Olivia Cooke on Alicent’s New Relationship and the Time She Scared Her Co-Star on Set

alicent hightower house of the dragon
Olivia Cooke on Alicent’s New RelationshipHBO

Spoilers below.

House of the Dragon’s season 2 premiere had a couple of surprises, and I’m not just talking about a certain murder. There were also some developments in the bedroom department, as exhibited by two members of Team Green: Queen Alicent Hightower and Ser Criston Cole. The first time they appear onscreen this season, they’re together in her bedroom.

“I think for her, it represents teenagedom. It’s passion. She’s never had that,” Cooke tells ELLE.com in an interview conducted earlier this month. Remember, Alicent married her friend’s father, Viserys Targaryen, in her early teens then gave birth to three children shortly after. This is kind of relationship is new for her.

“And this is someone that she’s fancied since she was a kid that Rhaenyra got to have,” Cooke says of Criston Cole. “He became this loyal guard dog who was always by her side, who protected her fiercely. And then Viserys died and I don’t know, you never see it, but I’m imagining in the throes of grief and despair and also confusion, Criston Cole has always been there, and I think something just blossomed from that.

“I think when someone dies, it’s almost quite life affirming as well, in a way. Because you’re like, ‘Fuck, everything’s just so finite.’ And I don’t know if the passion was born from that and just being like, ‘Let’s just seize the moment.’ But it’s something that I think she’s probably fantasized for a long time in a really naive, juvenile way, and you can see that in just the way they act around each other....I don’t think Alicent knows where to put all these feelings.”

Showrunner Ryan Condal says that Alicent and Criston’s dynamic “was always something we wanted to pursue,” even though it’s not in the source material, George R. R. Martin’s Fire & Blood. “This is a guy who, despite his pious honor, always finds himself in the same pitfall, and he has this one core weakness, and it gets him into trouble. And this is the thing, he falls in love with the people that he’s meant to protect, and we always knew we were going to go there,” Condal says.

The way this relationship is revealed in episode 1 is intentional, reintroducing the characters in “this very intimate moment together,” Condal says. “And that really to us kicked off what the story was, because it’s an interesting secret that they have to protect, but also it’s this moment of just a pure expression of human desire for these two people that are so bottled up and repressed. And for Alicent, who we’ve never seen enjoy herself, ever, to come in on that moment, which is again, before all the hell breaks loose, it’s just nice to see.”

Now, he poses the question: “What kind of pressures does that put on the relationship and how does that affect the court around them and where is that going to take them?”

alicent hightower house of the dragon
Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole. HBO

Cooke and Fabien Frankel, who plays Criston Cole, worked with intimacy coordinator Vanessa Coffey for their scenes together. “Me and Fabien get on so well, so it was like we laughed and it was sort of fine,” Cooke says. She adds later, “It’s just choreography at the end of the day.”

Knowing Game of Thrones’ salacious history, Cooke was originally expecting to be in more sex scenes. “I thought there’d be way more, and so I’m relieved that when it has been used for me, it’s showing Alicent being pleasured, which is amazing and doesn’t feel gratuitous,” she told ELLE. “It feels like we’re telling a story.” An additional bedroom scene this season was cut. “I think Ryan [Condal, the showrunner] said we weren’t learning any more about the characters, which I disagree with slightly, but it’s okay. It’s his show,” Cooke said.

She and Frankel were in good spirits, on set and off. “Me and Fabien laugh a lot,” she says. “When we’re in scenes that are really heartbreaking, it’s so hard because as soon as he goes, I go. He’s in that tin can [of armor] and as soon as he’s laughing the tin can just clatters, and so I can hear when he’s going.”

Cooke even “scared the life out of him” when they were filming. Frankel is embarrassed when I bring it up during our interview. “The opening scene between Olivia and I in episode 1, when I’m under her dress, she was wearing...do you know what a merkin is?” he says.

“So, she was wearing a hairy ginger merkin that was genuinely quite shocking. It looked like she had a sort of furry animal between her legs. And I went down there and screamed, and threw myself back, and threw myself out from under her dress. Anyway, there is a photo. I wish I hadn't told that story...”

He covers his face with his hand. “I’m so annoyed that Olivia told you to ask me that.”

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