House of the Dragon’s Emily Carey says she received homophobic abuse over season 1

House of the Dragon actor Emily Carey has spoken about the homophobic hate she received from fans who accused her of pushing her lesbianism onto her character.

Speaking to The Independent, Carey, who played the young Alicent Hightower in the Game of Thrones prequel, revealed she was the victim of trolling and “borderline homophobic hate” from fans who claimed she weaved her sexuality into Alicent’s narrative.

Aged 17, Carey portrayed Alicent as she navigates friendship, palace politics, and later pregnancy. In interviews around season one’s launch, Carey and her on-screen best friend Milly Alcock, who played a young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, spoke about the “romantic subtext” between their characters, with Carey saying that in rehearsals it felt like they were “going to kiss”.

Carey said the backlash to her comments was “a lot to take on”, and that the claims she had forced her sexuality upon her character was “absurd”.

“As a queer person, I received a huge amount of borderline homophobic hate on the internet,” Carey said.

“I had a lot of comments that I’d forced my lesbianism on these characters, which is just absurd, in my opinion. All we said was that if you wanted to see this potential spark between them, you could.”

Milly Alcock and Emily Carey in ‘House of the Dragon’ (HBO)
Milly Alcock and Emily Carey in ‘House of the Dragon’ (HBO)

“I mean, it wasn’t something we were ever consciously playing. It wasn’t something where we thought, ‘Hey, let’s throw this in. This will be fun.’ It was just something that we spoke about, as we felt this sort of palpable tension between the two characters.”

Carey added that her character Alicent, who is 14 in the series, struggled with the idea of love because she was married to man “she’s not necessarily in love with but she holds some love for him, and I think the word ‘love’ is very subjective within the world of the show”.

“Alicent and Rhaenyra are 14, they’re in this world that, by the way, isn’t even real, it is all very made-up… and they don’t know what this means.”

Emily Carey said she received ‘borderline homophobic hate’ after season one (HBO)
Emily Carey said she received ‘borderline homophobic hate’ after season one (HBO)

The actor, who is now 21 and is about to star in Netflix’s forthcoming YA series Geek Girl, has said she has learnt how to deal with negative feedback and trolling over the years.

“I’m learning to only take on board what is going to benefit me in some way. I love hearing from the fans of the show, and hearing people’s opinions on the characters,” she said. “But it taught me a lot, and while I’m very appreciative of the fans, and as much as I love them, I think I’ve stopped listening now.”

Carey also reflected on the backlash she received from fans when she said her character Alicent was not a straightforward villain, stating that viewers forget the amount of research and energy that actors put into their character’s wider narrative.

“It was also the thought of people discrediting the time and effort and energy and so much of myself that I’d put into this role, when it comes to me stating that Alicent, my Alicent, my version of Alicent, when I’m playing with her at 14, 15 years old, where she is a product of the patriarchy and somewhat a victim, my Alicent, I would not say is the villain. I would agree that she grows up into some form of villain.”

Carey was 17 when she filmed ‘House of the Dragon’ (Getty Images)
Carey was 17 when she filmed ‘House of the Dragon’ (Getty Images)

She added that the show’s creator and writer George R R Martin has often said that there are no opaque villains or goodies in the show.

“He said that he writes grey characters, and that’s the beauty of it,” Carey reflected. “And that’s the beauty of this war that we’re about to witness in season two is that you can pick your team.

“It’s not as straightforward as everyone hating this character and everyone loving this character, but it was very difficult to contend with the noise on the internet.”

After five episodes, Carey and Milly Alcock departed the series, with Cooke and Emma D’Arcy stepping in to play the adult versions of their characters, Queen Alicent Hightower and Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen.