Co-creators and executive producers Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal spoke to ET about creating the prequel series.
With House of the Dragon, HBO is expanding the world of Game of Thrones by going back several hundred years to focus on House Targaryen. The all-new series is adapted from George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood by co-creators and executive producers Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal, who have been tasked with breathing new life (or fire) into the franchise three years after the original series ended in 2019 with a Targaryen reclaiming the Iron Throne.
But long before Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), there was a deadly battle of succession as the Targaryens struggled to find a suitable heir to maintain the family’s continued rule over King’s Landing in Westeros. And given the subsequent political maneuvering that plays out in the House of the Dragon, it’s no surprise that Sapochnik and Condal tell ET that the two series that were top of mind in the writers’ room during season 1 were HBO’s other family drama and a historical drama about the royal family on Netflix.
“The shows we talked about the most in the writers’ room were Succession and The Crown,” Condal says of the discussions that went “beyond Game of Thrones, which was talked about all the time.”
Similarly to House of the Dragon, the series created by Jesse Armstrong follows a super wealthy and a super powerful family, whose patriarch runs a media conglomerate. And when his health and status at the top is questioned, the other family members start making their own moves and claims for the seat at the head of the table.
The Crown, meanwhile, chronicles the rise and reign of Queen Elizabeth II and her family’s rule over the ever-evolving British empire. The series, which also starred Matt Smith, who portrayed Prince Philip in seasons 1 and 2 before taking on the dastardly role of Daemon Targaryen on House of the Dragon, is a fitting choice, not only because of the parallels of a woman taking the throne but also since Martin loosely based Fire & Blood on extended British royal history -- and the infighting that went along with it.
“So, in terms of story references, tonal references, dramatic rhythms and pacing. You know, structuring a story,” Condal says that both series were “talked about all the time,” with the executive producer adding that they’re “all big fans of [Succession].”
Of course, the original series in the franchise was a major reference point, with Sapochnik revealing that the “chaos is a ladder” scene between Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) and Varys (Conleth Hill) in season 3 was a key moment discussed in the writers’ room. According to the director, Condal wanted to “show the writers a specific scene that for [him] defined what Game of Thrones was.”
“[It’s] funny, ‘cause when you actually look it up, ‘chaos is a ladder’ was a scene that was written when the episode was too short and they had to write something extra to fill in the episode,” Sapochnik says. “And so, it was a scene that had almost nothing to do with the show, but somehow became a perfect kind of way of describing the tonality of how the show ended up.”
When it comes to the series as a whole, and what it established over the course of eight seasons, Condal says he wanted to lean into “its tone and voice” while creating House of the Dragon. “I think those are the two most important things that made that show what it was,” he says, referring to what executive producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss “created in the beginning [and what] Miguel carried on in those later seasons.”
Additionally, “the voice of the show, which I think began with George, but then was adapted for the screen by David and Dan,” Condal continues. “Those two things, I think, are the things that most orient people into that world. And those were the things we had to recreate first, if we had any hope of any success.”
And given that this series takes place in the same world, just two hundred years prior, there will be lots of familiar settings, families and relics, including the Balerion skull, which first appeared on Game of Thrones. But those appearances or references aren’t merely Easter eggs for the benefit of fans. “It’s really easy to get carried away with all of the Easter eggs and all of the nods here and there,” Sapochnik warns, with Condal adding that “with Easter eggs and things, I’m always very suspicious of those ‘cause they feel fan servicey.”
“If there’s a real reason to do it, if there’s something that has story resonance or spiritual resonance and there’s a reason to do it, then I think it’s great because it’s a way of connecting these two things over this vast chasm of 170 years,” Condal continues, adding that “there’s a lot of resonance with the original series.”
But at the end of the day, Sapochnik says, “we’ve gotta be careful ‘cause it’s gotta be our own.”
House of the Dragon premieres Sunday, Aug. 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and HBO Max.