The actor talks to ET about the Sea Snake's willingness to do anything to secure his family's place in line to the throne.
In the second episode of House of the Dragon, maneuvering for the Iron Throne continues despite the fact that King Viserys (Paddy Considine) has named Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) his successor -- and that council pledged to honor the decision when the day comes for her to wear the crown.
One of those people still positioning for the seat of power is Lord Corlys Velaryon, aka the Sea Snake, played by Steve Toussaint. The actor tells ET that his character is full of pride and resentment and still reeling from what happened to his wife, Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), many years prior.
“He doesn’t hide the fact that it irks him that his wife is not on the throne,” Toussaint says, not hiding the fact that he thinks Rhaenys is a far more qualified ruler than her cousin, Viserys. “In fact, sometimes it looks as if it hurts him more than it hurts her because there are moments when he’s just like, ‘It should be you.’ And she’s like, ‘Ahh, leave it. We’re rich.’ And he’s like, ‘No, it should be you.’”
As a result, Corlys’ “motivation for an awful lot of this season is about the pursuit of his family’s legacy and planting their name in history.”
[Warning: Spoilers for House of the Dragon, season 1, episode two.]
With episode 2 picking up nearly six months after the events of the premiere, King Viserys finds himself on shaky ground as a result of naming his daughter heir to the Iron Throne. Corlys warns him that his enemies are watching, and that King’s Landing is suddenly a target, especially since Viserys’ brother, Prince Daemon (Matt Smith), claimed Dragonstone without any challenge and the Free Cities have posed a threat against the Targaryen navy.
Now, as a storm approaches, Corlys tells Viserys that he has to “sail into it or around it.” But if he waits and does nothing, that will be the most dangerous decision of all. And while explaining this to him, the Sea Snake proposes that the king remarry, and that his new bride be Corlys and Rhaenys’ young daughter, Laena Velaryon (Nova Fouellis-Mose), so that they can join their two families.
And this is just one example audiences will see of Corlys doing what he can “to get his wife or someone else in his family into a position of power,” Toussaint teases.
While the couple doesn’t show it, they have two very differing points of view on their daughter’s courtship, with Corlys telling Laena that she could strengthen the king’s line with many male heirs, while Rhaenys saying that she only has to do so when she comes of age at 14.
“His vision for the family -- where the family should be -- is what’s gonna cause a major rift between them,” Toussaint says, suggesting that there may be a breaking point for Corlys and Rhaenys when it comes to securing their family’s place on the Iron Throne.
Because, as Best points out, Rhaenys has “to try not to be the person who’s plotting and steering as a result of” being passed over and becoming the Queen Who Never Was.
In the end, despite Corlys' best efforts to court the king, Viserys announces his intentions of marrying Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey), the daughter of the hand Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) and best friend of his daughter, Rhaeynera.
While many are shocked by the decision, none of them more so than Corlys, who loudly reminds the king that “my house is Velaryon, the greatest power in the realm.”
At the end of the episode, Corlys unexpectedly turns to Daemon, whom he proposes to take on the sea battles that Viserys seems disinterested in pursuing. He argues that the two were cut from the same cloth, and are men who understand what it means to build something for himself.
“He feels that his family lost out in the state, when it came to power and recognition, simply because the Velaryons were seafarers and not dragonriders. The Targaryens are seen as gods because they had dragons,” Toussaint says, reiterating the same point Corlys made to Daemon.
What comes next remains to be seen -- at least for those who have not read George R.R. Martin’s novel Fire & Blood -- and Toussaint teases that Corlys’ blind ambition to elevate his family’s position could be more dangerous than it’s worth, or put them more in harm’s way than they were before.
“His vision for the family [will also] cause him to have to reflect on an awful lot of the choices that he has made in his life, in that sense. And to question whether he was on the right path or not,” Toussaint says, explaining this is in direct contradiction to the way Corlys has lived his life. “One of the things about being a nautical warrior is that life is very clear cut: ‘You either do this or you die, you do this or you’re lost.’ But suddenly, in the realm of human relationships, everything has 101 different possible consequences.”
The actor adds, “I think we get to see, certainly for Corlys, a point where he has to sort of stop and think, ‘Have I been right? Is this the right thing to do? The things that I did, there’s some damage that has been done. Is that my fault?’”
House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and HBO Max.