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How House of the Dragon Is Addressing Another Game of Thrones Criticism

The Velaryons will bring some much-needed diversity to the cast, according to the HBO series' showrunners.

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Corlys standing on a cliff over the sea.
Lord Corlys Velaryon, played by Steve Toussaint, in House of the Dragon.
Image: HBO

Game of Thrones might have been one of the biggest shows to ever grace a television screen, but it was not without its issues. In addition to fans being disappointed at how the story ended, the show was rightfully criticized about its often unflattering portrayals of women and its lack of diversity, to name just two things. Now, in the show’s first spinoff series House of the Dragon, those complaints are being dealt with head-on, and a new interview finally breaks down exactly how.

It was already fairly evident how House of the Dragon would deal with the franchise’s portrayal of women, and that’s by putting them front and center of the show. The main characters are Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower, two characters who’ll be portrayed at multiple ages by multiple actors, representing the core conflict on the show. Beyond that, in a interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik explained the main way the show would give Westeros some much-needed, very welcome diversity, and it’s by going against George R.R. Martin’s book. Kind of.

Besides the Targaryens, one of the other major houses in House of the Dragon are the Velaryons and, with one or two exceptions, the show will portray them as “as wealthy Black rulers marked by flowing silver dreads,” according to the EW piece. That’s not how they’re described in the books, but when the showrunners were talking to Martin about the show, the author revealed that he once toyed with the idea of the Velaryons being black, and they ran with the idea.

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“It was very important for Miguel and I to create a show that was not another bunch of white people on the screen,” Condal told the magazine. “We wanted to find a way to put diversity in the show, but we didn’t want to do it in a way that felt like it was an afterthought or, worse, tokenism.”

The Velaryons are crucial to the show because they have a legitimate claim to the Throne. Lord Corlys Velaryon, played by Steve Toussaint, is married to Rhaenys Targaryen—the King’s sister and the person who should be ruling, but was passed over because she’s a woman. Which might not be the case for her niece, Rhaenyra. It’s a whole thing.

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We might be getting more of the Velaryons too. Corlys is often referred to as “The Sea Snake,” named after his ship, and a prequel show about him and his rule over the seas of Westeros has been in development for some time. That means the decision to incorporate people of color into this show could flow down into others and create a much more accurate depiction of the world, no matter what era it’s set in.

Read much, much more about House of the Dragon in EW’s excellent feature. It’s chock full of goodies.

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Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.