WARNING: Spoilers ahead for “House of the Dragon” Season One, Episode Four: “House of the Narrow Sea”.
“House of the Dragon” star Emily Carey, who plays young Alicent Hightower in the HBO series, says she was apprehensive about filming a cringe-worthy sex scene for the show.
In Sunday night’s episode, titled “King of the Narrow Sea”, Carey’s character appears opposite her much-older husband — King Viserys, played by Paddy Considine — in two intimate scenes. First, bathing him in a tub and, second, lying motionless — appearing reluctant and disengaged — beneath him in bed while he has sex with her.
Carey, who was 17 at the time she read the script and 18 at the time of filming, says in an interview with Newsweek that she was initially “scared” of performing the scenes with the then-47-year-old Considine.
“We have an intimacy coordinator who was amazing,” Carey told the outlet. “Again, still being 17, the first scene that I read from the show was my sex scene and my intimacy scenes, that includes the scene where I’m bathing the king — anything that felt intimate was considered an intimacy scene, which I thought was great.”
An “intimacy coordinator” is someone whose job is to choreograph simulated sex scenes on film and television sets while being mindful of the wellbeing of the actors involved.
“But, it scared me, because at that point I still hadn’t met Paddy, I didn’t know how much of a joy he was and how easy he was going to make [the scene], and all I saw was, you know, a 47-year-old man and me, I was a bit concerned,” she continued. “And having that outlet of the intimacy coordinator, to be able to talk everything through and not be shunned, or not feel awkward, or not feel like ‘Oh, this isn’t your job. I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable but can I ask you…’ it was never any of that, it was just that open dialogue.”
In the end, Carey says the experience was “a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.”
Carey also reveals that she had never watched “House of the Dragon”s predecessor, “Game of Thrones”, prior to her casting, and was shocked by the themes she eventually saw.
“I’ve never seen ‘Game of Thrones’ before, and so in the pre-production period I sat down to try and watch [it] and of course the first season, even just the first episode of ‘Thrones’, there’s a lot of violence upon women,” she says. “There’s a lot of violent sex and it made me nervous. I was like, ‘Oh God, what am I gonna have to do in this show?'”
Her fears were eventually squashed by showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, who assured the cast that their spinoff would be different.
“When we got to the rehearsal room, regardless of who was in which scenes, there was an open dialogue about, ‘Look, this is how we’re approaching the show. This is how it’s going to be different from the original. This is what we want to talk about. This is what we want to put out. This is how we want the viewers to view the women in our show,'” she recalls. “Certainly, there were a lot of women behind the scenes, we had an amazing team, we had, of course, female directors, I worked with the amazing Clare Kilner who was fierce, and lots of women producing this show as well, and Sarah, one of our writers, amongst many others in the writers room, I’m sure.”
She continues, “It was an amazing thing, and it was empowering being on that set as a young girl and being treated the same as all of these very established men. It was great, I think they approached this in the best way they could have done.”
Carey’s wasn’t the only major sex scene to unfold in “House of the Dragon”s fourth episode.
Daemon (Matt Smith) takes his niece, Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) to a brothel, where they witness a massive, polyamorous orgy taking place. There, the two engage in some form of incest — an ongoing thread in the “Game of Thrones” franchise — kissing and becoming more intimate with each other.
However, not long after the two start hooking up, Daemon is suddenly turned off by Rhaenyra and refuses her advances. After Rhaenyra is rejected by Daemon, she returns to her room, where Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) is standing guard. She takes him inside, seduces him and the two have sex, with her formally losing her virginity.
The episode was directed by Kilner, who says she made a conscious effort to shoot each scene from the females’ perspective.
“Directing scenes like that can be really difficult. It’s a big responsibility and it’s important to shoot it from the right point of view,” Kilner said in HBO’s Inside the Episode featurette. “Being a female director, I’ve grown up watching how male directors have directed sex scenes and, as a woman, I have to really think about how to shoot it — because my go-to images are ones I grew up with, which aren’t necessarily from a woman’s point of view.”
She added, “Now we’re at a point where we’re like, ‘No, what is the woman’s point of view here?'”
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