Viserys I looking intently

George R.R. Martin’s "A Song of Ice and Fire" has returned to HBO with "House of the Dragon," a prequel series to "Game of Thrones" focusing on the reign of the Targaryen family. The series features all the fantasy action, lush sets and costumes, and, of course, all the dragons that you’d expect, hoping to resuscitate fervor for the franchise after the original show’s severely disappointing sendoff.

Set 200 years before the beginning of "Game of Thrones," "House of the Dragon" shows House Targaryen near the height of its power. But, as is always the case in Westeros, their rule isn’t nearly as secure as it looks. Anyone who’s seen the original HBO series or read Martin’s phenomenal novels will know that the family ultimately perishes in its own mantra of fire and blood. "House of the Dragon" chronicles the beginning of the descent that eventually leads to the birth and tyrannical rule of the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen II, and the subsequent wars for the Iron Throne.

The fantasy world that Martin has built is a large and complex one. As such, it takes a pretty big cast to bring it all to life. Like "Game of Thrones" before it, "House of the Dragon" features an extensive ensemble composed of both big-time stars and lesser-known actors. Here’s where you’ve seen the cast of "House of the Dragon" before.

Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen

Paddy Considine posing

Someone must always sit on the Iron Throne, and at the start of "House of the Dragon," that responsibility falls to King Viserys Targaryen, played by veteran actor Paddy Considine. King Viserys has been described in HBO’s official promotions for the series as a "good man," setting him miles apart from the "Game of Thrones" character who later bears his name. Of course, those who have read George R.R. Martin’s "Fire & Blood" will know that Viserys’ rule eventually leads to a chaotic time for Westeros as the so-called Dance of the Dragons conflict takes shape.

Outside of Westeros, Considine has had a long and varied career in both film and television. A versatile and lauded performer, he’s equally well known for artistic dramas like "Tyrannosaur" (which he also wrote and directed) and big-budget blockbusters like "The Bourne Ultimatum." He’s also collaborated with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on "Hot Fuzz" and "The World’s End." Considine’s other major TV roles include Claude Bolton in the Stephen King adaptation "The Outsider," the despicable Father John Hughes in the British crime saga "Peaky Blinders," Mr. Martin in the Jude Law miniseries "The Third Day," and Gabe Waters in Amazon’s "Informer."

A seasoned stage actor as well, Considine is no stranger to the works of William Shakespeare, making him a great fit for the Shakespeare-inspired "A Song of Ice and Fire" universe.

Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower

Olivia Cooke posing

Though the Targaryens are at the center of "House of the Dragon," they’re far from the only great house in Westeros with a stake in the game. One of the other major players is House Hightower — a family that doesn’t play an especially major role in "Game of Thrones," but which has a long and storied history on the continent. One of the main characters in "House of the Dragon" is Alicent Hightower, daughter of Ser Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King. Though she may not look particularly dangerous or powerful at first glance, Alicent is a shrewd and determined political player who lands at the center of the Dance of the Dragons.

Alicent Hightower is brought to life by English actor Olivia Cooke, a young star who’s nonetheless accrued a lot of notable credits in her career. Cooke first rose to prominence by starring in a couple of BBC miniseries, including the gritty drama "Blackout" and the supernatural thriller "The Secret of Crickley Hall" (alongside "Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams). She’s also plied her trade in the Alfred Hitchcock-inspired series "Bates Motel" and the ITV historical drama "Vanity Fair." On the big screen, Cooke has appeared in films like "Ouija," "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," "Sound of Metal," and Steven Spielberg’s "Ready Player One," in which she co-stars as Art3mis/Samantha.

Steve Toussaint as Corlys Velaryon

Steve Toussaint smiling

What would "A Song of Ice and Fire" be without a few cool, enigmatic rogue warrior types? That’s the archetype that Lord Corlys Velaryon falls into in "House of the Dragon," though you’d be wrong to write him off as simply a trope. Viewed in his day as the best sea captain in all of Westeros, Corlys hails from a family nearly as prestigious as House Targaryen. A key part of the royal court and a respected ruler in his own right, the Sea Snake (as he’s known to some) isn’t a man to be trifled with.

