Tragic Details About ‘House of the Dragon’ Cast

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon” spans a great number of years, and over time, several of its characters go through plenty of change. Unfortunately for many of them, said change comes in the form of turmoil and suffering.

Virtually all characters in “House of the Dragon” have their own crosses to bear, and their troubles range from low-key frustration in a gilded cage lifestyle to truly horrific loss, injury — and, of course, swift and brutal death, often delivered by another character trying to solve their own issues. This is a show set in the “Game of Thrones” universe, after all. 

Though this is a world where dragons not only exist but are often a key plot element, “House of the Dragon” isn’t afraid to cast its focus on the all too human side of its characters’ various struggles. As such, tragedy is at the forefront of the plot more often than not, and the biggest question tends to be which particular characters are on the receiving end in any given episode. 

A prestige show like “House of the Dragon” obviously pays great attention to casting, and as it happens, many of the actors portraying these tormented fantasy characters have firsthand experience on the subject of negative life experiences. Let’s take a look at some of the tragic details about the “House of the Dragon” cast.

Paddy Considine struggled with Irlen Syndrome without knowing it

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Paddy Considine’s “House of the Dragon” character, King Viserys, remains a tragic figure until his body quite literally fails him. As it turns out, Considine himself knows something about trouble, as well. Considine’s issues used to seem work-related, per The Guardian. Around 2009 or 2010, he felt that he wasn’t a good actor — or, rather, that he was a terribly uneven one. This was a problem, since he had a beloved body of work under his belt. Even an acting coach he worked with had a hard time understanding his problem — this, after all, was Paddy Considine, of “Tyrannosaur,” “Hot Fuzz,” and “Dead Man’s Shoes” fame. 

In 2011, it turned out that Considine’s feelings of concern derived from the fact that he was on the spectrum. The initial Asperger’s diagnosis wasn’t exactly surprising to him, but when he found out in 2014 that he also had Irlen Syndrome, things truly clicked. Irlen Syndrome is a light sensitivity condition that affects concentration and visual awareness (per The Independent). After Considine found out, he not only was able to treat his condition correctly, but he could even harness his better understanding of his situation to improve his craft. 

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Matt Smith’s sports career was derailed by spondylolysis

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Due to roles like the Doctor in “Doctor Who,” Prince Philip in “The Crown,” and, of course, Daemon Targaryen in “House of the Dragon,” Matt Smith’s acting plaudits can hardly be denied. However, if the actor had any say in the matter when he was younger, he might not work in the industry at all — because he used to have a very different career in mind before an injury forced his hand (via Manchester Evening News). Smith used to be a talented soccer player and was looking to follow his grandfather as a pro. 

Unfortunately, Smith’s dorsal health situation had other plans in mind. The 16-year-old star prospect was signed with Leicester City when he was diagnosed with a back condition called spondylosis, which effectively slammed the door for his dreams of becoming a professional athlete (per The Irish News). 

Before he pivoted to acting, the situation was understandably hard for Smith. “It was a tough time because I just felt unfulfilled, to be honest, I felt like I was so certain that that is what I was going to do,” the actor said in an interview with Radio 4’s Kirsty Young (via The Irish News). “It was very difficult for me to tell people that I had been released because the vain part of me was like, I am that and I am the footballer, you know, and at school I was the footballer and suddenly I wasn’t that.”

Olivia Cooke struggled with her mental health

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Things aren’t easy for a female royal in Westeros, and Olivia Cooke’s Alicent Hightower knows this better than many. While acting isn’t necessarily quite as dangerous as the machinations in the “Game of Thrones” universe, Cooke herself hasn’t always had an easy time, either. In an interview with The Guardian, she revealed that she has struggled with her mental health, and though she attempted to work through the depression, things caught up with her in 2016 when she was shooting A&E’s “Bates Motel.” 

“I’m so grateful for that job, but I had a really tough time on it,” Cooke described the experience. “The way the schedule worked, we all had different storylines, so a lot of my time was spent in this apartment in Vancouver, working once every two weeks.” Eventually, things culminated in what she describes as a mental breakdown. “It was bad, bad,” she said. “Awful, actually.”

