Prince Harry

Prince Harry

By John Winfield
June 17, 2024


Young House of the Dragon star Harry Collett, who plays Prince Jacaerys Velaryon, sits down with DQ to talk about his process as an actor, learning to sword fight and his dream collaborators.

Harry Collett might now be starring in one of the biggest shows on television, but he was a matter of seconds away from turning his back on the idea of an acting career entirely.

The 20-year-old Brit, who portrays Prince Jacaerys Velaryon in Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, was just six when he was approached by a talent agent in a shopping centre and given the opportunity to audition for a stage production.

But when the day came, the young Collett wasn’t feeling it. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do it,’” he tells DQ. “I went to this audition and I was going to walk out. I really wasn’t getting the vibe – it’s quite hard for a six-year-old to enjoy those types of things. I was sitting in the audition room for ages. I was about to leave, my mum and dad opened the door – and they called out my name just as I was about to leave. My dad said, ‘You might as well give it a go.’

“So I went in, and that was the first ever role I got, for Billy Elliott the musical when I was little, and it just kept snowballing from there.”

Collett has since grown up on screen, with his most significant roles including a recurring part in long-running BBC hospital drama Casualty and starring opposite Robert Downey Jr in 2020 movie Dolittle.

Harry Collett (right) with Robert Downey Jr in Dolittle

Now, the actor has his biggest role to date. As Jacaerys in House of the Dragon, he plays the son of Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy), who as S2 begins is teetering on the brink of all-out war against her half-brother, Aegon Targaryen.

At the end of the first season, the death of King Viserys (Paddy Considine) sparks a power struggle that ultimately results in Aegon taking to the Iron Throne as king of the Seven Kingdoms, following a misunderstanding created by Viserys’s dying words.

With Aegon and his supporters (known as the Greens) and Rhaenyra and her allies (the Blacks) equally convinced of the validity of their respective claims, the stage is set for civil war. And when Prince Lucerys – Rhaenyra’s youngest son and Jacaerys’s brother – is killed by a dragon ridden by Aegon’s brother and ally Aemond in the final moments of the last episode, all hell looks likely to break loose.

That shocking moment leaves Jacaerys, or ‘Jace’ for short, as Rhaenyra’s only heir as S2 gets underway, and it naturally meant a meatier role for Collett, who first appeared in the eighth episode of S1 following a time jump after the end of episode seven.

“It’s been really refreshing playing a character like this this season because he’s matured a lot. And he’s obviously gone through grief. So I’ve really been able to experiment with my acting skills in a way that I didn’t really get to do in season one,” says Collet. The actor features in the opening scene of the eight-episode new season, which debuted on HBO and streamer Max in the US yesterday and lands on UK screens today via Sky Atlantic and Now TV.

He now has a major role in House of the Dragon, playing a potential heir to the Iron Throne

“He’s maturing on screen. We finally get to see Jace becoming somewhat of an adult. As much as what happened to his little brother was bad, we really get to see him turning into a better person and someone who’s worthy of the Iron Throne.”

Playing a more significant part – his character is also among the show’s few dragonriders – this time around has also allowed Collett to bring more of his own ideas to the table, with showrunner Ryan Condal granting him space to do so.

“It’s nice because I’ve had the opportunity to really test out new things,” he explains. “I’ve had a lot of freedom and it’s been really, really cool working with the different directors and the producers and obviously Ryan again.

“Ryan’s given me so much freedom with this character. And I love this character dearly. All I wanted was for him to be portrayed in the best way. Ryan has done it beautifully, and I’ve even brought some of my ideas and they’ve just sort of merged, and hopefully we’ve created something really cool.”

In particular, Collett wanted to ensure he captured the right “tone” for Jace following his brother’s death, which itself came on the back of the deaths of both his biological father, Harwin Strong, and the man officially presented as his father, Laenor Velaryon (although the latter’s death was faked – long story…).

“Some people thought it was meant to be a little bit softer, but I feel like Jace – especially this season when the stakes are high and the emotions are high – he’s just aggravated all the time,” he notes. “He’s gone through such an unbelievable amount of loss that I just think he’s not even thinking. Royal protocol has gone out the window. He just wants his revenge.”

Collett reserves particular praise for Emma D’Arcy, who plays his mother in the fantasy series

The impact of that loss comes to the surface in a poignant scene from the first episode, when Jace sees his mother for the first time since they both learned of Lucerys’s death, requiring Collett to conjure up some tears. However, the task was made more challenging by the perennially ebullient atmosphere on set.

“It’s really hard to be sad already, because everyone on set is so joyful. You walk in and you’re like, ‘Stop being happy! Everyone stop being happy to me – I have a sad scene today,’” he says. “But they gave me 45 minutes to an hour to myself in this tent [to prepare]. I came in a little bit earlier, I turned off the lights, just own my own, with my noise-cancelling headphones on and music.

