After David Benioff and D.B. Weiss led eight seasons of Game of Thrones, a new duo is taking over for prequel House of the Dragon: Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik.
Condal was named “heir to the throne, in a way” by creator George R.R. Martin after spending the last 20 years as a fan of the books; he then convinced Sapochnik, who had directed some of Thrones‘ most famous episodes, to join him.
“I didn’t immediately warm to the idea of spending any more nights in the freezing cold,” Sapochnik admitted at the show’s premiere event in Los Angeles on Wednesday, but eventually signed on. He also received some advice from his former bosses: “They said, ‘Don’t do it,’ and David didn’t talk to me for six months,” the co-showrunner joked. “No, they were lovely. I had one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my career working with David and Dan — they were wonderful to me, wonderful friends. No one’s ever going to happy if you start going out with your best mate’s girlfriend, it’s just not going to happen, but they were good.”
This series takes place 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, and tells the story of House Targaryen, from which Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys and (spoiler alert) Kit Harrington’s Jon Snow descended.
“As soon as George pitched this to me, all the gears clicked into place. Telling the story of the Targaryens at the height of their power made tons of sense coming off the original show because we get to know Daenerys very well, we get to know the myth and legend of her family but we don’t know much about the Targaryens as they actually existed,” Condal told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s an intimate story; it’s a bit of a Greek tragedy about the house divided, a house that tears itself apart over a succession. Very Game of Thrones but very different from the original.”
Taking on HBO’s first Thrones follow-up came with significant pressure, Condal said, and even more that he put on himself as a longtime fan. When in doubt, he asked, “‘What would Ryan the fan do?’ I held to that, knowing you can’t possibly please everyone all at once. The fanbase is very strong and passionate and I think they know what they want, you just want to give them it in a way they don’t expect.”
Fans have also been vocally comparing the show to the upcoming Lord of the Rings series The Rings of Power, which is debuting on Amazon just days after House of the Dragon premieres on HBO.
“My hope is that both series work and find a huge fanbase and that there’s a huge overlap in the fanbase,” Condal said, acknowledging he’s a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan. “I think the more big, expensive — really expensive — fantasies that work on television, the better for us fans because they’ll make more of them. I desperately want Rings of Power to work. I’m going to be there watching it the first night it’s available, I will watch all of them.”
Echoed Sapochnik, “Lord of the Rings is great IP and great material. I have no idea what they’ve done — I didn’t make it past The Hobbit 1 — but fantastic. The more the merrier really.”
House of the Dragon premieres on HBO Max Aug. 21.