House of the Dragon's Emily Carey and Milly Alcock are earning praise for their performances as Alicent Hightower and Rhaenyra Targaryen in the Game of Thrones' prequel – but the duo's stint on the HBO fantasy drama is almost over. In a couple of weeks, episode 6 will see two different actors take over their roles (and they're not the only ones being replaced).
The reason behind the shake-up is the show's upcoming time-jump. As it adapts parts of George R. R. Martin's 2018 novel Fire & Blood, House of the Dragon season 1 spans 28 years overall, with several months passing with each episode but between episodes 5 and 6 – which airs in the US on September 25 – ten years will have passed. We reveal who will be stepping in to play Alicent, Rhaenyra, and more instead below, so keep scrolling if shock recastings aren't your thing...
Who plays Rhaenyra Targaryen from episode 6 onwards?
From episode 6 onwards, Rhaenyra, Princess of Dragonstone, will be portrayed by Emma D'Arcy. The actor is eight years older than Alcock, so it's fitting that they take over the role as the storyline jumps forward a decade.
D'Arcy past credits include Wanderlust, Misbehavior, Mothering Sunday, Hanna, and comedy horror Truth Seekers, in which they played Astrid, a reclusive young woman who is being haunted by a bunch of ghosts. Desperate to rid herself of the spirits, she reaches out to broadband installer-turned-paranormal investigator Gus Roberts (Nick Frost) and his new business partner Elton John (Samson Kayo) for help.
Having spent the first half of House of the Dragon season 1 grieving her mother, living up to her status as named heir, and batting off potential suitors, the second half is set to see the older version of the character continue to navigate the Targaryen civil war, known as the Dance of Dragons.
"She's grappling with these questions of identity and the restriction of womanhood from very early on," D'Arcy explained to Vogue recently. "That was the aspect of the text that really spoke to me – reading someone on the page who's so young and already aware that the rules apply differently to men and women."
Who plays Alicent Hightower from episode 6 onwards?
As D'Arcy takes over from Alcock as Rhaenyra, Olivia Cooke will come onboard as Rhaenyra's bestie-turned-stepmother Alicent Hightower. Some of her most popular credits include Pixie, Ready Player One, Sound of Metal, Ouija, The Limehouse Golem, Vanity Fair, and Thoroughbreds opposite Anya Taylor-Joy.
In 2015, Cooke earned critical acclaim for her performance in comedy-drama Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, but its arguably her role as Norman Bates' pal Emma Decody in Psycho prequel Bates Motel that is her most well-known.
"Being in a follow up series to Game of Thrones is super surreal. The experience has been undulating waves of calm and pressure," she previously admitted to Harper's Bazaar. "When I initially got the role it was four seconds of euphoria, then just immediate dread." Despite the weight of expectation and the super serious situations Alicent finds herself in, Cooke describes filming House of the Dragon as "a lovely bubble of love and creativity and fun".
Who plays Leana Velaryon from episode 6 onwards?
In the first few episodes of House of the Dragon, it is stated that Leana Velaryon is 12 years old, so it stands to reason that young actors Nova Foueillis-Mose and Savannah Steyn would be replaced by someone older due to the ten-year time-jump. From episode 6 onwards, Nanna Blondell will star as Leana instead.
Compared to the duo above, the Swedish-born actor hasn't been in all that much prior to the show, but she did have a small role in Marvel's Black Widow. Last year, she fronted her first Swedish-language feature: Netflix thriller Red Dot.
Who plays Laenor Velaryon from episode 6 onwards?
Up until now, Leana's brother Laenor Velaryon has been brought to life by Matthew Carver and Theo Nate but come episode 6, John Macmillan will step into the role. Macmillan is perhaps best known for playing Julian in the Mitchell and Webb sitcom Back.
Despite the youngsters being swapped out, Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, and Rhys Ifans will continue playing King Viserys, Daemon Targaryen, and Otto Hightower into the second half of season 1, respectively. With House of the Dragon having already been picked up for a season 2, it's unclear whether the new foursome – and the remaining cast members, for that matter – will stick around for the second chapter's entirety or whether they'll be recast, too. Only time will tell; we'll be sure to get you updated.
Will Milly Alcock and Emily Carey ever return to House of the Dragon?
It's hard to imagine how Milly Alcock and Emily Carey would reprise the roles of Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon. Flashbacks are possible but the show seems pretty keen on propelling the story forward, so they're unlikely. That said, the actors would be keen to return...
"It's been spoken about, conversations have happened," Carey previously told The Hollywood Reporter. "But, in all honesty, I know absolutely nothing and I have no idea. Of course, I would love to come back. It depends on how it's received and where they want to take the show next. I'm just going with the flow!"
House of the Dragon is set to continue on Sunday, September 18 on HBO in the US, and the following day on Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK. To ensure you never miss an episode, keep up to date with with our House of the Dragon release schedule.