House Of The Dragon producers say to expect opulence and a faithful adaptation

House Of The Dragon is set 170 years before the events of Game Of Thrones. PHOTO: HBO GO

SINGAPORE - What DNA will the House Of The Dragon series take from its predecessor, Game Of Thrones (2011 to 2019)?

Will the new HBO series, set in novelist George R.R. Martin's world of sorcery and dragons, avoid the Thrones final-season storytelling shortcuts that upset so many fans?

House co-showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, speaking at a virtual press conference, took on the DNA question but only spoke indirectly about Thrones' controversial eighth and final season, considered by many to be rushed and unsatisfying.

House Of The Dragon is set 170 years before the events of Game Of Thrones. Based on Martin's two-volume Fire & Blood book (2018), the show tells the story of the Targaryen family, the rulers of the land of Westeros.

The series will premiere in Singapore on HBO Go on Aug 22.

British showrunner Sapochnik, 48, says viewers can expect the new show to carry on the Thrones tradition of massive battle scenes.

For Thrones, he directed Hardhome (2015) and The Battle Of The B*****ds (2016), episodes featuring the series' most memorable massed attacks.

"I became involved in making Game Of Thrones look a certain way, particularly when it came to battle scenes. So, it seems important to keep doing the things I was doing," he says.

Besides large-scale battles, the new series will impress on viewers the power and prestige of the Targaryen dynasty.

"The opulence of the Targaryen empire is at its height. There's a beauty and elegance to everything - you're watching a cross of King And I and Lawrence Of Arabia," he says, mentioning two sweeping biographical epics, released in 1956 and 1962 respectively.

But there was one formula-breaking move the House creative team tried.

They "Disney-fied" the early parts of the season, says Sapochnik, by making them more light-hearted. This would allow the later, more sinister chapters to emerge as a surprise. But in the end, they ditched it and went back to the Thrones method of mixing the light and dark into every episode.

"We tried it and realised it didn't work. There's a strong way of making Game Of Thrones and if it ain't broken, don't fix it. You have to give in to it - it's simple and elegant."

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American showrunner Condal, who is in his early 40s, says the series will be faithful to the book, which was presented as a scholarly record written by a Maester, which in author Martin's universe is a member of a class of learned men.

"I promised George that we would render a faithful adaptation of his work and I think we have succeeded," he says, indirectly addressing the issue of liberties taken with Martin's storylines in the final Thrones seasons, resulting in fan disappointment.

"What's interesting is that Fire & Blood is not written as a novel. It's not a narrative. It's a fake history, written by a Maester who is sifting through three different accounts of events and trying to figure out what really happened because the accounts don't agree," he says.

"That unreliable narrator method gave us great latitude when we went to make the series. But we still approached it in a linear way because we wanted a simple method of telling a complex story," he says.

The writers took the approach of the show acting as the "objective truth" of what actually happened, so those who have read the books can enjoy it as a "companion piece" that follows certain story paths and avoids others, he says.

English actor Matt Smith, 39, plays Daemon Targaryen, younger brother of King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine). In the first episode, Daemon is shown to be easily provoked into shocking acts of violence.

Daemon is not completely without virtue, says Smith, speaking at a separate conference.

A Still from the series House Of The Dragon starring Matt Smith. PHOTO: HBO GO

He became a fan of Thrones because he noticed that loyalty - to a higher calling, to family honour or to a house one's family is sworn to defend - featured prominently and was a trait found in some of its most loathsome characters.

"I was really interested in the idea of loyalty in the show. For all his shortcomings, Daemon's incredibly loyal. It's something interesting that can be explored," he says.

As Daemon, a skilled swordsman who is clad in armour in many scenes, Smith recalls feeling the heat. "A lot of the first episode is lit by candlelight and flames. It's so hot under the armour. Added to that, you've got this tunic that is worn underneath the breastplates and swords," he says.

Daemon's outbursts - verbal and physical - give the first episode its violent edge. Smith promises that as more episodes are aired, viewers will see that there is more to the man than just ego and the settling of scores.

The actor says: "I think the danger in Daemon comes from his fragility. There's a strange sort of tenderness to his menace.

"It's fun to play a baddie, but whether he's really a baddie or not, I'm not sure, really. But certainly, it's always fun to play someone on that side of the tracks."

House Of The Dragon will premiere on HBO Go on Aug 22.

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