Inside ‘House of the Dragon,’ this year’s most eagerly awaited show

Inside ‘House of the Dragon,’ this year’s most eagerly awaited show
“House of the Dragon” premieres on OSN in the Middle East on August 22. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 August 2022

Inside ‘House of the Dragon,’ this year’s most eagerly awaited show

Inside ‘House of the Dragon,’ this year’s most eagerly awaited show
  • Can the ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel emulate its extraordinary success?

DUBAI: Few television shows (or films, or any other kind of media) have had as great a cultural impact as “Game of Thrones.” Throughout its eight-year run, which began in 2011, the sprawling fantasy series based on George R.R. Martin’s books gripped audiences across the globe (for reasons both positive and negative) and its influence is still felt across television and film. Now, just over three years after its last episode aired, HBO has finally readied a follow up its most-popular series: “House of the Dragon” — a prequel set hundreds of years earlier, which premieres on OSN in the Middle East on August 22.

The world has changed, however. When “Game of Thrones” debuted, there was nothing like it. For many, the series was the first piece of fantasy that enraptured them — propulsive, riveting and uncompromising storytelling that eased viewers into the existence of ice monsters and dragons. A decade on, there has been a litany of direct imitators, none of which has come close to emulating its success. So why should this one?




Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith in 'House of the Dragon.' (HBO)

“There have been many attempts to capture the ‘Game of Thrones’ magic,” says “House of the Dragon” co-creator and co-showrunner Ryan J Condal. “And many shows that have done only one or two seasons, and that’s it. There’s clearly a pattern of people wanting something like ‘Game of Thrones,’ but [the imitators] had to make it different. We’re lucky in the respect that we don’t have that problem. The more ‘Game of Thrones’ we are, the better.”

“House of the Dragon” should not be seen simply as a carbon copy of its predecessor, though. “Game of Thrones” had dozens of major characters, with the two major ones — Daenerys Targaryen and Aegon Targaryen (who believed himself to be Jon Snow for most of it) — not even meeting until near the end. “House of the Dragon” is far more zoomed in, centering on four characters from that same Targaryen family — a mercurial bunch with pale white hair and dragon’s blood in their veins — 200 years prior to the birth of Daenerys.

The central conceit is, however, pure “GoT.” A peacetime king — Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) — is unable to produce a male heir, leaving his hot-headed and unpredictable brother Prince Daemon as his most likely successor. Viserys, however, has other plans, thinking that perhaps his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra (played by Emma D’Arcy as an adult, Milly Alcock as a teen) could become the kingdom’s first queen. Her best friend, Lady Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke as an adult, Emily Carey as a teen), however, seems to have her eyes on the king herself.




Olivia Cooke as Lady Alicent. (HBO)

“I think the thing that made it so interesting to us is the idea that you get to explore the Targaryens as a dynasty and as a family instead of basically just one person. (We) get to show you what Westeros was like when the Targaryens were at height of their power and influence, when they had 17 dragons to discourage other houses from raising a challenge to the throne. And we see a broad spectrum of different Targaryen people — princes and princesses, firstborns and second-borns — who all have their own internal life and wants and needs and identity,” says co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik.

“What you realize is: This is just like any other family,” he continues. “It’s made up of a complex range of people who will all react to things in a different way. There isn’t a Targaryen archetype. There’s nature and nurture involved — how they develop as people and how they react to different things. They’re all real, complex people with gray in their souls, and that’s why people tune in from week to week, to follow these, hopefully, deeply interesting and compelling characters.”

Leading the pack is Paddy Considine, an actor who has put in some of the finest, if under-heralded, performances in recent history, including 2003’s “In America,” 2004’s “Dead Man’s Shoes” and 2010’s “Submarine,” and is finally given the major role he’s always deserved — something that the creators of the show saw before he did.




