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HotD's Olivia Cooke Was Glad She Ignored Twitter Until Filming Was Complete

The internet can be a place of knowledge and fun, an indispensable tool in many careers. However, the internet is not all sunshine and rainbows; sometimes it is dragon fire and blood.

It is not difficult to imagine why an actor working on a mainstream and highly-anticipated show like HBO's "House of the Dragon" would steer away from internet discussions surrounding their show and character. The internet, as magical as it can be, can also turn into a dumpster fire that will catch on to you if you get too close. Olivia Cooke, the actress who played the older version of Rhaenyra Targaryen's best friend turned rival Alicent Hightower, knows this as well as anyone could. So much so that she refrained from reading into internet discussions that could negatively affect her performance.

Especially knowing how divisive of a show "House of the Dragon" can be, how many fans align themselves as either "Team Black" or "Team Green," it is undoubtedly on the safe side to avoid getting caught up in the dissenting, disembodied virtual voices and their often-toxic words. As Cooke told Deadline back in late 2022, "I think sometimes the internet discourse can be a bit too black and white." And human complexity, which skilled actors strive to incorporate in their performances, is never black or white, but one of the infinite shades of gray. One may not condone or agree with her actions, but does that make Alicent a villain? Cooke doesn't believe so. 

Online discourse does not light the way

Returning to the podcast "In the Envelope" for the second time, this time after starring in Season 1 of "House of the Dragon," Olivia Cooke was asked about how she managed fan expectations of her character. "Luckily, I didn't really invite that in until we were already on the press tour and our episodes were already out," she said.

Only once all was said and done in regard to filming and episode premieres, Cooke and her co-star Emma D'Arcy decided to go on Twitter to check out what people were saying about the series in which both played such an integral part. Unsurprisingly, diving into that shark's tank was overwhelming. "Oh my God, it's like your phone's screaming at you," Cooke said. "There's a lot of opinions and a lot to take in [...]. Realistically, mostly positive but there are those really gross and flamboyantly evil tweets that do just reverberate around your mind."

It does not take a very long search online to encounter the kind of comments and criticism that can have this corrosive quality that Cooke describes.

It's not all black or green

It was probably for the best that Olivia Cooke's preemptive curiosity did not affect her performance as Alicent, given the fan discourse. Some comments can be humorous: "alicent i love you but why are your allies creepy "men", why are you doing this to yourself" tweeted @serenitydiary. However, there are extensive Reddit threads with hundreds of replies, for instance, where fans discuss what they perceive to be the problem with Alicent's character in the TV adaptation. Some of the things said can surely eat away at an acting professional's confidence, which completely justifies Cooke's caution.

It's important to not forget that some fans do see the "grayness" of the show's complex characters, Alicent's especially. "What I find interesting about Alicent is that I've gone from liking her, to hating her and loving her again. I think besides being a representation of women in history, she has a great personal story." wrote a Redditor.

While the discussion may not be all negative and disheartening, it was prudent of Cooke to evade getting sucked into that treacherous typhoon. "Often, you do a job and you wonder how it's going to be perceived, but this superseded all of our expectations," she told Harper's Bazaar in December 2022, "Now we've just got the pressure of season two..." 

Knowing the buzz "HotD" generated, the pressure must indeed be greater this time around. The cast and crew have the added responsibility in their hands to not disappoint the countless fans eagerly awaiting like famished dragons for the continuation of the terrible family in-fighting that leads to a destructive storm of fire and blood — this time not metaphorical.