Tonight, Olivia Cooke takes over the role of Alicent Hightower from Emily Carey. Alicent, the daughter of the hand of the king and the wife to King Viserys, was the former best friend of Princess Rhaenyra. Yet, in last week’s episode, Alicent essentially declared war on Rhaenyra. While there’s expected to be a significant time jump to episode six, the tensions between Alicent and Rhaenyra (first Milly Alcock, now Emma D’Arcy) definitely remain.
Here’s everything you need to know about Olivia Cooke, one of the new stars of House of the Dragon.
Her parents are not actors.
She was born and raised in England to parents who were not involved in the acting world at all. “Do I come from a family of actors? No, I don’t. My dad’s an ex-policeman and my mum is a sales representative and they haven’t got the acting bug. Bless them,” Cooke told Interview.
She started acting when she was just 8 years old, and made her professional debut in 2012 at age 18. Cooke continued to Interview, “I did ballet and gymnastics and then I started acting when I was eight—just doing amateur theater at a place called Oldham Theatre Workshop in my hometown. Every single year I was in the ensemble, and it was the best time ever, but every year when they’d call out who’d been cast as the lead, I was so disappointed because I thought, ‘This year, it’s my year. I’ll get the main part this year!’ But it wasn’t, every time. They did regurgitate a lot of the same people, so when they left and went to university I was like, ‘Okay, this is my year now,’ but then other people would come in and they’d be amazing.”
She added, “I think I just enjoyed the ensemble too much and I didn’t really put myself out there. I used to mess around in the background. I think I’m better for TV; I always felt really embarrassed when I had to do really big stage acting.”
Her first major TV role was in Bates Motel.
She starred in the show as Emma, Norman Bates’s best friend. “I left home at 18 to shoot in Vancouver, then went back and forth between jobs in the US and home with Mum for the next four years,” Cooke told Elle UK. “It was a lot to deal with as a child. Even though I had amazing experiences, it was incredibly lonely.”
In TV, Cooke also starred in the 2018 historical drama miniseries Vanity Fair as Becky Sharpe, and the 2022 spy thriller Slow Horses as Sid Baker. In film, she’s starred in Ouija (2014), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2016), Ready Player One (2018), Sound of Metal (2019), among other films.
In playing Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon, Cooke says, “She does some f—ing despicable stuff. But then you’ve got to think, she’s trying to protect her son. She’s trying to uphold the patriarchy. She’s trying to uphold the legitimacy of the crown. All these things that she feels are so much bigger than she is. I think that’s why when she can’t control that, she turns to faith more as some sort of tangible element of control, because she doesn’t have any in her life whatsoever.”
While she only has 20 posts, she shared a photo of the young and old Rhaenyras and Alicents: