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House of the Dragon’s Ewan Mitchell Wanted His Nude Scene to Shock You

House of the Dragon’s Ewan Mitchell Wanted His Nude Scene to Shock You

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Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

Spoilers follow for the third episode of House of the Dragon’s second season, which premiered on HBO June 30.

Google Ewan Mitchell and the second result, right beneath his bio, is an Instagram fan account dedicated to the actor, with the bio “Ewan Mitchell can run me over, respectfully.” When I suggest to him that thirst posts like these will reach drought levels after his nude scene in this weekend’s episode of House of the Dragon, he smiles. “Well, I’m not on social media, so I can’t really see those fan pages,” he says. Hear that, House of the Dragon fans? One eye or two, he ain’t seeing it.

But Prince Aemond the character is intensely aware of the reaction his nudity will garner in that room in a King’s Landing brothel, even if Ewan Mitchell the performer is tuning it out. Mitchell says that the dragon-rider’s display, a topic of much discussion between himself and the creative team prior to filming, was a move “encoded in Aemond’s DNA” — a shock tactic designed to demonstrate that this once-bullied boy will never allow himself to be chastened again.

I can’t remember the exact wording, but I remember seeing someone post a GIF of Prince Aemond’s sapphire-eyeball reveal and saying, “This is the most anime-looking motherfucker who has ever appeared on a live-action television show.” There’s an otherworldly air to him.
So much of the work is done through the costume and the long hair and the eyepatch — because of the talents of makeup designer Amanda Knight and our costume designer, Caroline McCall. By taking one look, you can make a rough assumption that he’s probably going to be the bad guy.

But for me, bringing that otherworldly texture to Aemond, I never watched Game of Thrones, because I wanted to present something fresh. I drew on other aspects of pop culture, with ’80s horror icons like Michael Myers: a character who walks so slow but always catches up to Jamie Lee Curtis. Aemond hijacks the show and turns it into a horror sequence in the skies above Storm’s End at the end of episode ten of season one.

It’s this idea of inevitability, something more like an energy as opposed to an actual human being. That’s the image Aemond wants to co-opt, that he’s godlike. He operates on a different plane. It comes from that cold exterior he’s cultivated over the years, down to the sapphire stone in his eye socket. You don’t know what is going on behind his eye.

There really is something very “Final Fantasy villain” about him: elegant but frightening.
You don’t know what he’s thinking. People who sit back and smile, don’t say much — they’re the people whose brains you want to pick, but at the same time, you don’t know where you stand.

My favorite Aemond moments are when you do glimpse how he feels. In that chase sequence above Storm’s End, Aemond is really upset when his dragon kills Lucerys Velaryon. In this season, he talks to the sex worker he’s been seeing about how it got to him. 
I agree. Between episodes seven and eight of season one, he’s manufactured himself into a weapon. He possesses this code that stops him from ever being hurt again, like he was as a kid. He has to be seen as this bulletproof, untouchable, ethereal presence no one can grasp.

He brings up his childhood in the brothel, too — how his brother and his young uncles used to pick on him for being different. Is all that in the back of your mind even when you’re doing the cool, sapphire-eye stuff?
Yeah. It’s partly down to seeing the young Aemond actor, Leo Ashton, in episodes six and seven of season one: the boy underneath the veneer. This kid was bullied day in and day out for not having a dragon egg like the rest of the kids in the family. He recognized very early on that he was going to have to go out and get what he wanted. I always carried that around with me in season two.

So he ended up claiming the largest, baddest, oldest dragon in the known world in Vhagar. She’s so enormous, she can’t fit within the confines of any castle wall. Aemond is able to identify with that.

How so? The bullying didn’t make him feel smaller?
It’s the story of the underdog. I have this theory that it’s not so much the person who claims the dragon, it’s the dragon who claims the person as well. I don’t believe Vhagar is someone you just stumble upon. Although Aemond had to seek her out, she must have seen something in him that he himself hadn’t seen yet.

Aemond’s the kid who held on. When he realized he wouldn’t get a dragon egg like the rest of the kids, he held on. When he was bullied for being different, for not having a dragon of his own, he held on. And when Vhagar took off over the beaches of Driftmark in episode seven, he held on tighter than he’d ever done before. I don’t know if any of the other characters would have held on as strongly, because they were gifted dragons when they were kids.

It’s a tremendous feat of courage to approach Vhagar. That’s one of Aemond’s redeeming qualities: He possesses a drive. Maybe that kid is still underneath that manufactured exterior.

I was honestly surprised to find Aegon and his buddies still bullying Aemond during the brothel scene in this episode. Historically, bullying Aemond has not worked out very well for people.
Aegon catches Aemond in a vulnerable spot. Picking up the script for the first time and seeing those brothel scenes in episode two and three, I saw a brilliant opportunity to offer a rare glimpse of his vulnerability. You only ever see him in his Targaryen blacks, so to see him in that world — not only that, but then humiliated by his brother — is quite shocking.

When he gets up and walks out without bothering to dress first, so sure of himself even in the face of that humiliation, he seems scarier to me than when he’s riding on Vhagar.
I love that line from Michael Mann’s Heat, when Bob De Niro’s character says, “Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.” That’s the code his character utilizes so he’s able to maneuver around this world without getting caught by Al Pacino.

Aemond has a similar code that stops him from being hurt like he was as a kid. That’s why he’s able to walk out on the madam in that scene. He’s humiliated by his brother and all his crew, and it’s like this switch flips. The madam is no more. All of these people in front of him? They mean nothing. He stands up, he owns it. “Yeah, I’m bulletproof. Anything you say, it will not work.” Like you say, it’s scary.

A lot of comparisons are made between Aemond and Daemon, but that’s a big difference: Daemon gets intensely attached, whether to his late brother King Viserys or to his niece and wife Queen Rhaenyra. We’ve seen him leave difficult situations, but he storms out, he doesn’t glide out. That’s Aemond.
One hundred percent. You rarely see him lose his cool. As soon as you start raising your voice and shouting, you lose the power. It’s not to say Aemond isn’t as angry as everyone else behind the smile. He probably is. But he’s able to keep a lid on it and channel it in different ways.

It’s also a nude scene, and I have a feeling you’re about to get a reaction at a volume few people on this show have seen before. Did you have that in mind while shooting it?
Scenes like this start with a conversation about how far you’re prepared to go. It wasn’t a choice we made lightly. But it’s true to Aemond that he shocks the audience. Weakness is not part of Aemond’s vocabulary.

More ‘House of the Dragon’

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Sean T. Collins , 2024-07-01 02:10:12

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