Emily Carey Talks Being 'Scared' of 'House of the Dragon' Sex Scenes

Emily Carey was "scared" of doing sex scenes in House of the Dragon, particularly because of how "violent" they were in its predecessor, Game of Thrones, the actor told Newsweek.

Carey, who uses she/they pronouns, plays Alicent Hightower in the HBO hit, a character who becomes the second wife of King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) through her father Otto's (Rhys Ifans) machinations.

Emily Carey Talks Being 'Scared' of 'House of the Dragon' Sex Scenes

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Emily Carey as Alicent Hightower in "House of the Dragon," the actor spoke to Newsweek about being "scared" of doing sex scenes, but said an intimacy coordinator helped ease their fears. Ollie Upton/HBO

In Episode 4 Carey was required to appear in two intimacy scenes, one in which Alicent helps bathe King Viserys and the other a sex scene which Carey's character appears to feel obliged to take part in, rather than desire it.

As they were 17 years old at the time of casting, and 18 when filming, Carey felt "scared" of performing in the scenes, particularly given their age difference with the then 47-year-old Considine.

It was thanks to an intimacy coordinator that the actor felt reassured. Intimacy coordinators work on film and television sets to choreograph simulated sex between actors and ensure their wellbeing is considered on set.

"We have an intimacy coordinator who was amazing," Carey told Newsweek. "Again, still being 17, the first scene that I read from the show was my sex scene and my intimacy scenes, that includes the scene where I'm bathing the king—anything that felt intimate was considered an intimacy scene, which I thought was great.

"But, it scared me, because at that point I still hadn't met Paddy, I didn't know how much of a joy he was and how easy he was going to make [the scene], and all I saw was, you know, a 47-year-old man and me, I was a bit concerned.

"And having that outlet of the intimacy coordinator, to be able to talk everything through and not be shunned, or not feel awkward, or not feel like 'Oh, this isn't your job. I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable but can I ask you...' it was never any of that, it was just that open dialogue.

"In the rehearsal room she was a massive help and on set she was a massive help. Yeah, it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be."

Game of Thrones actor Sean Bean recently decried the use of intimacy coordinators on set, saying they "spoil the spontaneity" when filming for TV and film.

The Ned Stark actor said in an interview with the U.K.'s The Times Magazine: "Somebody saying, 'Do this, put your hands there, while you touch his thing...'I think the natural way lovers behave would be ruined by someone bringing it right down to a technical exercise."

But, for Carey, it was essential, and reflecting on how Game of Thrones compares to House of the Dragon when it comes to its treatment of its female characters, the actor went on: "I think I was still 17 when I started this job, I was 18 by the time we started shooting but there was a few months of me in this role as a 17-year-old.

"I've never seen Game of Thrones before, and so in the pre-production period I sat down to try and watch [it] and of course the first season, even just the first episode of Thrones, there's a lot of violence upon women.

"There's a lot of violent sex and it made me nervous. I was like, 'Oh God, what am I gonna have to do in this show?'"

"When we got to the rehearsal room, regardless of who was in which scenes, there was an open dialogue about, 'Look, this is how we're approaching the show. This is how it's going to be different from the original. This is what we want to talk about. This is what we want to put out. This is how we want the viewers to view the women in our show.'

"I think that open conversation is so important, it made us all feel incredibly secure and safe in the hands of [showrunners] Ryan [Condal] and Miguel [Sapochnik]."

They added: "Certainly, there were a lot of women behind the scenes, we had an amazing team, we had, of course, female directors, I worked with the amazing Clare Kilner who was fierce, and lots of women producing this show as well, and Sarah, one of our writers, amongst many others in the writers room, I'm sure.

"It was an amazing thing, and it was empowering being on that set as a young girl and being treated the same as all of these very established men. It was great, I think they approached this in the best way they could have done."

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Emily Carey and Paddy Considine as Alicent Hightower and King Viserys I in "House of the Dragon" Episode 3. Ollie Upton/HBO

On Alicent's Journey and Being Under Men's Control

House of the Dragon is set at the height of Targaryen rule and it will lead into the Dance of the Dragons, a civil war that almost destroyed the dragon-wielding house and began when Alicent contested the legitimacy of King Viserys' daughter Rhaenyra's right to the Iron Throne.

The show explores the early years of the friendship between the two characters, as well as how it came to break down completely. Of this, Carey said: "I think the way they've approached this friendship in the show, first of all, is very different from the book [Fire and Blood, by George R. R. Martin].

"I, of course, read the book for context, and was surprised to see that there wasn't a huge amount of in-depth [information], it didn't go in depth as such when it came to their friendship, and there was actually quite a big age gap between the two girls in the book.

"I think having them so incredibly close is what makes the demise of the friendship so heart-breaking, and there's a lot more at stake, if that makes sense. Of course, there's always things at stake when it comes to the throne, but we're talking emotions, we're talking true, raw emotions from two young women."

"It was a lot of fun playing around with this friendship and I adore Milly [Alcock, who plays a young Rhaenyra] off-screen and so everything came very organically on-screen," Carey added. "It's heart-breaking to watch it break down, or at least it should be, they both make questionable choices at times but, the thing is, a lot of the time the choices are made to look like it's made by them but it's never really their choice, their lives are dictated by their fathers and the men around them.

"Which is what makes it so difficult to watch, because neither one of them are in control at all throughout the entire journey, whether they're incredibly close or when it starts to break down."

Reflecting on the relationship between Alicent and her father Otto, Carey said: "I think it was interesting, the dynamic between Otto and Alicent was one of the most interesting for me to explore as an actor, just because I don't have a relationship with my own father and so I found it difficult at first to try and delve into that, just because it's not a normal father-daughter relationship.

"Alicent is kind of a pawn in his big game, but one of the first things that Miguel said to me was that she's very acutely aware of the Game of Thrones, and she's aware of the world that she's in and where she sits in that world.

"And I think she starts to become aware of the fact that she doesn't have a choice and that she is a pawn in this big game, and she just has to sit with it, I don't think she ever anticipated that Otto would be the one manipulating that."

Looking towards the character's future battle with Rhaenyra, Carey said viewers will begin to see a "spark" in their character before Olivia Cooke and Emma D'Arcy take over the roles of Alicent and the Princess.

"I think she finds herself in that position and then she wants it, I don't think she ever wanted it from the get go," they said of Alicent's determination to get her children on the Iron Throne in future. "I think it was 'right, I'm here. Now I've got to do what I've got to do,' and I think she has a huge amount of ambition and determination.

"I think she's a very emotional person. I think Alicent has a huge heart, which sometimes will cause her to act villainous, because she's fighting for the people that she loves dearly, which, obviously, as I read the book I know what's to come vaguely.

"We know that she fights for her children, eventually, the Alicent that I play doesn't really get there. I mean, we see that spark, there's definitely a spark, but we don't see that until episodes four or five, I'd say.

"I think [episode] three for me was the turning point... you see her go from a young girl into [someone] trying to be this woman that she is made to believe she should be, and then four and five you see her start to actually come into her own and you see that spark, that fire."

House of the Dragon airs Sundays on HBO and HBO Max at 9 p.m. ET.

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Emily Carey and Milly Alcock as Alicent Hightower and Rhaenyra Targaryen in "House of the Dragon" Episode 4, the show explores their friendship and its demise. Ollie Upton/HBO