Alicent and Helaena Targaryen dressed in black for mourning in House of the Dragon season 2

Olivia Cooke and Phia Saban Use Music and Poetry to Get into the Westeros Spirit for ‘House of the Dragon’

Olivia Cooke and Phia Saban may play a strained mother and daughter on House of the Dragon but the two have a great rapport! We spoke to the duo at a roundtable for season 2 of the hit Max series and got into the minds of their characters.

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While talking with Saban and Cooke at the roundable, along with three other journalists, we talked a lot about where both Alicent and Helaena were in season 2 of the series and how it felt coming back to them. There are certain techniques that an actor can use to help them get into the mind of their character, especially when returning to a role. For Saban, she talked about poetry and how it helps her.

“Sometimes if I’m worried about a scene, not even worried. Sometimes if I think a scene needs something almost like a talisman to help me get into it, I’ll find a poem that works for me. I feel like poetry, often a poem can be so many things in such a small moment in time at, in such a small space. And it can really take you the whole way and surprise you. And sometimes that’s really useful if you just need something. I’ve learned poems before that I can recite to myself. So sometimes that helps.”

Cooke uses music to help her, saying “I sometimes listen to to music to get me into. I think music is really evocative.”

Alicent losing her friend

An aspect of House of the Dragon that really shocks me is that people surrounding Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and Alicent seem to forget that the two were best friends before. That pain of losing a friend still exists within both of these characters.

“It’s amazing because I feel like she’s sort of this phantom in my mind that has gotten bigger and weightier as the years have gone on,” Cooke said of Alicent’s feelings on Rhaenyra. “I feel for Alicent, Rhaenyra is always with her and if something happens to Rhaenyra, there’s a ripple effect onto Alicent and vice versa. There’s this invisible rope that’s connecting us at all times. And so that was something that I held in my mind throughout this season and there’s so much stuff that is going on and there would’ve been that person to share that with, which is Rhaenyra. And that’s the only person she would’ve been able to share that with. And she doesn’t have that anymore. And neither does Rhaenyra.”

Cooke talked about how that bread loneliness within these characters. “And I think that is an incredibly lonely place to live, having lost your closest friend. And it’s interesting, isn’t it, when you, when you do lose a friend, because the heartbreak is more prolonged because there’s no closure. They’re wandering around. And the love sort of remains forever. It doesn’t sort of ebb like it does with the lover.”

House of the Dragon airs on Max every Sunday.

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.