“I want to know if the public can forgive Ser Criston Cole”

“I want to know if the public can forgive Ser Criston Cole”
“I want to know if the public can forgive Ser Criston Cole”

The following interview contains spoilers for episode 4 of season 2 of ‘House of the Dragon’

If you type “Fabien Frankel” into your search engine, the first three suggestions should look something like “Fabien Frankel girlfriend”, “Fabien Frankel quotes” and “Fabien Frankel wife”. The 30-year-old actor from West London plays Ser Criston Cole in the popular HBO fantasy series, The house of the dragonIt turns out his character’s forbidden relationship made him the most searched celebrity. And yet, Frankel doesn’t believe me when I tell him that diehard fans just want to know if he’s already with someone in real life.

“No way, dude. Are you serious?” he asks over Zoom, horrified. “That’s so funny. I usually just watch”I hate Criston Cole. This guy is a murderous bastard. I hope he dies.”. That’s the only shit I ever see in response. I don’t see the lewd posts, but I’m glad they’re there.”

“It’s hard for people to understand why they do what they do, and I feel that way too. Sometimes I can’t understand their logic. But obviously I have to like it.”

For context, there’s a reason the fanbase may have turned on Frankel. In a short amount of time, his character has undergone a dizzying transformation, going from the heart-breaking knight in shining armor to the scorned ex-lover who sleeps with your best friend. In the latest episodes of the hit prequel series Game of Thronesleads an army and decapitates traitors in some of the most terrifying scenes we’ve seen yet from Frankel’s character. “He’s gone dark,” Frankel says. “He’s a walking contradiction. He’s obsessed with purity, honor, rigor and rules, and he breaks every single one of those ideas.”

But beneath all of Cole’s drama and misplaced anger is a man who is clearly in way over his head. In fact, audiences can delight in watching a dragon humiliate him in episode 4. After a stirring speech to his men, the beast promptly knocks him unconscious on the battlefield. When Cole emerges from the rubble to find King Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) badly burned — or potentially dead — he is stunned.

“Did you feel any empathy for him at all during all of that, or the crippling hatred that everyone else seems to feel?” Frankel asks me. I give him my honest opinion. He’s really no more monstrous than anyone else on that show. “What I find interesting is whether it’s possible to win the audience back on his side,” he continues. “Not in the sense of liking Cole, but forgiving him.”

Below, Frankel discusses the difficulties of playing Ser Criston Cole, filming Episode 4’s epic battle scene, and reshooting in Philadelphia.

“Someone sent me a picture of Cole next to the quote Bad Girls: “This girl is the nastiest bitch I’ve ever met. Don’t trust her. She’s an ugly bitch.” I love it.”

That is Schmidt

It’s hard to play a character like Criston Cole. Aren’t you mad at him all the time?
He’s pretty much the only character in the story where you don’t know where he came from, what world he grew up in, or what losses he suffered. It’s hard for people to understand the why of what he does all the time, and I feel that way too. Sometimes I can’t understand the logic behind things. But obviously, I have to like it. That’s the way it is. Or at least, I have to be able to understand him.

The end of episode 4 is one of the most shocking moments in the world of Game of Thrones as always, beyond The house of the dragon. Do you think the audience is going to go crazy?
I’ve been sent the links but I’m not watching it on purpose. I’m scared to watch it in case I hate it. Not hating the show, just hating my own performance. There was something that really made me laugh. I don’t remember who it was, but someone sent me a picture of Cole next to the quote from Bad Girls: “This girl is the nastiest bitch I’ve ever met. Don’t trust her. She’s an ugly bitch.” I love it.

“I know what happens. We’ve all read the book and we know what happens.”


When you put on your helmet before battle I thought that was the most armor you had ever worn. It seems like they add a new piece in every episode.
You said it. It seems so. I now have the chainmail, the Hand of the King and my helmet. I fought hard with (showrunner) Ryan Condal not to wear the helmet in that scene. I said, “Ryan, please, can I not wear this helmet? Russell Crowe never wore a helmet when he made his speeches in Gladiator“I thought, ‘If Russell Crowe doesn’t use it, can I not use it? ‘ He said, ‘You’re going to use it. ‘ And that was the end of the conversation.

I imagine there will also be a lot of conversation regarding your new haircut.
Well, man, the problem is that I’m actually wearing a wig. I had to add it in that scene. About a minute later, that’s the actual cut. The idea behind it was just that I felt like long hair was very impractical for war. It’s a lot easier to keep clean. It was really a practical decision, I went to Ryan and said, “I want to do this. I think it’s the right thing to do.” It’s closer to military than what I have. It’s also a nice contradiction to Gwayne’s hair. [Freddie Fox]. I wanted it to seem like there was a stark contrast between a real soldier and a non-real soldier.

Plus, it makes you look a little older.
Yeah, dude, the character is actually in his 50s now. I’m glad you think it makes me look older. I’m really happy to hear that. When I was filming, people were telling me it made me look younger, and I was really worried. I thought, “If I look younger now with this cut, and I look younger in Season 2 than I did in Season 1 when I was 20, that’s a problem.”

“A lot of the stuff that happens with Criston, like seeing him fight or his relationship with Alicent, isn’t in the books. I’m glad they added it.”

That is Schmidt

What are you most excited about for what’s next for Ser Criston Cole?
I know what happens. We’ve all read the book and we all know what happens. Ryan will decide how he wants to interpret that in his own way. But I feel like they haven’t been that faithful to the books, to be honest. A lot of the things that happen to Criston, like seeing him fight or the relationship with Alicent, aren’t in the books. I’m happy that they included that. It’s a really interesting character arc. I just hope they do it justice.

I read that Olivia Cooke made a joke to you on set with a merkin (pubic wig) for one of your sex scenes and you were really embarrassed. Is it common for the cast to make jokes in these scenes to offset the tension of the show?
You know what? Since it’s out there, the right thing to do would be to post that picture on the Internet. It’s one of the funniest pictures of all time. Olivia and I have a very playful relationship. We’re always trying to get close to each other and do things to make each other laugh. I can’t speak to the environment on the black team set, but ours is very badly behaved. Mainly because of Rhys Ifans (Otto Hightower), because he’s the most mischievous professional I’ve ever met, in the best way humanly possible.

What kind of pranks does Rhys play?
You name it, he’s done it. He’ll hit my sword under the table in the middle of a scene. He’ll slap himself with my hand while the camera is close to him, so it looks like I slapped him. Then he’ll say, “Fabien, I can’t believe you slapped me just now.” That guy is a joker to the core.

Finally, how are things in Philadelphia? I heard you’re working on a new crime series with Mark Ruffalo for HBO.
I’ve really fallen in love with Philadelphia. I really have. It’s probably my favorite city I’ve ever been to in America. I play a young detective with a lot of Philly slang because I’m supposed to be from South Philly. I talk about Angelo’s broccoli rabe. I make a Wawa run every day. I mean, I’m right in the middle of all the Philly references.

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