“I have this thing that I created called a Jace Journal, which is like a diary with a dragon on it, which I write in from the point of view of Jace for every scene, and I make up some scenes in my head and write them down. And even after [filming for S2 finished], just to finish it, loads of different stories.

“It really helped me from season one to season two to stay in that mindset, because we obviously didn’t go straight into filming the next one, and it was quite challenging to stay in that headspace. With a combination of the lights, the music, the no noise and me writing, it sort of felt like Jace’s brain went into mine and it just started flowing. And then it was go time and the scene happened, and I’m quite proud of it, actually.”

Of course, being set in the Game of Thrones universe means the drama in House of the Dragon is physical as well as emotional, with the George RR Martin adaptations famous for their violence, from epic battles to intimate assassinations and everything in between. With this in mind, Collett took it upon himself to learn sword fighting after finishing work on S1.

Collett’s character Jacaerys is reeling from the loss of his brother at the end of S1

“From season one to season two, I took up sword training myself just because I was quite interested in it. But we’ll have to wait and see if anything is to happen this season,” he teases.

“It was really interesting to get into the longsword – there’s a language to it and there’s a way of doing things and the movements. Obviously the stuntmen on season one were great and were introducing me to a whole new thing I’d never done before, but now it’s like, I just felt a lot more confident and I’d learned all these different moves. I know how to actually sword fight – which I don’t think I’ll ever have to do in real life, but it’s cool to know if I ever get another job with swords in it.”

Also part and parcel of starring in a fantasy series is the requirement to get to grips with a number of strange and often tongue-twisting words and names that crop up in the scripts.

Collett jokes that the “weird words and languages” pose one of the biggest challenges of the job “because I’m from East London.” Thankfully, however, “I have an amazing dialect coach on set called Danielle, and she really helped me get the gist of things,” he adds. “Sometimes I don’t pronounce my Hs or my Ts, and you have to be very royal and speak properly, so Danielle really helped me with that.

As one of the youngest people on the call sheet, Collett has also been able to look to a range of established and experienced co-stars for advice or support. In addition to D’Arcy, the ensemble cast includes Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen, Jace’s uncle and de facto father figure (due to being married to Rhaenerya, who is also Daemon’s niece – again, long story); Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower, Rhaenerya’s childhood friend and now enemy; Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower, Alicent’s scheming father; Steve Toussaint as Rhaenerya ally Lord Corlys Velaryon; Eve Best as Corlys’s wife Rhaenys Targaryen; Fabien Frankel as Criston Cole, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard; Tom Glynn-Carney as King Aegon II; and Ewan Mitchell as one-eyed dragonrider Aemond Targaryen.

Asked if any his co-stars in particular have provided guidance, Collett says: “100% – Matt Smith, Steve Toussaint and the wonderful and beautiful Emma D’Arcy, because I spend most of my days with Emma. They’re just great.

The actor, who turned 20 at the start of this year, opposite Matt Smith in season one

“I’ve been quite lucky throughout the years in my career of having somebody there who’s had a lot of experience, so there’s always been one person who has taken me under their wing. There are multiple here, but I’d say the main is Emma D’Arcy, who is always helping me, always making sure I’m OK on set and being like a second mother, if you like, even though they’re not my real mother. On screen, off screen, they’re just beautiful and I’m so grateful to share this world with them.”

One might think that being part of one of the world’s biggest shows would mean the young star would need all the support he can get. But while House of the Dragon has undoubtedly elevated Collett’s profile, he says he doesn’t mind the extra attention: “I’m definitely starting to get recognised more. I would never complain about it because it’s really flattering. And you know, when I go home, I’m just Harry. So it never happens at home.

“When I’m in other places, promoting this or walking around London and somebody asks me for a photo, it’s quite flattering because it’s just nice to meet the fans of the show, the people who are making this possible. Because without the fans, we wouldn’t have this – it’s a beautiful story, but the fans make it.”

As for where his career may take him beyond House of the Dragon – the show has just been renewed for a third season – Collett is fairly tight-lipped. “I can’t really say what I’ve got coming up,” he says, “but exciting things.”

That doesn’t stop him from sharing details of his dream collaborators with DQ, however. Asked to pick out one director in particular, he points to the man behind Interstellar, the Dark Knight trilogy and Oppenheimer. “There are a lot of directors I like, but I’d have to say Christopher Nolan,” he says, “because I was in [Nolan’s 2017 war film] Dunkirk for seven seconds and I’d love to work with him properly and do a really good movie.”

And what about in front of the camera? “My all-time favourites have always been Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt,” he reveals. “They’re so versatile in what they do and they’ve made such good movies. It would be a dream – I don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance. I’d probably pick one of those two, but mostly Leo.”

For now, however, Collett is conscious he’s already living the dream. “I couldn’t ask for a better job, to be honest,” he says. “I really enjoy it. I realise how lucky I am to be in this industry. I know it can be quite difficult to get into, but I’m just extremely lucky.”

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