You might not immediately recognize the name of Steve Toussaint — the actor responsible for bringing Corlys Valeryon to life — but you’ve almost certainly seen him in something. The Hollywood veteran has had a long career, with credits that range from genre fare like "Judge Dredd" and "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" to serious dramas like 2005’s "Shooting Dogs." Toussaint is most prolific on television, though, with roles that include Barry Christie in "The Knock," Joseph Moody in the British crime procedural "Inspector Lewis," Adam Lockwood in the BBC miniseries "Broken News," and Ethan James in Netflix’s "Pine Gap." He’s also made smaller appearances in popular shows like "CSI: Miami," "Skins," and the long-running medical soap opera "Doctors."

Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen

Matt Smith at Comic-Con

At the center of the drama in "House of the Dragon" is Prince Daemon Targaryen, played by British star Matt Smith. The younger brother of King Viserys and uncle to Princess Rhaenyra, Daemon is a dragonrider, warrior, and all-around major player in the politics of the continent. A complicated figure to say the least, he played a major role in the Dance of the Dragons and the preceding political turmoil, in part because of his own desire for power.

Most fans of sci-fi and fantasy television will instantly recognize Smith as the Eleventh Doctor in "Doctor Who," a role he played for three seasons from 2010 to 2013 and for which he gained widespread acclaim. His version of the Time Lord is young, frenetic, and ultimately tragic, leading the franchise through one of its most popular and unique eras. Fans of historical dramas may know Smith better for his role as Prince Philip in Netflix’s "The Crown" — a performance that earned him a Primetime Emmy nomination in 2018.

On the big screen, Smith is known for roles like Jack in Edgar Wright’s "Last Night in Soho," Alex in "Terminator Genisys," and the villainous Milo in the "Morbius" movie. An experienced actor with credits as both action heroes, bad guys, and conniving politicians, Smith is perfectly positioned for his role in "House of the Dragon."

Emma D’Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen

Emma D'Arcy posing

The main action of "House of the Dragon" precedes and involves the Dance of the Dragons, a civil war of sorts fought between different Targaryen claimants to the Iron Throne. One of those claimants is Rhaenyra Targaryen, played in the HBO series by Emma D’Arcy. While Rhaenyra is the eldest child of King Viserys — as well as a fierce dragonrider — her gender ultimately complicates the royal succession she believes she’s owed. This tension is one of the main sources of conflict that eventually plunges the Targaryen family into chaos.

An actor equally at home on the stage and the screen, D’Arcy got their start in various live theater productions in the U.K. before landing some TV and film roles. D’Arcy plays Naomi Richards in the British miniseries "Wanderlust," Sonia Richter in the Amazon thriller "Hanna," and the co-lead role of Astrid in the paranormal spoof series "Truth Seekers," alongside the likes of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Malcolm McDowell.

The role of Rhaenyra in "House of the Dragon" is undoubtedly D’Arcy’s highest-profile role to date, and if "Game of Thrones" is anything to go by, it may be the part that launches them to stardom.

Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower

Rhys Ifans smiling

Every "Game of Thrones" fan knows what an important (and often dangerous) position the Hand of the King is in Westeros. Depending on the current monarch of the land, the Hand may wind up being the true ruler behind the scenes. Like his father before him, King Viserys Targaryen relies on Otto Hightower as his Hand, played in "House of the Dragon" by Rhys Ifans. A longstanding member of the royal court and a man of nearly impeccable reputation, Otto is also the father of Alicent Hightower — a role that ends up pulling him even further into the messy family politics of the Targaryens.

