House of the Dragon star Steve Toussaint once auditioned for Game of Thrones
Sometimes it feels as though just about every working actor in the U.K. has auditioned for Game of Thrones at one point or another. It's the nature of the size of the industry and the demand for English accents on the Emmy-winning fantasy drama. So, it's not surprising that Toussaint (Small Axe, It's a Sin) found himself in that situation.
During an interview at London's Groucho Club in December, Toussaint tells EW he auditioned for multiple parts on Game of Thrones over the years but never got booked. "I was just hardly ever seen for it," the actor, 57, remarks.
He doesn't remember all the roles he auditioned for, but he does remember one. "I ended up working with a girl called Jessica Henwick. I did a job with her," he says, referring to Amazon series Fortitude. "Now, in her section of the story [in Game of Thrones], there's her and there's her sisters with the whips and stuff." That would be Henwick's Nymeria Sand, who's known with her siblings as the Sand Snakes in Dorne. "Then there's her mother, who's [played by] Indira Varma. And then there's her uncle. Her uncle has a bodyguard. That was one of the roles I auditioned for."
Toussaint is talking about Areo Hotah, a part that eventually went to actor DeObia Oparei on Game of Thrones. Areo served as captain of the Martell guard and personal bodyguard of Prince Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig), ruler of Dorne.
It's funny for Toussaint to look back on his failed audition years later as he's about to debut on screen as Lord Corlys Velaryon, a.k.a. the Sea Snake, one of the main roles of Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon. "I'm glad I got this rather than that," he admits.
House of the Dragon will go back hundreds of years before the events of Game of Thrones to the heyday of the Targaryen empire. Corlys, known as Lord of the Tides and head of House Velaryon, is a famed explorer who has traversed farther than anyone in Westeros.
The descendants of House Velaryon were once described in the books of author George R.R. Martin as having pale skin and silver hair, but House of the Dragon showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik wanted to change the origins to allow actors of color to take more prominent roles in the series. Apart from the Targaryen crown, Corlys is arguably the most powerful person in Westeros. While the Targaryens rule the skies with their dragons, the Velaryon fleet command the seas.
"No one wants to f--- with him," Toussaint confirms of Corlys. "Although he's quite good at the politics of things — politics and plotting and intrigue are a huge part of this series as opposed to the other one — he's actually more at home when he is on the battlefield or when he is at sea," he adds. "It's much simpler then. If you don't do it right, you die. There's no gray. But of course he has this huge ambition. This idea of legacy, it's a big deal for him."
Toussaint began to think of Corlys in a similar light as Lord Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones. Some of the first sides the actor received for the House of the Dragon auditions were scenes of Charles Dance dialogue from the original show, and that image stuck with him.
He also points to a past role of his in Small Axe, in which he played the father of a man who joins the police force. "I think he was a good father, but I think he needed some edges polished off a little bit," Toussaint explains. "But everything that he did, he thought was the right thing for his children. 'You're not going to be a policeman, you've got a f---ing degree. You're going to lead us.' And so I kind of think Corlys is in that mold of [fatherhood]: 'I know you think you want this, but I know better and in 20 years time, you'll thank me for it.' But of course, it doesn't work that way."
House of the Dragon premieres on HBO this Aug. 21. Read EW's cover story for an exclusive sneak peek.
Subscribe to EW's West of Westeros podcast before it launches on Aug. 21.
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