Entertainment

In ‘House of the Dragon,’ Ewan Mitchell Breaks Out as Aemond Targaryen

Like most people, Ewan Mitchell is used to anonymity. So on a recent trip to Manhattan, he was surprised when a hotel doorman asked him upon arrival: “Did you pack your eye patch?”

Mitchell doesn’t usually wear eye patches, but Aemond Targaryen, the one-eyed dragon-riding warrior he plays in “House of the Dragon,” does. The actor is still getting used to strangers making the connection in public.

“I didn’t think people would recognize me, but they do,” he said. “I think it’s because of my strong chin.”

It was a May afternoon, and Mitchell, 27, was sipping a Coke at the hotel bar. He was wearing a black Alexander McQueen suit and getting ready to attend the second-season premiere of “House of the Dragon,” HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel that follows two factions vying for the Iron Throne.

When Mitchell debuted in the latter half of Season 1, Aemond, the willful second son who comes to covet his brother’s throne, quickly became one of the show’s most intriguing and frightening characters. Paired with Vhagar, the biggest and baddest dragon in the realm, and possessing the most chiseled chin in Westeros, Aemond exuded the silent ferocity of a predator ready to pounce.

“When I’m dressed as Aemond and I look in the mirror, he scares me a little bit, even me,” Mitchell said.

The shocking ending of the first season, in which Aemond’s dragon killed Lucerys Velaryon, Aemond’s rival and relative, signaled to viewers that the one-eyed prince would play a central role in the looming civil war. In the most recent episode of Season 2, a fiery clash between three dragons made Aemond the new standard-bearer of his coalition—known as the Greens—and potentially the new king of the realm.

Ultimately, Mitchell, who had never watched or been particularly interested in “Game of Thrones” before joining the prequel, now finds himself as one of the faces of the franchise. To help promote this new season, he embarked on his first major press tour and adapted to its demands.

When he’s not in character, Mitchell speaks softly and sometimes flashes a boyish smile, though he retains much of Aemond’s seriousness and quiet intensity. He’s also very private: he stays away from social media and, in the past, has avoided sharing much with the public. “Once you lose the mystery, you can’t really get it back,” he said.

Yet he knows that Aemond’s key role in season 2 means he must also embrace the spotlight: “There’s a time when you have to go, that’s the time to draw the curtain.”

Like Aemond, Mitchell is a younger son. He grew up in Derby, an industrial city in central England, and his parents expected him to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and work at Rolls-Royce (the aerospace and industrial technology company, not the car manufacturer).

Inspired by films like “Citizen Kane” and “Taxi Driver,” Mitchell knew early on that he wanted to be an actor. At age 13, his teacher asked each student in his class what they wanted to be when they grew up. One wanted to be an engineer; another hoped to work as an electrician.

“Then I realized I wanted to be an actor and everyone made fun of me,” Mitchell said.

With his family unable to afford drama school fees, Mitchell completed two years of vocational training, studying design and technology while working part-time in a restaurant and in customer service at a local football club. Halfway through the program, at 17, he was accepted into the Nottingham Television Workshop, a theatre company that trains young people to become actors. (Alumni include Bella Ramsey, Felicity Jones and Samantha Morton.)

Through the workshop, Mitchell landed a starring role in a 2015 short film called “Fire,” about a young man who lets fire escape from his hands. Once the short was released, Mitchell downloaded it onto a dozen CDs, took a train to London and stopped by the offices of every agent he could find, handing each of them a copy. The only person who called back continues to represent Mitchell.

“By all means, I wanted to make sure I was a part of that environment,” Mitchell said.

He was subsequently cast in the ITV historical drama series “The Halcyon” and Netflix’s “The Last Kingdom,” and appeared as one of the Oxford students in the hit film “Saltburn.” But his role as Aemond in “House of the Dragon” was by far his biggest career breakthrough.

“Since I recruited him, I feel like I’m now able to direct the course of my career,” he said.

Mitchell had rewatched the classic Hollywood adventure film “Vikings” (1958) and dreamed of playing a morally dark character similar to the one played by Kirk Douglas when he received an email inviting him to submit a recorded audition for Aemond. When he finally auditioned in person, he left a lasting impression on Ryan Condal, the showrunner of “House of the Dragon.”

“When Ewan came into the room, he had a presence that I can only describe as unsettling,” Condal said. “It was quite terrifying to see how he interpreted it, and it was totally different from everyone else. And then he thanked us very politely and left the room.”

Condal recalls asking casting director Kate Rhodes James: “Is he always like that?” She replied: “Oh no, he’s just a very intense northern boy.”

To prepare for his role, Mitchell didn’t watch “Game of Thrones.” Instead, he read excerpts from “Fire & Blood,” the George R.R. Martin book that inspired the series, and studied the performances of Michael Fassbender in “Prometheus” and Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia,” each playing a character who wields power for his own ends.

On his first day of filming, Mitchell consulted with Condal and decided to avoid interacting with Matt Smith, who plays Daemon, Aemond’s equally menacing uncle and rival, in order to heighten the tension between the two characters. Mitchell had grown up admiring Smith’s performance on “Doctor Who.” But on set, Mitchell avoided eye contact with him, keeping his distance until the climactic scene toward the end of the first season, when Aemond and Daemon finally confront each other.

“There’s something addictive about getting into character,” Mitchell said. “When you get lost in it for a moment, it’s almost like a dream.”

When not playing, Mitchell still lives at his family home in Derby and spends time with his dogs, three whippets named Eva, Bella and Bonnie.

While taking on a leading role in an international success and embarking on an extensive press tour are new responsibilities for Mitchell, they are challenges he is confident he can handle. Learning to manage and sustain that success is a bit like taming and riding Vhagar, he said.

“Now that I’m here,” he said, “I just have to stay on the dragon.”

Gn entert
News Source : www.nytimes.com

Eleon

With a penchant for words, Eleon Smith began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, Smith landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, Eleon also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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