Spread the love

Aside from setting the Internet on fire for her drink of choice, Emma D’Arcy also plays Rhaenyra Targaryen in HBO’s House of the Dragon, the appointed heir to the Iron Throne (which sets off a whole lot of drama).

House of the Dragon has been met with critical and commercial acclaim, successfully replacing the disappointment Game of Thrones‘ fans felt with the original series’ final season. Front and centre in the show is Rhaenyra Targaryen, daughter of King Viserys and heir-apparent to the highly-coveted Iron Throne. The role was first played by Australian actress Milly Alcock before English actor Emma D’Arcy took over.

But who is Emma D’Arcy, portraying the titular role in House of the Dragon?

Early life and career before HoD

Born in 1992 in Greater London, D’Arcy went to Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford. They were part of many acclaimed plays by various productions including Mrs Dalloway and Callisto: A Queer Epic at the Arcola Theatre, A Girl in School Uniform (Walks Into a Bar) at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, The Crucible at the Yard Theatre, and Against at the Almeida Theatre. They also played the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet by Oxford University Dramatic Society.

Some of their earliest roles in television include Naomi Richards in the 2018 series Wanderlust, Sonia Richter in Hanna (2019–2021), and Astrid in the British horror comedy Truth Seekers (2020).

D’Arcy’s first theatrical appearance was in the 2020 comedy Misbehaviour, the cast of which includes Keira Knightley, Greg Kinnear and Daniel Tiplady. They then portrayed Emma Hobday in Mothering Sunday (2021), joining Olivia Colman and Colin Firth in the post-World War I romantic film.

In September 2022, HBO released a clip showing the British actor in the role of Rhaenyra in the prequel to Game of Thrones.

D’Arcy identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.

Emma D’Arcy’s role in House of the Dragon

Milly Alcock (right) and Emily Carey in House of the Dragon season 1. (Image: Courtesy IMDb)

In House of the Dragon season 1, Alcock portrayed young Rhaenyra until the fifth episode. The sixth episode of the series sees a time jump with the young princess getting married to Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate) to a much older Rhaenyra after giving birth to a son with her husband, a grown-up Laenor played by John Macmillan.

Emma D'Arcy and John Macmillan
Rhaenyra and Laenor. (Image: Courtesy Emma D’Arcy/Instagram)

The episode also marks the introduction of Queen Alicent Hightower played by Olivia Cooke, who takes over the role of Emily Carey portraying the young Queen.

What does D’Arcy say about their role as Rhaenyra?

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, D’Arcy explains, “Rhaenyra has an ongoing battle with what it means to be a woman and is a fundamental outsider. She’s terrified of getting locked into motherhood and is aware of how her position would be different if she were male.”

They added, “I’m a nonbinary person. I’ve always found myself both pulled and repelled by masculine and feminine identity and I think that plays out truthfully here. She can’t attend court in a way that comes easily to other people.”

In a statement quoted by The Indian Express, D’Arcy says, “She’s living multiple lies at once, believing she’s getting away with it, and ultimately no one’s buying it. When Viserys names her heir, that comes with an understanding that she’ll have to change, but that piece of information is never received, so behaviours that she had previously are suddenly met completely differently.”

“There’s a sort of territory war going on over her father. There’s a desire to be on the inside of the family that she can’t quite budge on. This fear of ill-feeling being fed to her father by Alicent is so present that it sits on her, and it’s the thing that currently ties her to King’s Landing and stops her being able to leave,” they add.

Who is Rhaenyra Targaryen?

Emma D'Arcy
Image: Courtesy House of the Dragon/IMDb

The series revolves around the princess, daughter of King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) and Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke), who is named the heir to the Iron Throne and Princess of Dragonstone.

As per a report, HBO describes Rhaenyra of House Targaryen as “The king’s first-born child. She is of pure Valyrian blood, and she is a dragon rider. Many would say that Rhaenyra was born with everything… but she was not born a man.”

Viserys had a dream hinting at civil war. Later, when Otto Hightower indicates that the first-born child, who is Rhaenyra, will have a claim to the throne, objections by the realm arise. However, Viserys, in the first trailer of the series, says, “And I placed my heir upon the Iron Throne. And all the dragons roared as one.”

“No queen has ever sat on the Iron Throne,” says Lord Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes), one of the King’s advisors.

Things further get complicated when King Viserys marries Rhaenyra’s best friend, the then Lady Alicent, who becomes Queen following the death of Queen Aemma. Alicent bears princes who threaten the succession and Rhaenyra’s place on the throne.

Later in the show, she marries her uncle, the stubborn and hot-headed Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), to forge a pure Valyrian bloodline.

Matt Smith and Emma D'Arcy
Daemon Targaryen and Rhaenyra. (Image: Courtesy House of the Dragon/Twitter)

D’Arcy’s upcoming projects

The actor will be seen in Mother Russia playing the role of Vera. According to IMDb, it is directed by James Strong. The cast includes Jason Isaacs, Ciarán Hinds, and Alec Newman.

Mother Russia is in pre-production and is expected to release in 2022.

Although HBO has confirmed that House of the Dragon will be renewed for season 2, the production company is yet to announce the cast, release date and other details about the series whose finale episode airs on 23 October.