A Welsh actor and longtime star of the screen, Ifans is probably best known for his film roles as Spike in "Notting Hill," Xenophilius Lovegood in the "Harry Potter" franchise, and Dr. Curt Connors (aka the Lizard) in "The Amazing Spider-Man." Ifans has also had a number of prominent television roles, playing Hector DeJean in "Berlin Station," Gubby in the 2021 miniseries "Temple," and Sherlock Holmes’ older brother Mycroft in the CBS crime procedural "Elementary." Another member of the "House of the Dragon" cast with a thorough familiarity with the works of William Shakespeare, Ifans brings a classical pedigree to his performance as the Hand of the King.

Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Targaryen

Eve Best smiling

Dragonrider, overlooked heir, and wife to the Sea Snake Corlys Velaryon, Princess Rhaenys Targaryen occupies a unique role in the royal court of Westeros. Named for one of Aegon the Conqueror’s sisters and wives, Rhaenys carries the less-than-proud nickname of the Queen who Never Was — a reference to her being passed up as successor to King Jaehaerys I in favor of her cousin Viserys. Being denied the Iron Throne does little to curb Princess Rhaenys’ influence and drive, however, and she forms a fearsome couple with her seafaring husband.

Rhaenys is played by TV stalwart Eve Best in "House of the Dragon." Her earlier screen roles include Ellen McGillivray in the sci-fi miniseries "The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells," Eleanor Shackleton in Kenneth Branagh’s "Shackleton," and Sarah Cartwright in the short-lived ITV series "Vital Signs." More recently, she’s appeared in the BBC drama "The Shadow Line," the Maggie Gyllenhaal miniseries "The Honorable Woman," and Netflix’s teen fantasy show "Fate: The Winx Saga" as Alfea College headmistress Farah Dowling. Best is probably most recognizable for her longstanding role as Dr. Eleanor O’Hara in "Nurse Jackie," and for her supporting performance as Wallis Simpson in "The King’s Speech."

Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria

Sonoya Mizuno smiling

Initially an outsider in the court of King Viserys Targaryen, Mysaria isn’t even a native of Westeros. And yet, she eventually rises to become what HBO calls "the most trusted — and most unlikely — ally of Prince Daemon Targaryen." The relationship between Daemon and Mysaria in George R.R. Martin’s writing is a bit more complicated than this description lets on, but suffice it to say that she’s a cunning strategist, someone who refuses to let barriers like class or birth rights stop her from rising up.

Mysaria is brought to life by Sonoya Mizuno, an actor arguably known best for her many collaborations with sci-fi auteur Alex Garland. Mizuno has featured in several of Garland’s projects, playing Kyoko in the A.I. drama "Ex Machina," Lily Chan in the 2020 miniseries "Devs," Katie in the cosmic horror masterpiece "Annihilation," and a bit part in "Men." Her other film credits include Jon M. Chu’s "Crazy Rich Asians," in which she plays Araminta Lee, Disney’s live-action remake of "Beauty and the Beast," and "La La Land." Mizuno also stars as Dr. Azumi Fujita in Netflix’s sci-fi miniseries "Maniac" alongside Jonah Hill and Emma Stone.

Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole

Fabien Frankel smiling

Neither a Lord nor a ruler, Ser Criston Cole might seem at first like the odd man out in the main cast of "House of the Dragon." Being common-born, he’s not exactly overflowing with riches or power, but he manages to gain a station in the world thanks to the influence of his father, the Lord of Blackhaven, and his own determination. After all, if past "Game of Thrones" characters have taught us anything, it’s that Westeros brings fame and fortune to anyone willing and skilled enough to fight for it.

Just as Criston Cole is a bit of an unknown quantity in "House of the Dragon," so too is actor Fabien Frankel, the least established star in the main cast. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Frankel got his big break in the BBC One miniseries "The Serpent," which tells the terrifying real-life story of French serial killer Charles Sobhraj. Frankel plays Dominique Renelleau, a man who survived death at the hands of Sobhraj in the 1970s. He’s also appeared in films like the 2019 romantic comedy "Last Christmas" (alongside "Game of Thrones" star Emilia Clarke) and the TV movie remake "NYPD Blue."

