ComingSoon spoke with House of the Dragon star Matthew Needham, who plays the villainous Larys Strong on the HBO series. The actor discussed his character and what he loved about the role. The first season is now available on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD.
Jeff Ames: What initially drew you to House of the Dragon?
Matthew Needham: Well, it was at the end of 2020, and it was this extraordinary project. It’s massive.
How familiar are you with your character in the stories? Does knowing your character’s fate inform the way you approach the role?
I don’t know how loyal anyone is staying to the books. Everyone’s story ends the same, doesn’t it? We live and die as Larys does in Fire and Blood. There’s a lot of space to fill in as the story continues. I didn’t have any problems knowing [Larys’] story would ultimately end with a sticky fate, but I suppose most people do.
What is the appeal of a character like Larys Strong for you as an actor?
Well, he’s not like me. It’s always nice to play someone who is very different from yourself. It’s nice to play a quiet person who watches, especially on a show like this. It was very pleasurable to be quiet on scenes and observe brilliant artists work.
Were there any nuances you brought to the character?
That’s all from the script and following clues. He says, ‘When you’re never invited to speak you learn to observe.” You know you watch. This is a very quiet person who has a very debilitating deformity in a world to people who are physically different. It makes so much sense that this is a guy who sort of sat quietly and waited and watched. I suppose I could relate to that. I’m not outgoing — I’m not an extroverted sort of person. So, I could sympathize with somebody who would rather take stock of the situation rather than inserting himself into it dynamically all of the time. That’s all script, really, and talking with directors and trying things out and staring at people creepily. [Laughs]
Do you empathize with Larys at all?
No, I think anyone who has had a hardship or has been done wrong — yeah, I don’t think he’s justified in what he does at all. He’s a very disturbed — obviously — individual. I think he’s taking revenge on the world. That’s how I see him — he’s taking revenge on a world that has not treated him kindly in the most twisted way possible.
The first time you see him he’s just sitting with a group of ladies and has not said a word. He’s just sitting there. In the last scene, he’s dictating policy with the Queen. He’s going, “You need to kill these people, you need to get rid of this thing now!” He’s saying it to her as if that’s what she should do. He’s dictating policy. He just doesn’t look like he is.
How dangerous is a man like Larys Strong?
I don’t know. There’s a real rogue’s gallery, isn’t there? He doesn’t have any allegiances. He’s not operating within the constraints of empathy or love. That’s what he says, “I’m quite a useful person because I don’t have these meddlesome things like emotions getting in the way.” So, I think he’s a very dangerous person, and he’s pissed off. For everyone else, it’s about family, and there’s real human emotions behind their actions. For him, it’s not that. There’s no sort of worthy thing to him.
Would you compare him to someone like the Joker, who just wants to watch the whole thing burn to the ground?
I don’t think he’s a complete anarchist. There’s more ego to him than that. It’s about power and about control. For somebody who has had nothing – no control, no responsibility, nobody gave him any acknowledgment, to slowly be accumulating more sway and more power, I think that’s what he’s going for.
He’s only in the show for like 13 or 14 minutes, so it’s not a huge amount of screen time, but within that he’s done some insane things. But he hasn’t even started yet.
A lot of your scenes come opposite Olivia Cooke. What was it like working with her?
Oh, she’s so great. 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 nice to see her. My schedule is very sporadic on House of the Dragon. I’ll slip in for a day or two days. I was gone for months at a time and then back again, so it was always a little bit like the first day of school every time — a little anxiety-inducing to come into a set like that. She was always wonderful and very collaborative. I can’t say enough nice things about her, really.
How are you preparing for Season 2?
Annoyingly, I was told under pain of torture not to say a single thing about Season 2. There are ninjas nearby. I’m so sorry. [Laughs]
No worries. You were also in the movie (briefly) The Ritual, which I love. Do you have any behind-the-scenes stories you can share about that one?
Oh, great! I’m in it, honestly blink, and you’ll miss me. I was on it for a week back in 2016. I had a great time, though, on it. We were filming in Transylvania or somewhere. We got up in the middle of the night in the forest in Transylvania, I think. I’m a big horror fan. It’s cool that you like that film. It’s great.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can discuss?
Well, next year I’ve got Ridley Scott’s Napoleon movie coming out with Joaquin Phoenix. That was fun! I’m in a new television version of Great Expectations coming out next year.