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.”


US show ‘Last Light’ latest TV series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi

US show ‘Last Light’ latest TV series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi
Updated 26 September 2022

US show ‘Last Light’ latest TV series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi

US show ‘Last Light’ latest TV series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: A thriller set during an environmental collapse has joined a growing list of US television shows shot in Abu Dhabi with the support of its film commission.

“Last Light,” a five-episode series streaming on Shahid VP in the Middle East, was filmed in multiple locations in the emirate, with the capital doubling as the program’s fictitious city of Luzrah. 

The Emirates Palace and the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi are featured ‘Last Light,’ as well as the expanse of the Abu Dhabi desert. (Supplied)

The show stars Emmy-nominated Matthew Fox, best known for his role in “Lost,” and Joanne Froggatt of “Downton Abbey,” as well as Amber Rose and Hakeem Jomah. The program also features Paris and London as locations.

The action and drama series is directed by award-winning director Dennie Gordon, who has worked on over 100 hours of network television, including the critically acclaimed American superhero television series ‘Legion’.

“Finding a desert like this, unobstructed dunes as far as the eye can see, is such a privilege,” said Gordon in a statement. 

‘Last Light’ star Matthew Fox shooting a scene in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)

The Emirates Palace and the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi are featured, as well as the expanse of the Abu Dhabi desert.

Scenes were also filmed at the Arkan Cement Factory, the Abu Dhabi Global Market, Al Danah, Mussafah and a military base.

The series, an adaptation of Alex Scarrow’s best-selling novel about a world without oil, is the latest to join the Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s extensive roster of supported foreign productions.

The series received location support and a 30 percent rebate on production costs from the ADFC. It was produced by a crew of 145 people, 90 of whom were locals.


 


Egypt’s 19th century gift to France inspires new children’s book ‘Grace the Giraffe’

Egypt’s 19th century gift to France inspires new children’s book ‘Grace the Giraffe’
Updated 26 September 2022

Egypt’s 19th century gift to France inspires new children’s book ‘Grace the Giraffe’

Egypt’s 19th century gift to France inspires new children’s book ‘Grace the Giraffe’
  • Egypt's Muhammad Ali Pasha gave female giraffe from Nubia to King Charles X
  • Paris-based couple Oliver Gee and Lina Nordin Gee took inspiration from the historical story for their children's tale

DUBAI: In 1827, the people of Paris saw the rarest of sights. The ruler of Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha, sent an unusual diplomacy gift to King Charles X of France: A female giraffe from Nubia, dubbed “la belle africaine,” that caused a sensation and set trends in French society.

This real-life and little-known story inspired Paris-based couple Oliver Gee and Lina Nordin Gee to create their third and latest children’s book, “Grace the Giraffe,” which will be released in October.

Paris-based couple Oliver Gee and Lina Nordin Gee created their third and latest children’s book, ‘Grace the Giraffe.’ (Supplied)

It captures a light-hearted aspect of this historical event. “A few books have been written about the giraffe, but they’re quite dry,” Oliver, an Australian, and host of The Earful Tower podcast, told Arab News.

“We thought the fun part of the story was just as much this reaction from Parisians,” he continued. “It’s a fashion story of people going crazy, where women had their hair looking like the horns or ears of the giraffe.”

Originally from southern Sudan, the giraffe was transported via the Nile and crossed the Mediterranean, landing in Marseille. “She was in a boat with a hole so her head could stick out, which is amazing,” noted Oliver.

The giraffe endured a long and arduous journey as she was walked from Marseille to Paris for weeks. She grew physically along the way, accompanied by a procession of cows that provided milk. “By the time that she was in Marseille, a giraffe hadn’t been in Europe for 300 years,” said Oliver. “So today, it would be like an alien is here.”

In Paris, the giraffe lived in a zoo for under two decades until her death. “Everybody went to see her,” said Oliver. “Even in the small cities, half the population came to see her go past. It was insane.” She achieved her own kind of celebrity, as the elegant creature appeared on fans and ceramics. Luckily, the giraffe’s body has been preserved over the years and is currently on display at a museum in La Rochelle, France.

“Grace the Giraffe” was written by Oliver and illustrated by his wife, Lina. Told in rhyming couplets with little twists in the narrative, the charming piece of work features colorful spreads of Grace’s boat journey, extraordinary procession, and whirlwind arrival in the French capital.

The news of the book’s publication has been well-received online, sparking interest from readers of all ages. “From a history perspective,” said Oliver, “it’s cool to know that children and adults will be learning about a fascinating story.” 


Bahraini culinary star Tala Bashmi celebrates The Best Chef Awards ranking in Madrid

Bahraini culinary star Tala Bashmi celebrates The Best Chef Awards ranking in Madrid
Tala Bashmi is the chef patronne at Fusions by Tala in the Gulf Hotel, Manama. (Supplied)
Updated 26 September 2022

Bahraini culinary star Tala Bashmi celebrates The Best Chef Awards ranking in Madrid

Bahraini culinary star Tala Bashmi celebrates The Best Chef Awards ranking in Madrid
  • ‘I always saw a gap for a different version of Middle Eastern and Khaleeji cuisine,’ Bashmi previously told Arab News

DUBAI: Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi appeared in Madrid over the weekend to celebrate her ranking among the top 100 chefs in the world.

The culinary star ranked 93rd and is the only Arab on this year’s Best Chef Awards list, as well as one of just 18 women.

