Matthew Needham reflects on season 1
ComingSoon spoke to House of the Dragon star Matthew Needham, who plays the villainous Larys Strong on the HBO series. The actor talked about his character and what he loved about the role. The first season is now available on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD.
Jeff Ames: What first drew you to House of the Dragon?
Matthew Needham: Well, it was at the end of 2020, and it was this amazing project. It is big.
How well do you know your character in the stories? Do you know how your character describes how you approach the role?
I don’t know how faithful one lives to the books. Everyone’s story ends the same, doesn’t it? We live and die as Larys does in Fire and Blood. There is a lot of space to fill as the story continues. I had no problem knowing [Larys’] the story would end with a sticky ending, but I guess most people will.
What is the appeal of a character like Larys Strong for you as an actor?
Well, it doesn’t seem like it to me. It’s always nice to play someone who is very different from yourself. It’s great to play a silent bystander, especially on a show like this. It was a great pleasure to be quiet on the scenery and to see the work of great artists.
Were there any nuances you brought to the character?
That’s all from the script and the following hints. He says, “When you are never invited to speak, you learn to watch.” You know you’re watching. This is a very quiet man who has a very weak deformity in a world of physically different people. It makes so much sense that this is a man who sat quietly and waited and watched. I guess I could relate to that. I’m not out – I’m not that type of person. So, I could empathize with someone who would rather take the position than dynamically insert himself all the time. That’s all scripted, really, and talking to directors and trying things out and looking at people artistically. [Laughs]
Do you sympathize with Larys at all?
No, I think that anyone who has had a hard time or has gone wrong – yeah, I don’t think he’s rational in what he’s doing at all. It is very worrying – obviously – an individual. I think he is taking revenge on the world. That’s how I see it – he’s taking revenge on a world that didn’t treat him kindly in the most complicated way possible.
The first time you see him he’s just sitting with a group of women, and he hasn’t said a word. It just sits there. In the last scene, he dictates policy with the Queen. He said, “You have to kill these people, you have to destroy this thing now!” He says to her as if that is what she should do. It depends on the policy. It just doesn’t look like it.
How dangerous is a person like Larys Strong?
Don’t know. There really is a rogues gallery, isn’t there? He has no loyalty. He does not operate within the boundaries of compassion or love. That’s what he says, “I’m a very useful person because I don’t have these interesting things like emotions getting in the way.” So, I think he is a very dangerous person, and he is pissed off. For everyone else, it’s about family, and there are real human emotions behind their actions. To them, that’s not it. No kind of thing deserves it.
Would you compare it to someone like the Joker, who just wants to see the whole thing burn to the ground?
I don’t think he is a complete anarchist. He has more ego than that. It’s about power and control. For someone who had nothing – no control, no responsibility, no one gave him any recognition, slowly accumulating more control and more power, I think that’s what he’s going for.
He’s only in the show for 13 or 14 minutes, so it’s not a lot of screen time, but within that he’s done some crazy things. But it hasn’t even started yet.
A lot of your scenes will be opposite Olivia Cooke. What was it like working with her?
Oh, she’s so good. We bumped into each other a few weeks ago. I haven’t seen anyone in ages because we’re all busy doing other things, but we literally bumped into each other on the street. It was so good to see her. My schedule is pretty sporadic on House of the Dragon. I’ll slip in for a couple of days. I was gone for months at a time and then back again, so it was always a bit like the first day of school every time – a bit nervous coming in your set like that. She was always wonderful and very cooperative. I really can’t say enough nice things about her.
How are you preparing for season 2?
Unfortunately, I was told on pain of torture not to say a single thing about Season 2. Ninjas are nearby. I’m so sorry. [Laughs]
Don’t care. You were also in the (short) film The Ritual, which I love. Do you have any behind-the-scenes stories you can share about that one?
Oh, great! I am there, honestly pressing, and you will miss me. I was on it for a week back in 2016. I had a great time, though. We were filming in Transylvania or somewhere. We got up in the middle of the night in the woods in Transylvania, I think. I’m a huge horror fan. Glad you like that movie. It’s awesome.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can talk about?
Well, next year I have Ridley Scott’s Napoleon Movie coming out with Joaquin Phoenix. That was fun! I am in a new television version of Great Expectations coming out next year.