The Long Night is upon us. In our time of need and Game of Thrones withdrawal, I chatted with season 7 breakout star Wilf Scolding who portrays the infamous Rhaegar Targaryen. I got to go ten rounds with this legend asking everything from his character prep to what he would name his own dragons!
Not only did Scolding bring the character that single-handedly stirred the events leading up to the entire gist of Game of Thrones to life, but his deep appreciation for the role and the show we all love make him that much more endearing. As a fan and admirer, I hope we get to see more of Mr. Scolding as Rhaegar Targaryen in the final season of Game of Thrones set to air on HBO the first half of 2019.
What advice would you give to your son with Lyanna Stark, Jon Snow, if you could tell him anything as a father about how to fight The Great War against the Night King?
WS: “I’d tell him to play to his strengths, which are many, and trust his instincts.”
Did you draw any inspiration for your portrayal of Rhaegar from the book lore or was the show sufficient in preparation for the role?
WS: “I read everything I could about Rhaegar because he’s such an important character. I wanted to do him justice so I wrote down everything every other character wrote about him in the show as well.”
So much conflict and death came from the annulment of the marriage between Rhaegar and Elia. Do you feel like your character had pure motives marrying for love despite the tragic outcome?
WS: “I personally think Rhaegar was driven by love and by prophecy – both seem to have been very important to him.”
While you haven’t physically been on the show for long, your character defined many others since the series’ inception. What was it like to be cast as Rhaegar Targaryen knowing the importance of what he brings to the Game of Thrones world?
WS: “It was a huge honor to be cast as Rhaegar, I couldn’t believe it! I will always feel lucky.”
Did you get the opportunity to meet or interact with fellow actors on the show to help bring your performance to life?
WS: “I met Sophie, Maisie, Isaac, and Peter Dinklage very briefly, which impressed upon me the reality of the magic of the world I had been welcomed into. They were all lovely and very welcoming themselves.”
How do you think your character differs from your on-screen sister, Daenerys, in terms of leadership?
WS: “I think Rhaegar loved his people, but I think he was born into power and responsibility whereas Daenerys gained power through her own efforts and struggle. Because of this, I think Rhaegar perhaps felt more inclined to follow his heart when he fell in love, whereas (in my opinion) Daenerys never forgets her responsibilities to her people.”
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You have a dragon named after you. That’s a pretty significant tribute. If the roles were reversed, what would your character name his dragons?
WS: “It’s pretty cool! I’d name them Daenarion, Elion, and Lyannon.”
If you were to support a house, other than Targaryen, which would it be and why?
WS: “Stark! Because I married one!”
Given the opportunity, do you think Rhaegar would have met with Robert Baratheon to openly address the Lyanna situation or would he always prefer the battlefield?
WS: “I think from the books we can say Rhaegar would have preferred a settlement that didn’t involve fighting, but Robert had had his wife stolen… emotions were running high!”
What has been the highlight for you as an actor with being part of the Game of Thrones family and what memories will you hold on to the most?
WS: “I loved it all. The costume, the wig, the world, the other actors, being part of one of the greatest shows ever made has been a massive privilege. The fans are great as well!”
If you aren’t Team Targaryen after reading this interview you must owe a hefty fee to the Iron Bank. Not only does Mr. Scolding share his insight on what makes Rhaegar tick, but his words truly humanize this legendary figure who has been a looming presence since the show began. Rhaegar was just a solid guy who fell in love — and the audience fell in love with him in return! I can’t wait to see what happens in the final season of Game of Thrones and no matter who winds up on the Iron Throne, I hope we get to see more Rhaegar before the game is over!