The actor remarks, “I f—-ing adore that, in a week, the public is going to very much shift their opinion of him.
The actor from England who plays Ser Criston Cole in House of the Dragon, Fabien Frankel, believes he has a far better understanding of the character now than he did when the drama was being filmed in 2021.
He will have considerably more insightful responses for when he has to participate in the next interview if the truly good journalists—likely the ones who are thoroughly versed in Game of Thrones lore—ask the right questions.
One September night, as he sips a beer from his London apartment, 28-year-old Frankel makes the jest that “it’s kind of like seeing a therapist for your character.”
He developed the role in real-time while filming scenes as Criston, the common-born Dornish knight of the Kingsguard who was hand-picked by Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) to serve as her protector.
He gives the example that unless you are in a situation with Matt Smith’s character Daemon and Criston Cole, “you don’t know how a scenario’s going to play out between Daemon” and “Criston Cole.” “You can only do so much planning in advance. Only now, after some thought, am I able to fully comprehend what I was thinking. It is a very strange phenomenon.”
With the benefit of hindsight and the experience gained from dozens of these “press therapy sessions,” Frankel characterises Criston as impetuous and more reactionary than premeditated. In fact, the actor says, “I don’t think there’s anything intentional about him, at least in the beginning of the episode.”
It explains a crucial turning point in the battle that not only turned a significant wedding scene in episode 5 into mayhem but also marked the beginning of the chaos.
“He is first put up as one thing, but as the show progresses, he significantly alters. That’s what I found exciting, “said Frankel. “He is shown as a kind, honourable warrior who is there to defend Rhaenyra. And those who have studied the Bible will know that he is by no means that.”
The wedding of Rhaenyra and Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate), a planned union of House Targaryen and House Velaryon through blood, prompted Criston, on duty in the Kingsguard, to keep guard over the welcoming feast. At first, the director staged the scenario with Criston much more front and centre, but Frankel resisted.
The night when Daemon returned to King’s Landing, Criston first broke his vows and slept with Rhaenyra, who has been his secret lover ever since. Criston approached Rhaenyra earlier in the episode. To cross the sea to Essos, where they could get married out of love rather than out of obligation, Criston intended to flee with her and give up both of their titles.
Criston was left with the realisation that his own dignity as a chaste knight had been damaged when Rhaenyra rejected his offer.
Frankel says, “I don’t think he’s looking for any kind of conflict during this wedding at all. He wants to be as far away as is physically possible if anything. Criston, however, who is emotionally fragile, encounters friction.
Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod), also known as the Knight of Kisses, Laenor’s lover, approaches the betrayed swordsman. Rhaenyra and Laenor established a pact to fulfil their obligations to the throne by getting married and having children while letting each other live their true wishes in secret.
Joffrey presses Criston to pledge to defend their alliance and their consorts, setting off a rage-filled fit in Criston. In the midst of the celebration, the knight of the Kingsguard beats Joffrey to death with his bare hands, sending the place into a frenzy.
According to Frankel, the death, which takes place under different conditions than they do in George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood, was the culmination of everything that came before the carnage.
“It’s not because [Rhaenyra] says she won’t travel with him, in my opinion. I believe it has to do with how she claims she won’t leave with him. That scenario might have been written so easily, with him asking her to flee with him; she recognises his feelings, but she is unable to relinquish her position as queen. Instead, she will give him a way out if he wants to quit the Kingsguard. That situation is quite likely to take place. It’s not.
That intrigues me greatly. She determined to leave him there. She forced him to endure the wedding on his feet. There is where the hostility grows.”
Frankel saw this reflexive nature as soon as the process started. He brings up the scenes from the first episode’s tournament where Criston, a talented common fighter, won the crown by outdueling Prince Daemon Targaryen in a joust and battle.
Frankel was unaware that Smith would swat Criston’s hand away after conceding defeat in character. He concluded right there and then that was Criston’s motivation for asking Rhaenyra for a favour in an effort to irritate Daemon.
The actor’s own mother was quick to point out as she saw the premiere that Criston smacks Daemon in the back during the tournament bout, Frankel continues.
Frankel quotes his mother as saying, “You really only get to see his genuine colours in this first episode.” “He remains firmly in this one vein of [being] fairly noble and respectful in [episodes] 2, 3, and 4. Actually, that isn’t who he is at all.”
Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, who co-created House of the Dragon, said to Frankel that they always imagined Criston as a woman “thug.
” According to Frankel, they frequently discussed “how he would lose his thuggishness as the show went on and he got an understanding of the Machiavellian politics of this world.”
Additionally, the actor compared the Dornish to the Irish in England in the middle of the 20th century in order to play into the ethnic politics of being a Dornishman in Westeros. He explains, “I actually got something from it that I dug into a lot.
Compared to some of his prior work, such as his first movie part in Last Christmas (against Game of Thrones veteran Emilia Clarke) and Netflix series The Serpent, he has had to consider significantly more character development for this role. However, he finds enjoyment in it, especially given that both his character and the show as a whole are undergoing transition.
The season’s midpoint is reached with episode 5’s conclusion in House of the Dragon. It also means that we will advance in time to witness Queen Alicent and Rhaenyra in their adult guises, played by Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke, respectively.
When Alicent (still portrayed by Emily Carey in episode 5) prevents Criston from committing suicide during the wedding ordeal, viewers are given a tease. A change in alliances is imminent.
I f—-ing adore that the audience’s perception of him will significantly shift in a week, says Frankel. According to Rhys Ifans’ character Criston, “I think that Criston is, in many ways, a fly on the wall, but without the Machiavellian tendency of a character like Otto.” “Otto is continuously strategizing, plotting, and listening.
There is no planning or plotting going on, but Criston Cole is keeping his ears to the ground. You have a very intriguing dynamic where someone is listening in on every conversation that is taking place, whether he is on Rhaenyra’s side or any other character’s.
Criston Cole will, in my opinion, gradually grow to play a crucial role in the Dance of the Dragons as the series progresses, and long may [it] continue—and long may [it] continue into many more seasons for HBO.”
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