‘House of the Dragon’ Star Milly Alcock on Her Journey to the HBO Hit

The Australian actress tells TheWrap about taking on the role of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen

HBO’s long-awaited “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon” premiered to a huge audience last Sunday, courting nearly 10 million viewers on premiere night, and making actress Milly Alcock, who plays Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, not one, but two of the top Google trending topics related to the show.

“What?! Oh my God,” Alcock replies when TheWrap makes her aware that fans were clamoring to know more about the Australian actress, searching “Milly Alcock,” and “How old is Milly Alcock?” (“I’m 22,” she laughs, “I look really young”), as she was boldly introduced to viewers from atop a dragon, and quickly made an impression as the quietly astute daughter to the king, looking to carve her own path in a realm ruled by men. 

When TheWrap catches up with Alcock just days after “House of the Dragon’s” debut, she’s just finished up some work responsibilities, and a handful of errands, including buying socks. No, she wasn’t recognized on the outing, but with her face on billboards across the world – that intimidating dragon behind her – and an impression-making premiere performance (seen by 20 million viewers by week’s end) things are about to change.

“I was in Paris, when the premiere came out. I was with Fabian [Frankel, who plays Ser Criston Cole]; we were doing our last press [tour stop]. I mean, I’m really surprised because I didn’t think that anyone would notice my performance. I didn’t go into it being like, ‘I’m going to prove myself as an actor.’ I was just kind of like, ‘I’m in this show. I’ve got a good part in the show,’” Alcock said.

Prior to “House of the Dragon,” Alock’s biggest role, and the one she was most known for, was the critically acclaimed Australian import series “Upright” (Sundance Now), where she stars as Meg, a teenage runaway opposite Tim Minchin’s Lucky, an unsuccessful rock musician bringing a piano across Australia. “I just did like guest-y roles beforehand … teeny tiny parts in teeny tiny Australian jobs. And [‘Upright’] was a slightly bigger Australian job and I had a very big part. And Meg is so beautiful and I adore her and I learnt so much over that job,” Alcock said (Season 2 is in the works). 

And then, the world of HBO and Westeros called. Alcock remembers auditions began around November 2020, though, of course, with any project the size of “HoTD,” a great deal of secrecy was involved. She did two self-tapes, “and then I got a phone call and everything changed very drastically,” she recalled. “And I had no idea how big my part was until they sent me the script. … I was like, ‘Ah, I’ll be in a few flashback scenes.’”

Alcock, who was only 11 when “Game of Thrones” premiered, dove into the deep end to prepare for the series. She read and re-read the scripts, visited the Fire and Ice Wiki, and bicycled to the library for six hours a day to study this George R.R. Martin-created world. At home, she took instructions from a dialect coach and read anything she could find in Rhaenyra’s accent, and she made “big graphs of all the Houses and all the rankings within the Houses,” to get an “understanding of what was at stake within the world.” She watched the original show, too, quickly understanding its appeal.

“It’s just such a clever show. No one is safe. And I think that that is something that audiences aren’t given a lot of the time,” she said. “We kind of have this in the back of our mind like, ‘Oh, they’re not going to kill off the main character.’ … It’s like, ‘No, ‘Game of Thrones’ really likes to flip that on its head; that’s why I loved it. I was like, ‘No one is safe.’ It exceeded my expectations every time.”

One thing we know for sure, is that – at least for now – Princess Rhaenyra is safe. Alcock plays the younger version of the princess to the more grown up one played by Emma D’Arcy later in the season, following a time jump. 

The premiere episode also set up young Rhaenyra for what we can only assume is a major arc, after her father, King Viserys (Paddy Considine) named her – a young woman – his heir, and shared with her a weighty secret (a prophecy called “The Song of Ice and Fire), passed down to every monarch integral to the future of the realm.

“It’s always such a gift when you’re given a character that has such a clear moral compass and such a clear trajectory in what they want and how the world around them doesn’t allow them to get to that. It really gives you so much to play with,” Alcock said. “So I think that I’ve been very fortunate that similarly, with [my ‘Upright’ character] Meg … Meg had the same kind of challenges that Rhaenyra faces. I’ve been lucky that my kind of, quote unquote, typecast has been very strong, outspoken women, which is just really fun, honestly.”

“House of the Dragon” airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, and streams on HBO Max.