How Hillary Clinton Inspired Eve Best's Role on "House of the Dragon"

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On "House of the Dragon," Eve Best plays Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, the cousin of King Viserys who's known to most of the realm as "The Queen Who Never Was." That's because when the old king had to choose a successor, the choice came down to the pair, and the lords of Westeros overwhelmingly chose Viserys for the Iron Throne despite the fact that Rhaenys was higher up in the line of succession. Their sexist choice is a burden Rhaenys lives with for the rest of her life; during the first episode's tourney, a knight throws it in her face. Best tells POPSUGAR that she was inspired by a real political figure when exploring her character — Hillary Clinton.

"What happens in the tournament is just a classic example of just people endlessly reminding her of the greatest wound of her life," she says of Rhaenys, and that reminded the actor of Clinton's journey after the 2016 election. "There is lots of resonance with that whole situation that she was in, of being clearly the best candidate for a job. . . . What do you do in the aftermath of that rejection? How do you handle it?"

"The instinct to escape and to just retreat and try to retire or bury your head in the sand, have nothing more to do with politics, and to just go on holiday for the rest of your life is very strong, but actually [Rhaenys] can't, like Hillary," Best says. "I had such respect for that woman for having to pick up the pieces of your self-respect, and take it on the chin, and exist as a public figure with grace and positivity and humor" despite the "constant blows and the constant reminders."

Best says that Rhaenys's political strategy is the opposite of her husband's. Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) can be "very passionate," while she says Rhaenys is trying "to remain consistently passive and consistently refrain from placing her cards on the table."

"It's a very, very delicate and difficult water, to essentially not have a role, be bearing a great deal of personal grief and pain, and to allow that not to turn to bitterness or desire for revenge [and], at the same time, to support one's husband and protect one's children and also uphold the bigger picture, which is the progression of the realm," Best says of Rhaenys's challenge over the course of the series.

"It makes her relationship with Rhaenyra incredibly complicated," she adds, which is clearly reflected in their conversation in the second episode, which aired on Aug. 28. Because of her own experience, Rhaenys knows it's "very, very unlikely" that Rhaenyra will actually become the queen, but Rhaenyra sees her view as overly pessimistic and bitter. But Rhaenys is confident that once Viserys does have a son with a new wife, Rhaenyra's time as heir to the throne will be over.

"She's much more lucid about the realities of the way that the world works and the way that this particular political game works," Best says. "It's lovely that Rhaenyra has been publicly acknowledged by Viserys and by the court [as the heir, but] I think she knows very clearly that that's just a stage of the game, whether or not that's really going to play out in reality."

Rhaenys's biggest concern is on protecting her own family amid the turmoil. "She's very, very clear that she does not want her own daughter to go through anything like what she had to go through," Best says. Still, at the end of episode two, her 12-year-old daughter Laena (Nova Foueillis-Mose) is passed over by King Viserys when it's time to choose a bride. Viewers will have to wait and see the consequences of that choice.

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