Who Is Alys Rivers on House of the Dragon?

Who Is Alys Rivers on House of the Dragon?

Some new faces are heading to Westeros, as HBO has revealed four cast members joining “House of the Dragon” Season 2. Among the additions are some new power players in the Hightower and Strong houses.

Gayle Rankin will play Alys Rivers, a healer and resident of Harrenhal. In author George R.R. Martin’s novel “Fire & Blood,” on which “House of the Dragon” is based, Alys is a witch who has mystical visions and becomes a powerful figure within the Targaryen’s Green faction. Rankin has previously appeared in Netflix’s “Glow,” HBO’s “Perry Mason,” and “The Greatest Showman.”

Simon Russell Beale will play Ser Simon Strong, the Castellan of Harrenhal and great-uncle to Lord Larys Strong, played by Matthew Needham in Season 1. Last year, Beale won a Tony for best actor in a play for “The Lehman Trilogy” and has won two BAFTA Awards and three Olivier Awards.

Freddie Fox will play Ser Gwayne Hightower, the son of Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), brother to Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke), and uncle to her children King Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney), Queen Helaena (Phia Saban), and Prince Aemond (Ewan Mitchell). Fox has starred in Apple TV+’s “Slow Horses” and British series “Year of the Rabbit,” “Cucumber,” and “Banana.”

Abubakar Salim will play Alyn of Hull, a sailor in the Velaryon fleet who served in the Stepstones campaign. Previously, Salim appeared in HBO Max’s “Raised by Wolves” and voiced the protagonist Bayek in the video game “Assassin’s Creed: Origins.”

Season 2 of “House of the Dragon” will be eight episodes, down from the 10 episodes in Season 1. Martin serves as co-creator and executive producer alongside showrunner Ryan Condal. Sara Hess, Alan Taylor, Melissa Bernstein, Kevin de la Noy, Loni Peristere, and Vince Gerardis are also executive producers.

Beale is represented by 42 and Anonymous Content. Fox is represented by Tavistock Wood. Rankin is represented by United Talent Agency, B-Side Management, Goodman, Genow, Schenkman, Smelkinson & Christopher, and Shelter PR. Salim is represented by Untitled Entertainment, CAA, Insight Management and Production, and Slate PR.

Alys Rivers is a healer who resides at Harrenhal during the Dance of the Dragons. Although not a maester, she has acted in that capacity since her predecessor fled the ruined stronghold shortly after arriving.

Alys is present at Harrenhal when the castle’s castellan, Ser Simon Strong, capitulates to Daemon Targaryen. When Daemon has a vivid hallucination and suddenly finds himself in front of Harrenhal’s weirwood tree, Alys tells him, “You will die in this place.”

The second time Daemon Targaryen meets Alys in her workroom, she tells him she is a bastard and that she knows he has been having visions and sleeping badly. She explains that the original curse of Harrenhal is because of the grove of trees and heart trees, attributing the curse to the old gods. Daemon dismisses it as a story. When he calls Alys a strange woman, she replies that she is not a woman, but a barn owl in human form. Alys questions his intentions, knowing he has not sent a raven to his wife in Dragonstone. She also questions if it’s because he wants to claim the crown for himself and hates his niece, who used to be under him. Daemon warns her not to try him with her insolence and accuses her of witchcraft. Alys gives him a drink that will help him sleep.

Alys was codenamed “AR” in casting calls. On April 24, 2023, HBO announced that Gayle Rankin had been cast in the role for “House of the Dragon” Season 2. Her character description reads as follows: “A healer working in the service of House Strong.”

In “Fire & Blood,” Alys Rivers was a wet nurse at Harrenhal during the Dance of the Dragons. She was allegedly a bastard of House Strong, the rulers of Harrenhal at this time, though her exact relationship to them is disputed between rival historians. The ribald and fantastical account of the court jester Mushroom maintains that she was a witch wielding magical powers; Septon Eustace claims she was a simple-minded woods witch; the more professional accounts by Grand Maester Munkun dismiss these, contending that she was simply a healer at Harrenhal with a decent knowledge of medicinal potions.

Munkun and Eustace both believed that Alys was probably a bastard daughter of Lyonel Strong, but Mushroom claims that she was in fact a wet nurse to Lyonel himself when he was an infant, making her old enough to be the grandmother of Lyonel’s adult sons at the time of the war. Mushroom believed that Alys practiced dark magic to maintain the appearance of youth, such as bathing in the blood of virgins. Munkun and Eustace similarly dismiss these claims, only to then grudgingly admit that while Alys had to be at least forty years old by the time of the war, all eyewitness accounts agree that she looked unnaturally young for her age.

Source: Variety, Redanian Intelligence, Warner Bros. Discovery

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