The British actor talks to ET about playing Laenor on the latest episode of the 'Game of Thrones' prequel series.
In the fifth episode of House of the Dragon season 1, audiences were treated to another violent wedding on the Game of Thrones franchise. And the bloodshed once again led to a character’s death, a person close to Laenor (Theo Nate), the eldest son of Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) and Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), who unexpectedly found himself positioned for the Iron Throne.
“It was really, really tense, really, really deep,” Nate says about reading the script for the latest episode, which marks his last as Laenor on the prequel series. While speaking to ET, the British actor opens up about what was going through his character’s mind as he navigated an unexpected marriage proposition and dealt with the tragic loss of his lover. [Warning: Spoilers for House of the Dragon, season 1, episode five, “We Light the Way.”]
Following the shocking events of episode four, Rhaenyra’s (Milly Alcock) position as the heir to the Iron Throne was once again the concern of King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and his small council, who were determined now more than ever to see the young princess married off. This time, everyone settles on Laenor after Corlys negotiates that any of Laenor and Rhaenyra’s children will be known as Valeryons until they sit on the throne, when they’ll be renamed Targaryens.
The only issue with the marriage is that Laenor is actually gay, and in a not-so-secret relationship with Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod). And the fact is he’s not even interested in the family politics at hand. He’s more concerned with riding his dragon, Seasmoke, like he did during the War for the Stepstones.
“At the moment in the timeline, the Iron Throne isn’t on his mind at all. He’s more wanting to go to battle. He loves fighting. He loves war,” Nate says, also explaining that he loves Joffrey. “So, he knows he’s never gonna be able to be true to himself if he was to be anywhere near the Iron Throne.”
And unlike his father, who is deeply resentful that his wife was passed over as queen, Laenor isn’t as affected by that. “There’s a lot of talk about how his mom had been passed over for the Iron Throne before he was born. But it’s not something that motivates his every move,” the actor says. At least not in the same way his relationship does. “Joffrey is probably the biggest motivation.”
Despite his love for Joffrey, Rhaenyra eventually convinces him that the two getting married is a good idea, and that they can have an open relationship, with Laenor free to be with his lover as long as she can still be with Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). Initially, “he’s very cautious because it sounds way too good to be true,” Nate says.
“That walk along the beach, it’s a cautious one for him because he doesn’t really know what she wants from him. She’s there trying to win him over and letting him know she’s not a monster. She’s not there to ruin his life,” he explains. “So, I think by the end of that, and then once he talks to Joffrey about it to see what he feels, Laenor comes to the conclusion that maybe it won’t be that bad.”
“And ultimately he doesn’t have a choice anyway,” the actor adds. “So, he just gets on with it.”
What follows, though, is hardly anything that Laenor could have predicted. And if he had any concern that someone like Joffrey might not come out on the other side of his nuptials to Rhaenyra alive, he probably wouldn’t have gone through with it. Or, at least, resisted.
With the marriage moving forward, Viserys calls for an elaborate feast to celebrate the merging of the two great houses. But it quickly turns into an evening fraught with tension as Queen Alicent (Emily Carey), Prince Daemon (Matt Smith) and others don’t hide their disappointment over the pairing. Most notably is Criston, who thinks Rhaenyra should marry for love and becomes increasingly angry with the situation.
It’s not long before his rage boils over and Criston gruesomely attacks and kills Joffrey in the middle of the festivities, turning the celebration into an all-out brawl. “It’s absolutely horrible,” Nate says of what happened. “From the sideline, Laenor sees a crowd gathering. He was speaking to Joffrey before it, but then his attention goes elsewhere. And then to turn and see Criston… It’s like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no, no.’”
While his instinct is to immediately jump in and fight, “there’s too many bodies,” the actor says. And he’s unable to get to Joffrey before he’s killed. The scene then ends with the bloodied room cleared out and Laenor left weeping over his lover’s dead body.
“It’s the ring that he sees first. And once he sees that, it’s like, ‘No, it can’t possibly be,’” Nate says of the surprisingly rare emotional moment that plays out, something that he says was needed. “It was something we spoke about with [director] Clare Kilner, who is amazing by the way. So, that was something we spoke about in rehearsals that we really wanted to get that bit right. If he didn’t have that reaction, I don’t think his journey would mean as much because he wouldn’t be as heartbroken as he’s supposed to be.”
For Laenor, the actor explains, Joffrey is both his lover and his best friend. And in that moment, he lost both. “When he first walks in, he is kind of like, ‘Yeah, this is gonna be quite sh*t. I’ve got Joffrey here and Rhaenyra seems like she’s on the same path as me, so we’ll get through it together.’ But obviously it doesn’t transpire that way.”
And despite all of that, Laenor is forced to marry Rhaenyra moments later as the houses rush to secure the marriage. “There’s no two ways about it. He kind of just has to go along with it,” Nate says.
What becomes of Laenor moving forward remains to be seen as the next episode will jump forward 10 years, meaning that Nate, as well as Alcock and Carey, have completed their time on the series. When asked if there’s any chance audiences will see him again, “I’d have to say no,” he says, noting that they “didn’t shoot any flashbacks.”
But looking back on his time on set, there’s one moment that sticks out for Nate. Recalling the beach scene between Laenor and Rhaenyra, he says it was shot at the same time as Laenor and Joffrey’s moment in the dunes. And so, the three actors were together in Cornwall, England, where the scenes were shot. And that’s where Nate remembers Alcock going for a swim in the water in between takes.
“It was a roasting hot day in Cornwall. We basically left the dunes and we come down and then we were like, ‘Where’s Milly?’ ‘Cause I have to go and rehearse the next scene with her. And we just see this body diving in and out of the waves. And it was Milly swimming in the sea. So, we literally were like, ‘Right.’ And we all jumped in the water after that,” Nate shares. “It was just an amazing moment.”
House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max.