House of the Dragon: Young Aemond Targaryan actor Leo Ashton on auditioning, getting into character & filming
House of Dragon actor, 14-year-old Leo Ashton, reveals all about playing young Aemond Targaryan in the hit prequel to Game of Thrones.
House of the Dragon actor, teenager Leo Ashton, has revealed all about how he secured a place on the show and what it’s like to film the fantasy drama.
For the uninitiated, the Game of Thrones prequel has been confirmed as the most-watched HBO premiere ever and is a global hit.
Based on the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin, the series is set about 200 years before the events of GoT portraying the beginning of the end of House Targaryen - a civil war of succession, known as the "Dance of the Dragons".
Ashton plays the young Aemond Targaryen who, at the beginning of the series, does not yet have a dragon but when a scuffle over one of the beasts leads to him losing an eye, he is dubbed Aemond One-Eye.
Speaking to the Lancashire Post, the Chorley star tells all about securing the role, filming with the stars and what it’s like to ride a dragon…
On the set of House of the Dragon
Ashton was unsurprisingly blown away by the attention to detail on the House of the Dragon set and after 10 months of filming, he got to know it pretty well.
“I started pre-production in March 2021 and I finished filming in January 2022,” he said. “The set was unbelievable. It was huge but what I found amazing is it felt so real. And the attention to deal, like the carvings in the wall and the paintings blow your mind.’
Auditioning for House of the Dragon
Rocking up to the audition with a northern twang and no idea the scale of show he was getting into, it took some detective work to discover who he would be playing, sparking a determination to secure the part.
The 14-year-old said: “At the first audition, I didn’t know what I was auditioning for and I did it in a Chorley accent. It was top secret but I later found out what the show was and by Googling I worked out that I was auditioning for the role of Aemond. Then I did some more research about the character and sorted my accent out and made a decision that I was gonna get it. It was about six auditions in total and my agent eventually called to tell me the good news.”
He has since got the opportunity to work alongside many famous names and talented film-makers, saying of them: “They are all top class actors at the top of their game and it was an honour to work and learn from them. And they are all nice, down to earth people.”
Aemond Targaryen’s favourite dragon
It goes without saying Vhagar is both Aemond Targaryen and Ashton’s favourite dragon, with him saying of his steed “I lost an eye for that old girl” but what is it like flying the second largest dragon in the House of the Dragon universe? “A pleasure” apparently.
“Filming the dragon scenes was actually harder than I had expected and really technical,” Ashton admits. “I was on a buck that’s already got movements planned and at first I had to make it look like I was out of control of the dragon but then gain control, all the while I had wind blowing in my face.”
“Acting is all about reacting before you do or say something and it was hard to remember all the reactions when hanging in the air. The first day was really hard but that night I was able to relax and remind myself of all the work I’d done to prepare for this moment. Really I have trained all my life for it and I think my confidence went but it came back and the next day I gave it my all.”
Recalling a funny moment during filming with one of the show’s directors, Ashon said: “I found it quite funny when riding the dragon the stunt director Rory told me ‘Pretend it’s a horse mate, it’s like riding a horse, Leo!’ And I said ‘Mate I’m from a terrace house in Chorley - I’ve not been brought up riding a horse!’ But now my mum keeps telling me I’ve got to learn because I’m an actor.”
Leo Ashton on being home educated
In order to fulfil filming commitments, Ashton has been home educated, something he first experienced in the pandemic. He explains: “To be honest home education was something my mum and I had talked about for a long time and really during Covid I flourished from an educational perspective doing home learning.
“I had already missed so much school ( he was a student at Parklands High School) from filming the other shows I had done and now it just feels natural. I was actually still at my old school when I started this job and all my schools have been supportive of what I do. But when you’ve been working and filming from a young age you become more mature I guess, and more independent and more suited to home education.”
Getting into Aemond Targaryan costume and wig
According to Ashton, with prosthetics it takes about one hour and 45 minutes to get into full Aemond Targaryan mode, but if it’s just costume and makeup, a mere 45 minutes is all it takes.
And while he has plenty of support from friends and family, his parents do try to keep their son’s feet firmly on the ground. Ashton said: “Everyone’s dead proud of me but all my mum does is go on at me to tidy my room, it’s a weird one really because both my mum and dad are still actors so it’s quite normal in a way but also not because it’s the biggest TV show in the world!”
Leo Ashton the next James Bond
Delving into what the future holds - the already experienced actor hopes for even bigger parts coming his way. Talking about his dream role, he said: “Well I’m gonna be James Bond one day, but obviously that’s when I’m a bit older so I’m interested in projects that will stretch me as an actor and prove how versatile I am and it’s important to me that I tell stories that matter.” Laughing he adds: “And you wouldn’t say no to a marvel film!”
Offering his top tip for budding actors, Ashton recommends going to his mum’s acting school, Meladrama in Chorley, or failing that, another acting school “run and taught by people that know the business”, adding: “You also have to be really resilient because you get a lot of knock backs and you can’t let that bother you. Believe in yourself, and never stop learning.”