‘House of the Dragon’ producer: Sexual violence will occur ‘off-screen’


Fans of “Game of Thrones” can expect a tamer series in the upcoming “House of the Dragon” spinoff.

The prequel to HBO’s hit fantasy series premieres Aug. 21, but showrunners are getting ahead of potential controversy by insisting that their spinoff will downplay sex — particularly the more violent sort that made the series’ predecessor infamous.

The show’s executive producer Sara Hess recently addressed how much sexual violence will actually be shown on-screen.

“I’d like to clarify that we do not depict sexual violence in the show,” Hess told Vanity Fair Tuesday.

“I think what our show does, and what I’m proud of, is that we choose to focus on the violence against women that is inherent in a patriarchal system,” Hess continued.

“There are many ‘historical’ or history-based shows that romanticize powerful men in sexual-marriage relationships with women who were actually not of an age to consent, even if they were ‘willing,’ ” the producer also noted. “We put that on-screen, and we don’t shy away from the fact that our female leads in the first half of the show are coerced and manipulated into doing the will of adult men.”

Emma D’Arcy, as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, and Matt Smith, as Prince Daemon Targaryen, in “House of the Dragon.”
HBO
Olivia Cooke, as Alicent Hightower, and Rhys Ifans, as Otto Hightower, in “House of the Dragon.”
HBO

Hess went on in an attempt to garner sympathy with the show’s problematic male characters. “[Violence] is done not necessarily by those we would define as rapists or abusers, but often by generally well-meaning men who are unable to see that what they are doing is traumatic and oppressive, because the system that they all live in normalizes it. It’s less obvious than rape but just as insidious, though in a different way,” she said.

“House of the Dragon” will include plot lines involving rape and sexual assault; however, the actions themselves will not be shown so superfluously.

“We handle one instance off-screen, and instead show the aftermath and impact on the victim and the mother of the perpetrator,” she explained.

“In general, depicting sexual violence is tricky,” the “Orange is the New Black” writer admitted. “I think the ways we think about it as writers and creators are unique to our particular stories.”

“House of the Dragon” is a 10-episode prequel set 200 years before “Game of Thrones.”
Courtesy of HBO

Showrunner Miguel Sapochnik also shed light on upcoming sex scenes in “House of the Dragon” with the Hollywood Reporter last month, noting that the show will “pull back” on the level of intimacy indicative of “Game of Thrones.”

“You can’t ignore the violence that was perpetrated on women by men in that time. It shouldn’t be downplayed and it shouldn’t be glorified,” Sapochnik told the outlet.

He added that he and his co-showrunner Ryan Condal “carefully” and “thoughtfully” planned out the moments of sexual abuse in the new drama wires. 

While “Game of Thrones” ended in 2019, star Gemma Whelan confessed what shooting sex scenes was actually like in an interview with the Guardian just last year.

Even though the cast had consent with each other, directions for the scenes were a “frenzied mess,” Whelan claimed.

Jason Momoa also spoke about the sensitive scenes he shot with co-star Emilia Clarke in a New York Times interview last summer. The pilot episode of “Game of Thrones” saw the “Aquaman” star’s character Drogo assault his would-be queen Daenerys Targaryen (Clarke).

When the outlet asked if Momoa “thinks differently about those scenes today,” he responded, “Well, it was important to depict Drogo and his style. You’re playing someone that’s like Genghis Khan.”

Emilia Clarke played Daenerys Targaryen in “Game of Thrones” throughout its run, from 2011 until 2019.
Jason Momoa and Emilia Clarke in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
©HBO/Courtesy Everett Collectio

He continued, “It was a really, really, really hard thing to do. But my job was to play something like that, and it’s not a nice thing, and it’s what that character was. It’s not my job to go, ‘Would I not do it?’ ”

The scene was criticized by fans at the time, due to the original story by author George R. R. Martin having the couple engage in a love affair consensually.

Bluntly, Momoa concluded, “I’ve never really been questioned about ‘Do you regret playing a role?’ We’ll put it this way: I already did it. Not doing it again.”