.

Who is the Game of Thrones prequel TV show showrunner?

Image credit: HBO

Image credit: HBO

George RR Martin will be heading up the Game of Thrones prequel as showrunner, along with Ryan Condal and Game of Thrones alumn Miguel Sapochnik. Sapochnik directed some of Game of Thrones' most pivotal episodes, including "Hardhome" and "Battle of the Bastards," while Condal is an established screenwriter and producer well familiar with Martin's work.

What's happened to the other Game of Thrones prequel TV shows?

An image from Game of Thrones

Image credit: HBO (Image credit: HBO)

The Game of Thrones prequel starring Naomi Watts was canceled late last year, despite filming its pilot episode. And before that, HBO commissioned five writers to have a crack at their own Game of Thrones prequel, with some of the finest talent around ready to present their vision of Westeros. Inevitably, only one was chosen.

So, what about the other three? Martin was kind enough to update us all with a blog post about the Game of Thrones prequels before the most recent cancellation. In it, he says that, of the five prequels, one has been shelved, with three more in "active development." Now that the one starring Watts has been cancelled, that leaves us with another two Game of Thrones prequels alongside House of the Dragon potentially still in early development – and now we know that there are another four series in the works. 

The author has expressed his interest to create another Game of Thrones show called Spear Carriers, inspired by the Tom Stoppard play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. "[It] would actually be set during the events of Game of Thrones", explained Martin in an interview with The New York Times, "but it wouldn’t be following Dany, Tyrion, and Jaime."

"They would all be there in the background like Hamlet, and it would be more like, 'Here's a story about a guy in the City Watch; here's a story about a prostitute at one of Littlefinger's brothels; here’s a story about a mummer who's in town to do juggling and tricks.' And they all get caught up in the events. I think that kind of show would be a lot of fun to do. Maybe I’ll be able to convince them to do it!" It sounds amazing, George, but best of luck getting HBO to greenlight that one!

More Game of Thrones prequels on the way

Image credit: HBO

Image credit: HBO (Image credit: HBO)

Yes, despite one canceled pilot and The House of the Dragon being in development, there's even more coming. A series based on Martin's Dunk and Egg books is being worked on, with HBO looking to expand the series similar to how Disney has expanded Star Wars on Disney Plus.  

There will also be a stage show, as well as three other spinoffs: one focusing on Princess Nymeria named 100,000 ships, another centered on Flea Bottom, and another on Lord Corlys Velaryon. Get ready to spend a lot more time in Westeros.

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked in - *shudders* - content management while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG. Now, as GamesRadar's Arizona-based Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.