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Why Did ‘House of the Dragon’ Replace Milly Alcock & Emily Carey With Emma D’Arcy & Olivia Cooke?

House of the Dragon has been plowing through Westerosi history in its first season, and Episode 6 will see the biggest time jump yet. Instead of merely skipping ahead six months or even three years, House of the Dragon Episode 6 will leap ten years into the future. Princess Rhaenyra is no longer a rebellious teenager played by Milly Alcock and Queen Alicent isn’t Emily Carey‘s fidgeting child bride anymore. In fact, Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower will look so different in House of the Dragon Episode 6, you might wonder if you’re watching a totally separate HBO show set in Westeros.

House of the Dragon is still about the epic civil war that breaks out between former besties Rhaenyra and Alicent. However from Episode 6 onwards, Emma D’Arcy will be playing Rhaenyra Targaryen and Olivia Cooke will play Alicent Hightower. And they aren’t the only characters who have been recast. Everyone who was a teenager in House of the Dragon Episode 5 has now been recast in Episode 6. Rhaenyra, Alicent, Laenor, and Laena are all being played by older actors to show they’re all grown up now and ready for their own Game of Thrones.

So why did HBO recast House of the Dragon mid-way through the first season’s run? Why were Milly Alcock and Emily Carey fired? And how do Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke compare to the younger, breakout stars who’ve been dazzling us for weeks on House of the Dragon? If you’ve got questions about House of the Dragon Episode 6’s massive cast shake up, we’ve got answers…

Milly Alcock and Emily Carey as Rhaenyra and Alicent
HBO

WHAT HAPPENED TO MILLY ALCOCK ON HOUSE OF THE DRAGON? WHY DID HOUSE OF THE DRAGON RE-CAST RHAENYRA?

Before you bust out your torches and march on HBO HQ, Milly Alcock and Emily Carey are fine! They were not fired from House of the Dragon! They knew when they auditioned for House of the Dragon that they would only play Rhaenyra and Alicent for a handful of episodes before leaving the show. In fact, their older counterparts — Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke — were cast as Rhaenyra and Alicent first. (That’s because D’Arcy and Cooke will play Rhaenyra and Alicent for the rest of House of the Dragon‘s run.)

When adapting George R.R. Martin’s Targaryen “history” book Fire & Blood, Season 1 showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik had any number of juicy places to start their version of “The Dance of the Dragons.” However they decided to start at the Great Council of 101. After that, we’ve been moving linearly on the time line, with each episode in the first season jumping ahead to the next dramatic moment that would force the characters closer and closer to an inevitable civil war. The story therefore starts with Rhaenyra and Alicent in their early teens, but stuff really hits the proverbial fan when Rhaenyra and Alicent are old enough to have battle-ready teens of their own.

Similar to how The Crown re-casts everyone every few seasons to mark a major time jump, House of the Dragon shows children and teens growing up by re-casting them. So, going forward:

  • Emma D’Arcy will be playing Rhaenrya Targaryen, not Milly Alcock
  • Olivia Cooke will be playing Alicent Hightower, not Emily Carey
  • John Macmillan will play Laenor Velaryon, not Theo Nate
  • Nanna Blondell will play Laena Velaryon, not Savannah Steyn

And if you find that confusing, there’s going to be at least one more major time jump this season where the actors playing these aforementioned characters’ kids will be recast. Rhaenyra’s little boys will be teens by the end of the season!

HOW DO EMMA D’ARCY’S RHAENYRA & OLIVIA COOKE’S ALICENT IN HOUSE OF THE DRAGON EPISODE 6 COMPARE WITH MILLY ALCOCK & EMILY CAREY?

Milly Alcock and Emily Carey have both received near universal praise for their performances as besties-turned-enemies Rhaenyra and Alicent on House of the Dragon. That means that Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke have a lot to live up to.

Decider was among many critics sent an early look at House of the Dragon Episode 6 and we have to say…Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke deliver the goods. House of the Dragon Episode 6 feels like something of a soft reboot or even wholly different season of the same show. Relationships have shifted, characters have evolved, and yet some things stay the same. Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) is still a walking corpse, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) is hot and violent, and Rhaenyra and Alicent are two strong-willed women chafing under the constraints of duty, ambition, and motherhood.

Rhaenyra will be re-introduced to us as a mother. You can see in the preview clip above that she and Laenor will have settled into their unique partnership. This older Rhaenyra is still fiery, witty, and a force to be reckoned with.

Alicent’s personality, however, seems to have changed a bit more. As we saw in House of the Dragon Episode 5 “We Light the Way” — the title is literally the Hightower family motto — Alicent is done being the complacent child bride. She enters the throne room in Hightower war colors and doesn’t care if she ruins Viserys’s plans.

As you can see in the preview clip HBO Max released of Alicent dining with Larys Strong (Matthew Needham), she is no longer imprisoned by her father’s advice, but longing for it. She understands she is playing the Game of Thrones and she is in it to win it.

So don’t freak out if you don’t recognize Rhaenyra and Alicent at first in House of the Dragon Episode 6! They are still the same characters, even if an older actor and older actress have taken their roles.

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