House of the Dragon’s Matthew Needham on Playing the Show’s Master of Manipulation

If you watched season one of House of the Dragon, you have an idea of what Lord Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) is capable of. For instance, he arranged to have his own father and brother murdered to curry favor with Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke), and showed not one lick of remorse. In season two, Lord Larys has an elevated place of power within King Aegon II’s regime, but he’s also gotten even better at manipulating things from the shadows.

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“It’s all really about power and control,” Needham explained to a group of journalists, including io9, at a recent House of the Dragon press day. “Especially with Alicent, I think it is all about making the queen work for him … I don’t think he’s just some rabid lunatic. It’s all about control. Definitely. But then again, that’s the show, right? I mean, everything about House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones is about power. Everything can be seen through the prism of how people seek power and how we try to exert it over other people.”

While Lord Larys has gotten very good at playing the long game—taking his time to nudge the pieces he envisions into place—House of the Dragon season two’s rapid march toward war means it’s harder for him to plan ahead. “He’s caught off guard a lot this season, and his plans don’t work out,” Needham teased. “You see him having to pivot and adapt, improvise in the moment to survive and to try to get ahead. In moments like that, you really get to see what he’s made of—what he’s capable of and sort of how his brain works. That was very exciting to to play because the board is constantly moving, as it does in war time. He’s having to work a lot harder.”

Needham, who thinks Lord Larys has no boundaries at this point (“He’s a pretty wild guy!”), also has to take physicality into consideration as part of his performance. Lord Larys walks with a cane because he has a misshapen foot, and he’s become adept at using that to make other people underestimate him. In fact, he leans into it, Needham explained. “I just try to make myself as small as possible,” the actor said. “I remember reading [about clinical] psychologists, if they really want [someone] to open up and not feel threatened, it’s good to sort of be below their eye line. So it was always a conscious thing, to just try and be below the person I’m talking to, his eye line. So that was part of it: try to be as small as as possible, which is fun to do.”

House of the Dragon season two returns to HBO and Max June 16.

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