Paddy Considine as King Viserys. (HBO)

“I was the first actor cast in it, which was a massive leap of faith on the part of Miguel and Ryan and HBO. The fact that I didn’t even have to audition was a big gamble, really. Because I’ve a cynical side, my first question was, ‘Well, who’s turned it down? Who doesn’t want to do it?’ And they said, ‘Nobody. It’s yours. We’re coming straight to you.’ And that’s a good way to get me in, because I was very flattered by that, I was really honored. Truthfully, I was,” says Considine.

Matt Smith, who has already found huge success for his runs as both the lead in BBC stalwart “Doctor Who” and Prince Philip in the first two seasons of Netflix smash “The Crown,” comes in as the show’s most recognizable star, with his trademark charisma on full display as the brash and brilliant Daemon.

“I loved his unpredictability,” Smith says. “That was one of the things that really drew me to Daemon in the first place. You never quite know where he’s going to go, even as an actor. That affords you a great deal of invention and allows you to play. It’s nice when you’re an actor and you don’t quite know where the scene’s going to take you. I really loved it. I had such a good time.”




Ryan J Condal is the co-creator and co-showrunner of “House of the Dragon.” (HBO)

Smith may have been having fun, but the shoot was grueling. It began in April 2021 and didn’t wrap until February 2022, filming across the UK, Spain and California.

“Nothing prepares you for the shooting. I walked in with my shoulders back and head high. A year later, I crawled out on my belly,” says Considine.

“Game of Thrones,” of course, was a show with massively popular female characters, an aspect that kept it relevant as the cultural paradigm shifted, with Danaerys Targaryen becoming a symbol of empowered women the world over. “House of the Dragon” takes that baton and runs with it, focusing first and foremost on its lead women characters, Princess Rhaenyra and Lady Alicent.

For the show’s female stars, getting on the same page with the showrunners over how women would be portrayed in the violent and sexist world in which it’s set was of paramount importance from day one.




Milly Alcock (left) and Emily Carey. (HBO)

“Both Olivia and I started speaking with Miguel Sapochnik really early,” says D’Arcy. “One of the questions that I came into the show with was: ‘How do you make sure you are telling a story from their point of view, when we are in a world that doesn’t afford them space?’”

The conversations went better than they expected, the two stars reveal.

“Miguel was incredibly receptive and really generous on all of that. He gave us the space to explore these characters,” Cooke says.

“Fundamentally, Miguel is really aware that he’s not a woman,” D’Arcy adds. “He was very willing to defer to us, if something came up in the text. If you have a question, you have every right to interrogate that. It’s been a collaborative process.”


Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards
Updated 01 October 2022

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

DUBAI: Lebanese human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and her actor husband George Clooney this week hosted the first-ever Albie Awards, an event created by the celebrity couple to honor individuals who, at great personal risk, have devoted their lives to justice.

The awards ceremony, which took place in New York City, is named after South African lawyer, activist, writer and former judge Justice Albie Sachs, who spent much of his life “defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws.”

Amal was spotted on the red carpet wearing a silver and gold beaded Atelier Versace column gown and strappy silver Aquazzura sandals, while George wore a black tuxedo. (AFP)

Amal was spotted on the red carpet wearing a silver and gold beaded Atelier Versace column gown and strappy silver Aquazzura sandals, while George wore a black tuxedo.

The event was attended by A-list celebrities including Oscar Isaac, Dua Lipa, John Oliver, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Ethan Hawke and Meryl Streep.


New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage
Updated 01 October 2022

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage
  • ‘Experience Great Britain’ is part of publisher’s range of ‘anti-guidebooks’
  • It offers ‘really diverse experiences for visitors,’ contributor Tharik Hussain says

LONDON: A new Lonely Planet guide to Great Britain features an entire chapter on the country’s little-known Islamic heritage, which stretches back more than 1,200 years.

Published this month, “Experience Great Britain” is part of the publisher’s range of “anti-guidebooks,” so-called because of the unique local perspectives they offer travelers.

