House of the Dragon's Matthew Needham on Larys' Deadly Duplicity, His Cagey Role in the Game of Thrones

It’s always the quiet ones.

Up until Sunday, House of the Dragon‘s Larys Strong seemed like an unthreatening, if gossipy, court denizen. But then, at the end of the hour, he swiftly orchestrated the murder of his brother and father — all because Queen Alicent had vented to him about them at the end of a long and trying day. (Read a full recap.)

In addition to revealing Larys’ similarities to Game of Thrones schemers like Varys and Littlefinger, his surprise move has the power to change everything: If the now-vacant Hand of the King position is filled by its former holder, Otto Hightower, as the Episode 7 trailer hints it might be, that’s one more powerful person Alicent and her children have on their side in the fight against Rhaenyra for the Iron Throne.

But back to Varys — Anyone that simultaneously catty and efficient automatically pinged very loudly on our radar. So we were pleased when Matthew Needham (Sanditon, Doctor Who), who plays the conniving character, was up for a chat. Read on for his take on Episode 6 and beyond, starting with a correction for the record.

TVLINE | So, let me get something straight right off the bat. I originally thought Larys’ insect in his cane was a bee. I have since learned it’s a firefly?
Yes, it’s a firefly.

TVLINE | Talk to me a little bit about the significance of that particular creature for him. It’s obviously not the House Strong sigil.
I just sort of imagined it as a light in the darkness, right? That’s how I saw it, but we never had massive meetings. That’s how I just sort of interpreted [it], how he sort of leads the way.

TVLINE | From an outside view, I’d say maybe he’s the darkness.
[Laughs] Yes.

TVLINE | But do you think that he thinks he’s a great truth-teller, shining light where needed? How does he seem himself?
I don’t know about truth-teller. But I think maybe with Alicent, it’s a sort of sharing of who you are. He’s very good at seeing across the lies that we construct around ourselves. He’s been watching. He’s been sitting silently, nobody talking to him, watching people. All of his life, he’s been watching people. There’s the mask that we all wear, and I think he’s very good at seeing through that to who people really are. He can see through the whole matrix, as it were, of the Game of Thrones… the brutalness of it.

TVLINE | I was really struck by Larys in Episode 3. Almost all of the men are out hunting, but because of his physical disability, he’s hanging out with the women in the tent. Please tell me if you think this is too far a reach, but men on the whole in this show go about getting what they want in a brutal, outright manner, while the women often hae to be a little more ingenious, a little more deceitful sometimes. Is it going to far to say that since Larys is so often relegated to hanging out with the women at court, he’s picked up their ways?
Yeah, I don’t think that’s far-fetched at all.. He’s just got very good at listening and observing and you know, not acting immediately out of any sort of masculine impulse, which is to change anything instantly, you know? He’s waiting until all the pieces are in the right position, and then, you know, if you’re going to do something, do it once and be as effective as possible, I think.

TVLINE | There’s not much about Larys in the source material, Fire & Blood. And I know that showrunner Ryan Condal has said that that gives the show a lot of leeway in how they interpret what is known about him. How much did you know about the character as you came into the role?
Nothing. It was actually only after I got the role, when you sort of see other scenes, where you’re like, “Oh, right. It gets dark.” [Laughs]  Yeah, nothing. I love Ryan saying that he’s not featured in the books very heavily, which probably means [Larys is] smart enough to not get caught for any of the mad stuff that he does. That’s informative in itself, just his absence [from the history], but yet how present he is and how present he has to have been, and yet they can’t pin him down.

TVLINE | Speaking of mad stuff: He pretty handily engineered the murder of his father and brother, and kind of quickly, right? Seems like it maybe wasn’t a brand-new thought for him in the last episode?
Yeah, I wondered if he always was just waiting for the right opportunity for that to fall into his lap, really. I think he’s been probably looking for an excuse for a long time, and again, all the pieces, after years and years and years, came into place, and he could make one decisive move. One impactful move.

TVLINE | What about his relationship with Alicent? Do you think he has any actual, friendly affection for her? Or is she just a means to an end?
I’m not sure, really. I sort of go in and out. In his head, despite it being a very manipulative relationship, I think there is a sort of sick, weird affection. Again, like with the firefly, the light in the darkness, I think he can see the real her. I think. This is just my own opinion, but I think he can see what she’s capable of, and he wants to draw it out.

TVLINE | Both of them are people without a lot of allies, too.
Yeah. They’re both outsiders among the natives… I think that’s how he sees himself, and I think that’s how he sees her.

TVLINE | In the book, Larys is able to gather a not-small amount of power as the years move on. Is that part of his grand design? Or is he more moving from moment to moment in an opportunistic fashion?
It’s hard to talk about, but I think he’s got something he wants to achieve. At the same time… he’s just sort of going moment to moment, waiting for the best opportunities to present themselves. Does that make sense?

TVLINE | It does. Also: That plan gives him time to work on his skin-care regime. He did not age at all in that 10-year time jump!
[Laughs] Oh, yeah, he’s got Nivea. He moisturizes.

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