Tom Glynn-Carney as Prince Aegon II Targaryen

Tom Glynn-Carney posing

While not part of the official main cast in "House of the Dragon," Prince Aegon II Targaryen plays a massive role in both the show and the overarching history of the Targaryen family. The first-born son of King Viserys, Aegon bears the name of the original Targaryen conqueror, a heavy legacy for anyone to live up to. Of course, Aegon faces the added challenge of living through one of the great family’s most complicated eras, one that he himself contributes to in a number of ways.

English actor Tom Glynn-Carney plays Aegon II in "House of the Dragon," one of his highest-profile roles to date. Prior to being cast in the show, the actor was probably best known for his role in Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic "Dunkirk," in which he plays co-protagonist Peter Dawson. The film ended up being a huge break for the young star, leading to major roles in the Amazon miniseries "The Last Post," the Nicholas Hoult-led biopic "Tolkien," and the big-budget adaptation of Shakespeare’s "Henry V," "The King," alongside Timothée Chalamet.

Even prior to his debut in Westeros, Glynn-Carney has managed to assemble an impressive number of major credits to his name, and his part in "House of the Dragon" is sure to launch him even higher.

Graham McTavish as Ser Harrold Westerling

Graham McTavish smiling

Where would a king of Westeros be without his Kingsguard? The white-cloaked guardians of the royal family have always played a key role in "A Song of Ice and Fire," and that tradition continues in "House of the Dragon." As Lord Commander of the Kingsguard during the reign of King Viserys Targaryen, Ser Harrold Westerling has a lot on his plate. "House of the Dragon" sets him in a tumultuous time for the family he’s sworn to protect, but he carries himself with dignity and professionalism nonetheless.

Fans of the fantasy genre should be well acquainted with Graham McTavish, the actor responsible for embodying Ser Harrold in "House of the Dragon." He plays the dwarf Dwalin in all three of Peter Jackson’s "The Hobbit" films, as well as portraying Dougal MacKenzie in "Outlander." Just as comfortable in a voice booth, McTavish has lent his vocal talents to a number of video games and animated series and films. He voices Dracula in Netflix’s critically-acclaimed "Castlevania" series, for which he’s earned particular praise, in addition to voicing characters in the "Uncharted" games, "Call of Duty," and "Dragon Age."

That all barely even scratches the surface of McTavish’s career, which also includes credits like King Atlan in "Aquaman" and the Saint of Killers in "Preacher" among many other smaller roles. McTavish is exactly the kind of genre veteran you want on the cast of "House of the Dragon."

Bill Paterson as Lord Lyman Beesbury

Bill Paterson smiling

Not every Great House of Westeros can have stags, wolves, or dragons on their banners. Take House Beesbury, for instance — a family of the Reach who, as you might expect, bear beehives upon their standards. While the family may not be too important during the events of "Game of Thrones," one particular Beesbury — Lord Lyman — plays a key role in "House of the Dragon." As an ally of the Hightowers and the Master of Coin on King Viserys’ Small Council, this otherwise unassuming man holds a substantial amount of influence in the realm at the start of the show.

Who better to portray an unassuming bee lord than experienced character actor Bill Paterson? The Scot is best known in recent times for playing Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s father in "Fleabag." Of every star on this list, Paterson may have the longest resume, as his on-screen career stretches all the way back to the early 1970s. As such, he’s been a mainstay of British TV for decades, starring in shows like "Traffik" (the inspiration behind Stephen Soderbergh’s 2000 film), "Shrinks," "Hard Times," and the 1995 adaptation of "Oliver’s Travels," among others. More recently, he’s appeared in series like "Outlander," "The Rebel," "Good Omens," and "Law & Order: UK."

Paterson’s film credits include roles in "The Killing Fields," "The Witches," "Spice World," and "Love Sarah." He also had a brief feature on "Doctor Who" in 2010 alongside his "House of the Dragon" co-star Matt Smith.