According to House of the Dragon star Emma D’Arcy, while it would be “too extreme” to describe the princess as “gender-questioning”, Rhaenyra Targaryen’s burgeoning knowledge of Westeros’ political landscape has found her “pushing at the edges of womanhood.”
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D’Arcy, who themselves identifies as non-binary, spoke to the topic of Rhaenyra’s ‘gender journey’ during an interview given to Entertainment Weekly in promotion of the HBO series’ then-upcoming timeskip, which eventually saw D’Arcy take over the role of Rhaenyra from Milly Cooke in service of portraying the older version of the Targaryen royalty.
Described as becoming “more engaged” in their conversation when EW reporter Nick Romano turned to the topic of how gender influenced their take on the character, D’Arcy explained, “I think to say she’s gender-questioning would be too extreme because the language doesn’t exist, but I think she is someone who’s pushing at the edges of womanhood and has a really decisive, interrogative eye for how gender affects power, affects how one may occupy space, affects even the right to construct one’s life.”
“Basically,” added D’Arcy, “the interaction or the continued consolidation of male power and patriarchy is probably what really excited me about the script when I first read it.”
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Jumping off of her previous point, D’Arcy further detailed how Rhaenyra “as a result of patriarchal constraints, essentially doesn’t have power.”
“They have privilege, but they don’t have power,” said the actor. “It’s one thing to put two female characters [Rhaenyra and Alicent] in the center of a series like this, but it’s another when they are positioned within a patriarchy. How do we pay attention to them at least seeking command of their own lives?”
D’Arcy also noted that this theme of “othering”, as seen in the Targaryen Court’s ongoing gender-based succession conflict centered around the princess and Aegon II, plays an intergral role in both Rhaenyra’s story and the series’ overall plot.
“We understand how othering works,” asserted the Truth Seekers star. “We see it every day in 2022. ”
“Simultaneously,” D’Arcy then observed, “Miguel and Ryan and the rest of the team have created a program where you have someone who is fundamentally othered in a position of power, but you tell the story from their perspective.”
“That feels really unusual to me,” the actor concluded. “How do you convince an electorate that you’re not other? How do you do that when the whole system is built on the belief and the rule that you are not the same?”
House of the Dragon is now airing on HBO and HBO Max.
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