According to Emma D’Arcy, they almost didn’t get the role of Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon. Beginning with episode 6, D’Arcy portrays Rhaenyra Targaryen for the second half of the first season of House of the Dragon. After a time leap of ten years, the actress took over Milly Alcock’s part, portraying Rhaenyra as an adult who was raising a growing family and juggling her many duties as the heir to the Iron Throne. While D’Arcy’s portrayal of Rhaenyra was a huge hit with viewers, some House of the Dragon fans were apprehensive about the series’ time leaps and the recasting of important characters, especially since Alcock and Emily Carey had garnered such praise for their performances in the first episodes of the program.
The audience commended the actor’s deft performance intensity, as was the soft charm they infused into the complex character of Rhaenyra. Despite the accolades D’Arcy received for the job, they recently admitted to The Hollywood Reporter that they were almost not cast following a rigorous audition process in which D’Arcy even “cobbled together a wig out of literally a bag of hair” to seem the part. D’Arcy later discovered that the casting directors had really chosen to cast them as Rhaenyra, which is fortunate for lovers of the fantasy series. Check out what they had to say and watch D’Arcy’s debut as Rhaenyra below:
It was about three months of self-taping in my living room in the middle of the pandemic, so it was amazing. Actually, it felt like living on an island and trying to make cinema or something, because I didn’t see anyone or really do anything, but supposedly I was in conversation with one of the biggest TV shows in the world. My partner and I cobbled together a wig out of literally a bag of hair and then after three months of doing that, I was invited for a four- or five-hour in-person audition, did that, and then after that, I was told, ‘You’ll hear something next week.’
And then I didn’t. Then I was told it was probably not going my way. And I thought, ‘Wow, it’s a real shame.’ I went to the countryside, just for the weekend, to start metabolizing, and at the end of that weekend I had about 14 missed calls from my agent. I spoke to him the next morning to hear, ‘They changed their mind! Do you want to do it?’ So weird, honestly. A very solitary process that went on seemingly half a year.
Rhaenyra the Adult Was Perfectly Realized by D’Arcy
When you consider the tremendous force and composure they brought to the character of Rhaenyra, D’Arcy’s remarks that they had already accepted the reality that they would not be cast in the role of Rhaenyra seem unexpected. In their first outing as Rhaenyra, they expertly conveyed to the audience how the character’s life had changed through a strenuous birth sequence that showed Rhaenyra’s conflicting feelings and anxieties about giving birth while also emphasizing the character’s fierce independence in the subsequent sequence. Rhaenyra, who is portrayed by Alcock as a teenager, struggles with motherhood and at times outright rejects it, but as an adult, she has been forced to accept it as a necessary part of her responsibilities, which is a difference that D’Arcy well conveys.
All of D’Arcy’s sequences make it very evident how much the adult Rhaenyra loves her kids, yet she refuses to accept motherhood as her own identity. In the House of the Dragon season 1 finale, Rhaenyra demonstrates diplomacy, elegance, and authority in equal measure almost right away after learning of her father’s passing and losing her child in a heartbreaking stillbirth, reminding everyone why she was Viserys’ (Paddy Considine) chosen heir. D’Arcy, an incredibly skilled actress, can give each of Rhaenyra’s birth scenes an entirely new energy while yet conveying that pregnancy and labor are both wars in and of themselves, especially for Rhaenyra.
At the very end of the season, when Rhaenyra learned of her son’s passing, one of D’Arcy’s most memorable sequences as the character took place. D’Arcy’s subtle and delicate displays of agony, astonishment, and wrath allowed Rhaenyra’s grief to appear entirely new, despite the fact that she had learned about her father’s passing and the ensuing coup for her kingdom earlier in the same episode. They will have many more opportunities to shine in the part of Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon season 2 when the character goes to battle, and they’ll probably keep demonstrating how ideal D’Arcy’s casting decision was.