Actor Steve Toussaint was as shocked as anyone to learn that “House of the Dragon” co-creator Miguel Sapochnik quit his role as showrunner after just two episodes of the HBO series aired to audiences. The personnel shakeup — which sees Sapochnik continuing with the series in a limited capacity as executive producer, while co-creator Ryan J. Condal takes on the job of showrunning solo — shocked “Game of Thrones” fans between Season 1 episodes “The Rogue Prince” and “Second of His Name.”
“We have this English phrase ‘gutted’ and I was like, ‘Oh no,’” Toussaint, who plays Lord Corlys Velaryon (aka the “Sea Snake”), said in an interview on Entertainment Weekly’s “West of Westeros” podcast. “Ryan rang me, because I’ve been shooting something in Belgium. And so, I got a call from Ryan one night, just saying, ‘Listen, this is about to break. I want you to know what’s happening and everything’s going to be fine,’ and so forth. And: ‘It’s Miguel’s decision.’ So I was disappointed.”
The “Game of Thrones” veteran is known for directing a handful of the original series’ most memorable episodes, including Season 6’s “Battle of the Bastards,” which won Sapochnik the 2019 Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. Theories about Sapochnik’s departure have ranged from the plausible to the semi-fantastic, but Toussaint ties it back to the tremendous commitment Sapochnik has shown to the franchise for years.
“When we were doing the [‘House of the Dragon’] premiere in London, I was having a chat with [Sapochnik’s wife Alexis Raben,]” Toussaint recalled, while describing Sapochnik’s workload. “And it was full-on with him, because he was constant. Of course, he had to direct and do his own bits, obviously his own episodes. And then, of course, he has to overlook the whole thing, make sure the look is still in line with the whole story. I think they’re still right now cutting the last couple of episodes. So it’s a huge amount. So I understand.”
“Working within the ‘Thrones’ universe for the past few years has been an honor and a privilege, especially spending the last two with the amazing cast and crew of ‘House of the Dragon’,” Sapochnik said in the initial announcement via The Hollywood Reporter. “I am so proud of what we accomplished with Season 1 and overjoyed by the enthusiastic reaction of our viewers. It was incredibly tough to decide to move on, but I know that it is the right choice for me, personally and professionally.”
“While personally I’m disappointed, because I think he has a great artistic vision, I understand, for the good of his health, he’s got to take a long break and recharge himself and decide what else he wants to do next,” Toussaint continued. “I think the world’s his oyster, because he’s so incredibly talented.”
The actor also described the renewal news for “House of the Dragon” Season 2 as a “wonderful feeling of vindication.” Following Sapochnik’s exit as showrunner, fellow “Games of Thrones” veteran Alan Taylor will join the series’ creative team to direct.