Olivia Cooke Talks HOUSE OF THE DRAGON for ELLE Magazine

Posted on June 17, 2024


ELLE spoke with House of the Dragon start Olivia Cooke ahead of the Season 2 Premiere that aired last night. The British actress discussed her character Alicent Hightower’s motivations and actions, Cooke’s reaction to the attention from being in the franchise, producing her first film with her production company Chippy Tea, her close friendship with co-star Emma D’Arcy and, of course, the negroni sbagliato meme. 





Cooke on the Game of Thrones fanbase and how people reacted to House of the Dragon: “I know what to expect now, whereas last time, that was mad. There was a pressure [in] doing a new offshoot of the Game of Thrones world, and really desperately wanting it to be wellreceived because we’d worked so hard on it.”

On the public attention from being in House of the Dragon“I was aware of what happened to people that were on Game of Thrones and how they [became] so recognizable everywhere,” Cooke says. “I don’t know the ins and outs of how their life had changed, but they were so visible. [I was] just really nervous that I would feel watched or followed…I was worried about having lots of eyes on me, but it’s actually been okay. It sort of ramps up when the show comes out, and they just die back down again.”

On the viral negroni sbagliato meme and if it made her more careful about what she says on camera: “It was just weird, man. It’s strange.” She would hear her own voice in the background of other videos, and one time a stranger even quoted it to her in person. It was unlike anything she’d ever experienced before. “At that point, I was a bit resistant to it all because it was all so new and the season had just come out and I was a bit like, ‘Wow, what is going on?’ It all just felt a bit too much, but now I dont care,” she says. “It’s silly and innocuous and bizarre that of all the things we said to each other on that f**king press tour, that’s the one that took off.” When I ask if the incident made her more careful about what she says on-camera, Cooke responds, “For sure.” But sometimes it’s uncontrollable. “God, when you’re tired, you can’t help what you say, so something annoying will come out.”

On her House of the Dragon character Alicent in season 2: She thrives on having the ear of powerful men, even if she can’t wear the crown herself. “When she was ruling in Viserys’ stead when he was ill, she f**king loved sitting at the head of the table and weaving this intricate political life for herself and being able to rule well.” Alicent “doesn’t rule by hormones like the men do and is not impulsive,” Cooke says. (“It’s all just a big f**king d**kswinging competition,” she’ll later joke of the male characters.) But as the season progresses, her influence wanes. She must handle her sons “as the power goes to their head and they see her as irrelevant.” Not that Alicent, who became a mother at 14, can connect with her kids at all. “She’s terrified of Aemond and what he’s become, and she can’t access Helaena,” says Cooke. As Alicent slowly becomes invisible, it’s also strangely liberating, “because all of a sudden eyes aren’t on her and she can sort of do whatever she wants.”

On sex scenes in the show, including one that was cut, and working closely with House of the Dragon’s intimacy coordinator, Vanessa Coffey: Given Game of Thrones’ reputation for nudity, she was originally bracing herself. “I thought there’d be way more, and so I’m relieved that when it has been used for me, it’s showing Alicent being pleasured, which is amazing and doesn’t feel gratuitous,” she says. “It feels like we’re telling a story.” She recalls one bedroom scene she filmed that was cut. “It was messy as f**k. It wasn’t beautiful, and that was really fun to do.” It was “carnal” and “animalistic,” even. “I think Ryan [Condal, the showrunner] said we weren’t learning any more about the characters, which I disagree with slightly, but it’s okay. It’s his show.” Maybe we’ll see it in the bloopers, she cackles.

On Alicent and Rhaenyra’s relationship, which is core to the series, and how it is severely broken and the fandom ship “Rhaenicent,” a.k.a. Rhaenyra and Alicent as a couple: “They practiced proper adult relationships on each other,” Cooke says of the severed friendship. “When you break up with a friend, it’s so much more heartbreaking than breaking up with a lover a lot of the time, because they know every single part of you and it’s so much more vulnerable.” … And of course, parts of the fandom ship “Rhaenicent.” “Don’t they ship everyone together though?” Cooke asks when I bring up the fan-fiction romance. A fair point, but wouldn’t things be better if the old pals just made up and ruled the kingdom together? Cooke humors me. “Absolutely. Matriarchy now, please.”

On working on Takes One to Know One, a romance film that is the first time producing with her production company Chippy Tea:  “I think sometimes as an actor you’re afraid of overstepping the boundaries, but this is a moment where I feel like my voice is really heard and it’s important,” she says of producing. Plus, she feels “really empowered” doing it. She sees herself shifting to the other side of the camera as her career progresses. She’d love to make something like Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria one day. “I can’t imagine ever leaving this industry, but I do want to produce more. I write, so I’d like to get something that I write and direct,” she pauses, before adding, “I don’t want to act forever, yeah.”

Photographer: César Buitrago 
Stylist: Moses Moreno 
Writer: Erica Gonzales 

[Photo Credit: Cesar Buitrago for ELLE Magazine]

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