Steve Toussaint Isn’t Fazed by Racist House of the Dragon Criticism

It’s really sad how ignorant fans are and mean-spirited. But, I am glad to hear that  he is not fazed by it! ~V

They’re happy with white hair and violet-colored eyes, but a rich Black guy? That’s beyond the pale.

It wouldn’t be a Game of Thrones series without a bloody battle, yet even with four weeks of training under his belt, Steve Toussaint wasn’t quite ready for the sheer exertion required for the violent beach scenes in House of the Dragon.

“It was exhausting,” Toussaint chuckles over Zoom from his home in London.

My character doesn’t carry a sword, he carries a huge, heavy staff. One end is a double-edged blade, and the other is a heavy ball for crushing skulls.

The 57-year-old British actor has spent close to 30 years building a career of solid, character-driven performances–from parts in Judge Dredd to Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology series–but season one of HBO’s prequel series, set 172 years before the arrival of Daenerys Targaryen, put his endurance to the test as Lord Corlys Velaryon.

“[In training,] I’d swing it in my shorts but then they put you in your costume and suddenly, it’s on a sand dune,” he recalls. “There’s smoke everywhere, the stunt guys aren’t coming at you one-on-one, like in practice, they’re coming in from all over the place–you just hope they make it look good!”

Certainly with Miguel Sapochnik on board as co-showrunner—the director behind the epic Emmy-winning Thrones Season 6 episode “Battle of the Bastards”–Toussaint’s fighting performance was in good hands. Especially when his character, fondly known as the “Sea Snake,” has an admirable history in battle on land and sea.

The head of House Velaryon, Lord Corlys is the richest man in Westeros, with the largest navy, thanks to a fortune he’s built from navigating the Seven Kingdoms as a seafarer. His Valyrian bloodline is as old as the Targaryens, a house he married into through Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) and subsequently positions him as an ally to her brother, King Viserys I (Paddy Considine).

A civil war is brewing in King’s Landing because of several would-be heirs to the Targaryen line of succession, and though Lord Valeryon might be on the sidelines in the opening episode, he has his sights set on further greatness.

So don’t be surprised to see Toussaint’s white loc-rocking Sea Snake wield his court influence—as well as his fearsome staff—to best position House Velaryon for a move into an even more central position of power.

He’s all about legacy and about getting as close as possible to the throne,” Toussaint says. “This season is a lot about interpersonal relationships, political maneuvering, and is slightly more intimate than Thrones at its height. Whoever survives, we have a grounding with them. If you get to know who they are now, then the stakes are that much higher. But by the time I’d read the final scene, there were some things in it that had me like, “oh, you can’t do that!”

If Game of Thrones has taught viewers anything, it’s that the writers will do whatever the hell they want. No one is safe in House of the Dragon. So with S1 hitting screens, Toussaint gives us the lowdown on his Westerosi player, getting used to the fandom amid casting backlash and what he hopes this season will course-correct for representation in this brutal fantasy world where anything goes…

Men’s Health: Tell me how you landed the role of the Sea Snake.

Steve Toussaint: My agency said, “There’s a project and here are some scenes, it might be a big thing.” They changed all the names, and my partner, who was reading it with me, was like, ‘This character sounds like Charles Dance’s Tywin, and it turned out to be a scene with him and Diana Rigg. It wasn’t until I had my first virtual meeting with the showrunners that I had any idea it was in that Game of Thrones universe.

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