Cooke says it wasn’t until 2019 that she finally started to feel better for longer stretches of time. Though she still continues to actively work through her issues, she has found a path to better mental health over the years. 

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

A tabloid hacked Rhys Ifans’ phone

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Ser Otto Hightower is one of Westeros’ most ambitious movers and shakers, and as a veteran of heroic and villainous roles alike, Rhys Ifans is a perfect choice to play the character. In “House of the Dragon” Season 1, Hightower operates with varying levels of smoothness, willing to play the game with whatever cards he has at his disposal. 

Incidentally, in his civilian life, Ifans himself has a history as something of a wild card. In 2013, he gave such an antagonizing interview to The Times that it sparked a widespread media discussion among British journalists (via The Guardian). In 2011, he was arrested at New York Comic Con for alleged battery (via Reuters). Interviews after his breakthrough as Spike in 1999’s Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant comedy “Notting Hill” could paint him as a fascinating, unpredictable figure (per The Guardian). As such, it wasn’t exactly surprising that the tabloids took an interest … but the kind of interest a certain tabloid took was pretty surprising. According to The Independent, Ifans was one of the celebrities whose phones were hacked by a now-defunct British tabloid called News of the World. Ifans started receiving hang-up calls around 2005, and his phone also started having curious background sounds. 

Ifans’ part in the long-running, high society-shaking phone hacking scandal (via CNN) came to a close in 2013, when he reached a settlement, and was awarded an unspecified monetary sum in compensation. 

Fabien Frankel lost his father at a young age

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Fabien Frankel’s “House of the Dragon” character, Ser Criston Cole, might seem like a fairly straight-laced knight in shining armor, but as the actor himself told The New York Times, Ser Criston has a very dark and bitter undercurrent that makes him a surprisingly good fit for the show’s muddled political waters. In true “Game of Thrones” fashion, that proverbial shiny armor soon tarnishes, and before the season is over, Ser Criston is a somewhat jaded man who earns the nickname “Kingmaker.”

Frankel might be a relatively fresh face in acting, but as Esquire notes, the art most certainly runs in the family. In fact, his father was Mark Frankel, an actor who had already made a name for himself, and was reportedly just about to break into wider fame (per The Independent) when he died in a motorcycle accident. The elder Frankel was only 34 when he passed away. Fabien was just two years old at the time. 

Though this means Frankel never really knew his father, the fact that he also gravitated toward acting has ended up giving him a strange sense of comfort. “I’m getting to the age that he was when he came out of drama school,” Frankel said in an interview with Vogue. “As I’ve started working, people from his life have magically appeared and found me. I’ve gotten to know him through them and that’s been lovely.”

Steve Toussaint faced racist abuse over his casting

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Steve Toussaint, as The Guardian tells us, entered the “House of the Dragon” universe as an experienced, yet fairly anonymous actor. Meanwhile, the role he landed — Corlys “Sea Snake” Velaryon — is a very major character in the show. Unfortunately, the news of Toussaint’s casting led to racist abuse from people who took issue with Lord Corlys being Black (via Men’s Health). 

For his part, Toussaint was extremely ready for what was coming. “I mentioned this the other day to my white friends, and they were all like: ‘Oh my God!'” he said about the toxic fan reaction. “But when I mentioned it to my friends of color, they were like: ‘Well, we knew that was coming,’ you know? We were just: ‘I wonder how long it will take?’ And it was minutes.” 

Toussaint has also called out the racist reaction, pointing out how absurd it is that his playing a powerful fantasy character like Lord Corlys has certain people up in arms — while there are massive dragons in the very same show. Fortunately, he’s also received plenty of positive feedback for his work in the show. “What has been wonderful is for every toxic person that has somehow found their way into my timeline, there have been so many others who have been so supportive and been like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t wait, this is going to be great!'” the actor has said.

Elliott Tittensor injured a man in a car accident

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Elliott Tittensor plays Ser Erryk Cargyll in “House of the Dragon,” but to the British public, he may be better known for his long-standing role in Channel 4’s “Shameless,” in which he and his twin brother shared the role of Carl Gallagher (via The BBC). 

