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Alicent Hightower was one of the tricker characters to get a hold on in the first season of House of the Dragon. She began the show as best friend to Rhaenyra Targaryen, turned into her bitter enemy, kind of reconciled with her, and then plotted against her after Alicent misinterpreted her husband’s dying words to mean that she should put their son Aegon on the throne rather than Rhaenyra. It was a journey.

“I think she grew to really love him. I don’t think she ever was in love with him,” actor Olivia Cooke told Deadline about Alicent’s relationship with her husband. “I don’t think she had respect for him as a king. I think she thought he was weak. But I think she had respect for him as a father and as a good and decent person. He treated her as well as a man can when he marries a 14 year old.”

The king did indeed marry Alicent she she was just a teenager. She’s been through a lot. And things haven’t gotten easier after she became an adult, especially as her kids grew up to become difficult people, to say the least. “We spoke a lot about this, how she is sort of stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to Aemond and Aegon,” Cooke said. “She probably believes that Aemond is more suited to be king, but he’s the spare heir. She loves Aegon, but she’s so disgusted in who he is as a person.”

Up until Viserys says on his deathbed that he wants Aegon to be on the throne, and she perceives it to be her Aegon …. so many Aegons! … I think she had come to terms with Rhaenyra being on the throne. When she gives that speech to Rhaenyra saying, ‘you will make a fine queen,’ I think she really believes that. There was deep relief in accepting that and letting go of the decade’s worth of bitterness.

That said, as combative as Alicent could become, Cooke never saw her as an outright villain. “I know she makes morally questionable decisions and her reactions can be quite uncouth, to say the least. But I have to believe in what she does in order to play her with absolute honesty and truth. I really have to empathize with Alicent and know that she’s coming from a place of undying love and protection for her children. I think sometimes the internet discourse can be a bit too black and white. I read a tweet that I think summed it up really well: It’s not who’s good and evil, it’s who’s your favorite war criminal.”

That is a terrific tagline for the show. Put that on a t-shirt, HBO.

House of the Dragon season 2 will start filming in the spring of 2023

As for Cooke herself, she’s adjusting to the reality of being on a major TV show. “I don’t think anything could have prepared anyone for this. It’s mad,” she said. “I think I’ve had a bit of willful ignorance about how it would change my life. I think maybe in like three months time, it’ll probably die down. But when I’m on the tube, I definitely feel people’s eyes and … there’s the odd comments. then you do kind of start to feel monitored and I’m like, ‘Oh God, what am I wearing today?’ They take pictures and suddenly, you’re in a cloud of paranoia. I’ll just be happy for it to be over. It has been strange.”

I think maybe next time it comes out I’ll be a bit more prepared for it. But it’s a prolonged period of anxiety, this 10 weeks of an episode coming out and another episode coming out.

Ah yes, “next time.” We’ll be waiting a while for House of the Dragon season 2, but it is coming. “We will start back in the spring, so I’m sure we’ll see scripts very soon,” Cooke said.

We’re sure Alicent will get up to all kinds of merry mayhem when the new episodes come along, although that likely won’t include any dragon-riding. “It would be cool to see me on a dragon, but also I think the reality of filming it doesn’t look too fun. So, I’m quite happy with not being on the dragon.”

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