Evan Mitchell revealed as Aemond Targaryen in ‘House of the Dragon’

Like most people, Evan Mitchell is used to anonymity. So on a recent trip to Manhattan, he was surprised when the hotel concierge asked him: “Aren’t you wearing a blindfold?”

Mitchell doesn’t usually wear a blindfold, but the one-eyed dragon-riding warrior Aemond Targaryen he plays in “House of the Dragon” does. The actor is still not used to being ogled by strangers in public.

He said, “I didn’t think people would recognise me, but they do. I think it’s because of my strong chin.”

It was a late afternoon in May, and Mitchell, 27, was sipping a Coke at the hotel bar. He was wearing a black Alexander McQueen suit and preparing to attend the second-season premiere of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon,” which follows two factions vying for the Iron Throne.

When Michel made his debut in the latter half of Season 1, Aemond, a willful second son who becomes greedy for his brother’s throne, quickly became one of the show’s most interesting and fearsome characters. Paired with Vhagar, the kingdom’s biggest, most dangerous dragon, and the man with the most sculpted chin in Westeros, Aemond exuded the quiet ferocity of a predator ready to pounce.

“When I look at myself in the mirror dressed as Emond, it scares me a bit too,” Michelle said.

The shocking ending to the first season, in which Aemond’s dragon kills Luceris VelaryonAemond’s rival and relative hinted to viewers that the one-eyed prince would play a central role in the impending civil war. In the most recent episode of Season 2, a fiery conflict between three dragons established Aemond as the new flag-bearer for their alliance – known as the Greens – and potentially the new king of the kingdom.

The result is that Mitchell, who had never watched or taken any interest in “Game of Thrones” before joining the prequel, now finds himself one of the faces of the franchise. To help promote this new season, he has embarked on his first major press tour and is adapting to its demands.

When he’s not in character, Mitchell is soft-spoken and sometimes flashes a boyish smile, though he retains Emond’s seriousness and quiet intensity. He is also very private: he stays off social media and has shied away from sharing much with the public in the past. “Once you lose the mystery, you can’t really get it back,” he said.

Still, he knows that Aemond’s important role in Season 2 means he’ll have to embrace the spotlight, too: “There’s a point where you have to go, it’s time to pull back the curtain.”

Like Emond, Mitchell is the second son. He grew up in Derby, an industrial city in the middle of England, and his parents wanted him to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and work at Rolls-Royce (the aerospace and industrial technology company, not the car maker).

Inspired by films like “Citizen Kane” and “Taxi Driver,” Mitchell knew from the start that he wanted to be an actor. When he was 13, his teacher asked each student in his class what they wanted to do when they grew up. One wanted to be an engineer; another wanted to work as an electrician.

“Then this idea came to me and I said, ‘I’ll be an actor,’ and everybody laughed at me,” Mitchell said.

Her family couldn’t afford drama school tuition, so Mitchell enrolled in a two-year vocational school, where she studied design and technology while working part-time in a restaurant and in customer service at a local soccer club. Midway through the program, at age 17, she was accepted into the Nottingham Television Workshop, a drama group that trains young people in acting. (Alumni include Bella Ramsay, Felicity Jones, and Samantha Morton.)

Through the workshop, Mitchell landed the lead role in a 2015 short film called “Fire,” about a young man whose hands shoot fire. Once the short was released, Mitchell downloaded it onto a dozen CDs, took a train to London, and stopped at every agent’s office to give them a copy. The one who called back continues to represent Mitchell.

“I wanted to make sure I could stay in this business any way I could,” Mitchell said.

He was later cast in ITV’s period drama “The Halcyon” and Netflix’s “The Last Kingdom,” and appeared as one of the Oxford students in the hit film “Saltburn.” But being cast as Aemond in “House of the Dragon” has been his biggest professional turn so far.

“Having achieved that, I feel like I can now decide the direction of my career,” he said.

Mitchell was re-watching the classic Hollywood adventure film “The Vikings” (1958) and thinking about how he wanted to play a morally dark character like the one played by Kirk Douglas when he received an email inviting him to submit a taped audition for the role of Emond. When he finally auditioned in person, he made a lasting impression on “House of the Dragon” showrunner Ryan Condal.

“When Ivan came into the room, he had a presence that I would call unsettling,” Condal said. “The way he performed it was quietly frightening, and it was totally different from everybody else. And then he thanked us very politely and walked out of the room.”

Condal recalls asking casting director Kate Rhodes James, “Is he always like that?” She replied, “Oh no, he’s just a very serious Northern boy.”

To prepare for his role, Mitchell did not watch “Game of Thrones.” Instead, he read excerpts from George R.R. Martin’s book “Fire and Blood,” which inspired the show, and studied the performances of Michael Fassbender in “Prometheus” and Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia,” each of whom played a man who uses power for his own selfish ends.

On his first day on set, Mitchell consulted Condal and decided he would avoid interacting with Matt Smith, who plays Aemond’s equally dangerous uncle and rival, Daemon, to heighten the tension between the two characters. Mitchell had grown up admiring Smith’s performance in “Doctor Who.” But on set Mitchell avoided any eye contact with him, keeping his distance until the climactic scene near the end of the first season when Aemond and Daemon finally come face to face.

“When you’re in the role of a character, it’s kind of addictive,” Mitchell said. “When you lose yourself for a moment, it’s almost like a dream.”

When he’s not acting, Mitchell still lives at his family home in Derby and spends time with his three dogs, named Eva, Bella, and Bonnie.

Although playing the leading role in an international hit and participating in an extensive press tour are new responsibilities for Mitchell, he is confident he can conquer these challenges. He said learning to manage and maintain this success has been a bit like taming and riding a wagger.

“Now that I’m on it, I have to stay on the Dragon,” he said.

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