The gala dinner was held at the Crystal Gallery of the Palacio de Cibeles in Madrid and saw Spain’s Dabiz Muñoz named the best chef in the world for the second consecutive year.

“I do not feel like the best chef in the world, far from it. But I believe I have the best team in the world,” he said accepting the prize on the stage.

Chef patronne at Fusions by Tala in the Gulf Hotel, Manama, Tala Bashmi hit the red carpet at the event.

Bashmi grew up in Bahrain, and began her career at the Gulf Hotel, before heading to Switzerland to train at Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois and the Michelin-starred Prisma. 

She returned to Bahrain in 2014 and worked her way up through the ranks at the Gulf Hotel to eventually head Fusions by Tala, where she’s determined to reinvent Gulf cuisine. She was recently named Best Female Chef in the Middle East and North Africa by 50 Best.

“I always saw a gap for a different version of Middle Eastern and Khaleeji cuisine,” Bashmi told Arab News earlier this year. “I want to compete on a global scale by elevating our cuisine technically, visually, and flavor-wise,” she said. 


Actress Sofia Carson shows off Zuhair Murad look in New York

Sofia Carson showed off an ensemble by Zuhair Murad in New York. (Getty Images)
Updated 26 September 2022

Actress Sofia Carson shows off Zuhair Murad look in New York

Sofia Carson showed off an ensemble by Zuhair Murad in New York. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: US singer and actress Sofia Carson was spotted in New York wearing an ensemble by Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad this week.

Carson attended the Global Citizen Festival in a coordinating look from Murad’s resort 2023 collection. The outfit featured an embellished crop top and mini skirt set with matching thigh-high leather boots.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sofia Carson (@sofiacarson)

The actress was dressed by celebrity stylist Nicolas Bru.

Metallica and Mariah Carey led an A-list of musicians at the event on Saturday, and President Joe Biden made a surprise video appearance, as the Global Citizen Festival sought to mobilize action against poverty and climate change.

Marking its 10th year, the six-hour festival brought thousands to New York’s Central Park and featured a sister show in Ghana's capital Accra, where performers included American R&B great Usher and British grime icon Stormzy, AFP reported.

Global Citizen awards tickets to fans in exchange for their commitment to take action to eradicate extreme poverty — such as contacting elected representatives to encourage foreign aid — and coincides with the annual UN General Assembly in hopes of raising pressure on world leaders.

Other performers included Maneskin, the new-generation Italian glam rockers who put on an energetic set, Spanish pop star Rosalia, and the Jonas Brothers, with Nick Jonas' wife, Indian screen star Priyanka Chopra, serving as master of ceremonies.

It is not the first time Carson has attended a high profile event wearing an ensemble from the Middle East.  

In July, she hit the red carpet at the premiere of Netflix movie “Purple Hearts” in a deep purple gown by Lebanese couturier Elie Saab.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sofia Carson (@sofiacarson)

The actress, who stars in the film, attended the premiere at The Bay Theater in Pacific Palisades, California, wearing a gown from Saab’s Fall 2022 collection.

The dress boasted a tightly pleated purple skirt, along with a floral-embellished bodice with a statement high collar in black.

The 68-look ready-to-wear collection from which the gown hails was unveiled in Paris in March and was “about strong women, strong characters, a little rock ‘n’ roll,” the designer told Vogue US at the time.

It’s only fitting then that the dress was shown off by singer and actress Carson, who is signed to Hollywood Records and has a number of singles under her belt.

The multi-hyphenate most recently starred in “Purple Hearts,” which tells the story of an aspiring singer-songwriter and a soldier who fall in love against all odds.


UAE artists set to exhibit at the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in France

UAE artists set to exhibit at the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in France
Updated 25 September 2022

UAE artists set to exhibit at the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in France

UAE artists set to exhibit at the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in France
  • Wonderful talent showcase, says Noura bint Mohammad Al-Kaabi, minister of culture and youth
  • Hashel Al-Lamki, Mohammed Kazem, Chafa Ghaddar will work under event’s theme ‘Manifesto of Fragility’

DUBAI: Three artists from the UAE are set to represent the country at the 16th edition of the Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art, which will run from Sept. 14 to Dec. 31, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Youth and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.

Multi-disciplinary creator Hashel Al-Lamki, conceptual creative Mohammed Kazem and mural artist Chafa Ghaddar will present their work at the biennale, which is being held under the theme “Manifesto of Fragility.”

Mural artist Chafa Ghaddar will present their work at the Biennale. (Supplied)

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the UAE to showcase its talent at such a prestigious platform. We have immense respect for the Lyon Biennale, which is marking its 16th edition this year. The UAE is making its presence felt at global art events and this is one of its significant participations,” said UAE Minister of Culture and Youth Noura bint Mohammed Al-Kaabi in a statement.

“The UAE artists exhibiting at this event are known names in the contemporary art world and they will be presenting distinctive works enriched by Middle Eastern and Arab influences. I look forward to seeing their participation in the biennale, wish them a very successful exhibition and I look forward to seeing the fruitful results of the collaboration between these artists come to life.”

Featuring 230 works by 34 artists and more than 300 archival documents from nearly 40 collections worldwide, the exhibition will showcase new creations by living artists alongside historical pieces from museums in the French city.

It will also present loaned collections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (also known as the Met), the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, and from many of Lyon’s leading cultural institutions, such as the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon, the Lugdunum Museum and Roman theaters, and the Musées Gadagne.