The guide to Britain has sections and essays titled “Legacies of Empire,” “Bristol’s Black History,” “An Other London” and “Hidden Muslim Britain,” all of which seek to shine a light on the nation’s marginalized cultures and their stories.

Tharik Hussain, the Muslim author of “Minarets in the Mountains: A Journey Into Muslim Europe,” which explores the continent’s indigenous Muslim cultures, contributed to the new travel guide.

 

 

“I think it is wonderful to see mainstream guidebooks like this finally going out of their way to include such really diverse experiences for visitors,” he said.

“So often, writers like me are brought onto such projects to tick a box and create the impression there are diverse perspectives in it, but actually we’re often asked to just write about the same things covered by the previous writers. What’s diverse about that?

“To achieve truly diverse perspectives commissioning editors must select writers from different backgrounds and then be brave and empower writers to come back with what they find interesting, even if that goes against the editor’s expectations.”

Hussain, who developed one of the UK’s first Muslim heritage trails, wrote the “Hidden Muslim Britain” chapter, which focuses on Woking — home to the UK’s first purpose-built mosque, the Shah Jahan — Liverpool and Brighton, where some of the country’s most visible Islamic legacies can be found.

These include Britain’s first Muslim cemetery — the final resting place of convert lords, ladies and Muslim royalty — and Brighton Pavilion, where injured Muslim (as well as Sikh and Hindu) soldiers fighting for Britain in World War I were treated.

The guide also tells of cultural institutes set up by the Turkish, Palestinian, Bangladeshi and Black communities in London. (Supplied/Tharik Hussain)

“The guide also reveals where to visit spectacular ‘oriental rooms’ modeled on famous Muslim palaces like the Alhambra in Spain and the Topkapi in Turkey,” Hussain said.

“This is supported by an essay called Anglo Islam that reveals how Islam came to the island as early as the 8th century, when an Anglo-Saxon king called Offa minted a gold coin featuring part of the Muslim declaration of faith in Arabic.”

The essay also tells of how Britain’s first real Muslim community “were a group of white, convert Victorians who worshipped at the country’s first mosque in Liverpool, founded by a solicitor called Henry William Quilliam, later Abdullah Quilliam,” he added.

The section on empire tells visitors where they can go to learn about “the horrors of British imperial rule,” and how to experience more positive post-colonial legacies like the stunning Neasden Temple in northwest London, built by immigrants who moved to Britain after the collapse of the empire, Hussain said.

The guide also tells of the cultural institutes set up by the Turkish, Palestinian, Bangladeshi and Black communities in London, like the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, and offers alternatives to the usual tourist attractions, such as the Muslim History Tours and the Open City walking tours that explore London’s forgotten Chinese heritage.


Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win
Updated 30 September 2022

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win
  • Crew ecstatic over ‘dream’ prize, says choreographer Nadim Cherfan
  • Artists will showcase their gifts at the US embassy this weekend

DUBAI: Lebanese dance crew Mayyas are set to perform for the first time since winning “America’s Got Talent” at the US embassy in Beirut this weekend.

The embassy will also host a virtual meet-the-artist session which will be released on Oct. 1 on YouTube.

“I am very happy that Mayyas will do a collaboration with the US embassy,” the crew’s choreographer Nadim Cherfan said in a video shared on the embassy’s Twitter page.

Earlier this month, the group took home the $1 million grand prize after winning the show.

“We can’t believe what’s happening,” group member Marcel Assal told Arab News after the show. “We can’t believe what we’ve achieved — giving so much energy, leaving our work and education, dedicating our time to training every day to be here to represent our country, and this is what we were looking for.

“We were very stressed out by the fact that we had to (prepare the dance) in two to three days, but when we went up on stage and heard the cheers, the audience gave us a push and an adrenaline rush that wasn’t there and we did it,” added Assal.

Cherfan said: “This win gave me an opportunity to dream again. When you have a dream and you achieve it, you start to look for another dream. So I’m very happy that there is something to look forward to now — something to dream of, something to fight for.”


