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Ewan Mitchell Shines as Aemond Targaryen in “House of the Dragon”

Ewan Mitchell Shines as Aemond Targaryen in “House of the Dragon”

Ewan Mitchell, like many, is used to anonymity. However, that changed during a recent trip to Manhattan, when a hotel concierge surprised him with the question, “You didn't put on your eyepatch?” It was a nod to his role as Aemond Targaryen, the one-eyed warrior who rides a dragon in “House of the Dragon.”

Mitchell, who doesn't usually wear an eye patch, is still getting used to being recognized in public. “I didn't think people would recognize me, but they do,” he noted. “I think it's because of my big chin.”

One afternoon in May, Mitchell, 27, was sipping a Coke at the hotel bar, dressed in a black Alexander McQueen suit, getting ready for the Season 2 premiere of “House of the Dragon.” HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel follows two factions vying for the Iron Throne.

Mitchell’s debut in the second half of Season 1 saw Aemond, the determined second son with ambitions for his brother’s throne, become one of the show’s most endearing and intimidating characters. Paired with Vhagar, the kingdom’s largest and most formidable dragon, and sporting the most chiseled chin in Westeros, Aemond exudes the quiet ferocity of a predator ready to strike.

“Even I, when I dress up as Aemond and look in the mirror, get a little scared,” Mitchell confessed.

The climactic finale of season one, in which Aemond's dragon slays his rival and kinsman Lucerys Velaryon, hinted that the one-eyed prince would play a pivotal role in the ensuing civil war. In the season two finale, Aemond's fiery clash with three dragons cements his status as the new leader of his faction, the Greens, and potentially the new ruler of the realm.

Mitchell, who had little interest in “Game of Thrones” before joining the prequel, now finds himself one of the franchise's most prominent faces. To promote the new season, he's embarked on his first major press tour, adapting to his needs.

Off-screen, Mitchell is soft-spoken and occasionally flashes a boyish smile, though he retains much of Aemond's seriousness and quiet intensity. He values ​​his privacy, staying away from social media and sharing little with the public. “Once you lose the mystery, you can't get it back,” he noted.

However, he understands that Aemond's significant role in season two requires him to embrace the spotlight. “There's a point you have to get to, now is the time to pull back the curtain,” he said.

Like Aemond, Mitchell is a second-born son. He grew up in Derby, an industrial city in central England, where his parents expected him to follow his older brother into a career at Rolls-Royce (the aerospace and industrial technology company, not the car manufacturer).

Inspired by films like Citizen Kane and Taxi Driver, Mitchell knew from an early age that he wanted to be an actor. At 13, when his teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he confidently declared, “I'm going to be an actor,” despite the laughter of his classmates.

His family couldn't afford drama school fees, so Mitchell attended a two-year vocational school, studying design and technology while working part-time in a restaurant and as a customer service representative at a local football club. At 17, he was accepted into the Nottingham Television Workshop, a theatre group that trained young actors. This led to a starring role in the 2015 short film “Fire,” which he used to secure an agent by distributing CDs of the film to various agencies in London.

Determined to make it big in the industry, Mitchell was later cast in ITV’s historical drama “The Halcyon” and Netflix’s “The Last Kingdom,” as well as a role in the hit film “Saltburn.” But landing the role of Aemond in “House of the Dragon” was his biggest break.

“Since I got it, I feel like I can steer the course of my career,” he said.

Mitchell was rewatching the classic Hollywood adventure film “The Vikings” (1958) and thinking about playing a morally ambiguous character like Kirk Douglas when he received an email inviting him to submit a taped audition for Aemond. His in-person audition left a lasting impression on Ryan Condal, the showrunner of “House of the Dragon.”

“When Ewan walked into the room, he had this presence that I can best describe as eerie,” Condal said. “It was kind of quietly terrifying the way he performed it, and it was totally different from everyone else. And then he thanked us very politely and left the room.”

To prepare for the role, Mitchell read parts of “Fire & Blood,” the George R.R. Martin book that inspired the series, and studied the performances of Michael Fassbender in “Prometheus” and Peter O'Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia,” focusing on characters who wield power for their own ends.

On set, Mitchell decided to avoid interacting with Matt Smith, who plays Aemond's uncle and rival Daemon, to increase the tension between their characters. Despite admiring Smith's performance in “Doctor Who,” Mitchell kept his distance until the climactic confrontation between Aemond and Daemon toward the end of the first season.

“There’s this kind of compelling quality when you’re in a character’s shoes,” Mitchell said. “When you lose yourself for a moment, it’s almost like a dream.”

When not acting, Mitchell resides at the family home in Derby and spends time with his three greyhounds, Eva, Bella and Bonnie.

While playing a leading role in an international hit and embarking on an extensive promotional tour are new responsibilities for Mitchell, he is confident in his ability to master these challenges. He compares managing his newfound success to taming and riding Vhagar.

“Now that I've done that,” he said, “I have no choice but to stay on the dragon.”

By Ronda Pickman

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