The show isn’t all that aptly named when it comes to Tittensor, however … because the actor has his own, very public reason for shame. Said reason dates back to 2010. Tittensor was 20 years old when he drove a car without insurance, and had an accident that caused significant injury to an 18-year-old man. This wasn’t just a simple crash, either — the tragic accident followed an altercation over a phone, which ended up with the 18-year-old falling from the hood of Titterson’s vehicle (via Manchester Evening News). One of the injured man’s eyes went blind, and he suffered brain damage.

Tittensor was initially just fined for the incident, but it haunted him for quite some time after that ruling. On his way out of the court, the actor was attacked by a 46-year-old man. The car accident also played a part in the break-up between him and fellow actor Kaya Scodelario. Finally, in 2015, a lawsuit by the victim led to Tittensor having to pay over $339,000 in damages.

Luke Tittensor lost a high-profile soap opera role after an assault case

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Just like his twin, Elliott, Luke Tittensor is part of the “House of the Dragon” cast. Perhaps understandably, the character he plays is Ser Arryk Cargyll, the twin brother of Elliott’s character, Ser Erryk. Unfortunately, neither brother has been able to avoid nasty situations over the course of their career. In 2010, Elliott was involved in a car accident that seriously hurt the other party (via Manchester Evening News). And a year before that, Luke was involved in another altercation that caused serious damage to the victim, according to the BBC

In March 2009, 19-year-old Luke Tittensor was a long-standing cast member of the British soap opera “Emmerdale,” when his career screeched to a halt after a strange assault case where Tittensor broke the jaw of a 16-year-old, per the BBC. The victim was hospitalized and required surgery. 

Tittensor pleaded guilty in April 2009, at which point he’d already lost his “Emmerdale” role after the people behind the show learned of the incident. He was sentenced to 200 hours of community service, and had to pay the equivalent of $2,384 in costs and damages. The judge also took care to give the actor an earful during sentencing. “You look like a responsible young man. You behaved like so many of the louts that we see before us in these courts,” he said, before launching into a laundry list of the victim’s ordeals.  

Phil Daniels lost his longtime partner to cancer

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Phil Daniels’ Maester Gerardys is hardly the most major character in “House of the Dragon” Season 1, but the British actor playing the recurring figure is quite well known. Per The Guardian, Daniels rose to fame due to his high-profile roles in the 1970s, and he’s racked up plenty of stage and screen credits over his career. For three decades of his life, his family life was also in fine order. Unfortunately, his longtime partner died in 2012, which Daniels is quick to admit was an awful blow to him. 

“Jan Stevens, my partner for 30 years and mother of our lovely daughter, Ella,” he spoke fondly of her when asked about the greatest love of his life. “Sadly, she passed away in 2012, leaving a great big hole in our lives.” 

According to The Guardian, the cause of Stevens’ death was pancreatic cancer. Daniels has noted that the tragedy was particularly hard on their daughter. “She was only 21 or 22, and to watch her mum be ill and die was not nice,” he said.  

Ryan Corr’s family tragedy and drug arrest

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Ryan Corr plays Ser Harwin Strong, a powerful and influential knight who’s also somewhat scandal-prone, what with being Princess Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) secret lover. However, despite having multiple children with Rhaenyra and being the future Lord of Harrenhall, Ser Harwin’s role in the grand scheme of things turns out to be somewhat smaller — though significantly more fiery — than one might think. 

Corr himself has also experienced his own scandal, and unlike his “House of the Dragon” character, the actor didn’t exactly keep things on the down low. Per The Daily Telegraph, in 2014, the Australian actor had a particularly rough time. First, his beloved grandfather fell into a coma. Mere days later, Corr himself was arrested for heroin possession. 

Corr took the drug charges as a learning experience, stating that he had been given the small amount of cocaine he was carrying, and noting that he didn’t actually use any of it. “I found myself in a position where I was incredibly upset, someone offered me something, and 200 meters [219 yards] after, I was picked up with it,” he spoke of the situation in an interview with Australian GQ. “It was an error of judgment.” 

As a silver lining, the situation didn’t hamper Corr’s career in the long run. He was given a relatively light sentence in the form of a one-year good behavior bond, and he says he actually received a surprising amount of support during the ordeal. 

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