Arab models Gigi, Bella Hadid grace the runway for French label Isabel Marant in Paris 

Arab models Gigi, Bella Hadid grace the runway for French label Isabel Marant in Paris 
Updated 01 October 2022

Arab models Gigi, Bella Hadid grace the runway for French label Isabel Marant in Paris 

Arab models Gigi, Bella Hadid grace the runway for French label Isabel Marant in Paris 

DUBAI: Dutch Palestinian models Gigi and Bella Hadid have had a fashion-packed month, from Milan to Paris Fashion Week. 

This week, the sisters modeled for Isabel Marant wearing the French label’s spring-summer 2023 collection.  

Gigi strutted down the runway in an oversized cameo-print jacket in neutral hues. 

Bella wore two outfits. The first featured a white cut-out top embellished with silver studs, white pants, stilettos and a handbag.

The second look was a black flowy mini dress with cut-out detailing across the chest, which the model styled with a tasseled bag casually slung on her shoulder. 

The fashion show featured an array of unique outfits — including sheer tops, oversized jumpers, floral dresses, jeans and crochet items — which British Moroccan model Nora Attal championed. 

Attal wore a yacht-perfect crochet bodysuit and a matching bag with fringe detailing.

French Algerian catwalk star Loli Bahia was also part of the star-studded show.

Bella wore a white cut-out top embellished with silver studs, white pants, stilettos and a handbag. (AFP)

She put on an eye-catching display in an outfit similar to Bella’s all-white look, sporting leather trousers and a cut-out red top.

Bahia also wore reflective silver pants with a white chiffon top featuring a sleeveless neckline. 

The part-Arab models all opted for loose hair with natural make-up looks in a bronze pallet. 

Another star-studded event at Paris Fashion Week was French jewelry label Messika’s show, which was inspired by ancient Egypt.

Bahia wore leather trousers and a cut-out red top. (AFP)

Supermodel Naomi Campbell opened the runway on Thursday wearing the new Akh-Ba-Ka set, which was designed by Valérie Messika and is part of the brand’s new jewelry collection titled “Beyond the Light.”

The necklace, which Italian Moroccan model Malika El-Maslouhi wore in the campaign images, is made of white gold with 15 diamonds totaling 71 carats. The entire set is composed of a pair of asymmetrical earrings and a transformable ring that can be worn in three different ways.

Among the guests who watched the show were Gigi, Lebanese singer Maya Diab, Saudi TV presenter Lojain Omran, Egyptian actresses Mai Omar and Enjy Kiwan and Lebanese presenter Diala Makki.


Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood
Updated 01 October 2022

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood

DUBAI: Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai addressed the lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood films during Variety’s recent Power of Women event in the US.

Yousafzai, who was honored at the event, said: “I’ve been doing activism for more than a decade now, and I’ve realized that we shouldn’t limit activism to the work of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) only: There’s also the element of changing people’s minds and perspectives — and that requires a bit more work.”

The 25-year-old, in her new role as a content producer, pointed out that despite Muslims making up 25 percent of the population, there was “only 1 percent of characters in popular TV series.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Malala (@malala)

Addressing A-list guests including American politician Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea, US actress Elizabeth Olsen, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, and the American former actress, and wife of British Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, she added: “You’re often told in Hollywood, implicitly or explicitly, that the characters are too young, too brown, or too Muslim, or that if one show about a person of color is made, then that’s it — you don’t need to make another one. That needs to change.

“I’m a woman, a Muslim, a Pashtun, a Pakistani, and a person of color. And I watched ‘Succession,’ ‘Ted Lasso,’ and ‘Severance,’ where the leads are white people — and especially a lot of white men.

“If we can watch those shows, then I think audiences should be able to watch shows that are made by people of color, and produced and directed by people of color, with people of color in the lead. That is possible, and I’m going to make it happen,” Yousafzai said.