Jamie Kenna On Securing His Role In House Of The Dragon: ‘I Burst Into Tears’

By Olivia Emily

1 month ago

Launching on Monday 17 June, Jamie Kenna is a new addition to House of the Dragon's cast for season 2


House of the Dragon season 2 is finally here, with the first episode landing on NOW TV at 2am on Monday 17 June. One new face on the scene is Ser Alfred Broome, a member of the Black Council played by Jamie Kenna. We sat down with Jamie to talk all about the series, including how he burst into tears when he got the role. ‘That’s the opposite of playing it cool,’ he tells C&TH. Plus, we discuss what it was like to work with Cillian Murphy on Peaky Blinders, and all about Jamie’s partnership with parents’ mental health charity, PANDAS.

Interview: Jamie Kenna On House Of The Dragon Season 2

Jamie Kenna leaning back on a chair

Photographer: Jemima Marriott | Styling: Prue Fisher | Grooming: Megan McPhilemy

Hi Jamie, how’s life going at the moment?

It’s going very well, thank you. I’m just just building up to fly to New York for the House of the Dragon season 2 premiere, so I’m trying to sort my life out. Better late than never! It’s half term and I’ve got family out in New York, so my wife and kids are coming, too. We will have a week bobbing around New York, then go to the premiere, then fly home. Exciting!

You’re about to appear in the second series of House of the Dragon playing Ser Alfred Broome. Can you tell us a bit about him?

Ser Alfred Broome has a long family line who have essentially always worked for the Targaryen family – my father and my grandfather and beyond that have been in the House Targaryen for a long time. Alfred is a member of the Black Council, and he is a very bullish, opinionated man. He doesn’t always want to swim with the tide, let’s put it that way. He’s not afraid to share his views, so he’s a very strong man in several different respects.

Were you a fan of House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones before you joined the cast?

Yeah, definitely. I hadn’t watched season 1 until I got the job, but it was on my list. But I was a big fan of Game of Thrones, even though I always kind of wanted to boycott because I wasn’t in it! I felt a bit disgruntled and, in fact, I said that to them when I met the producers at the audition. I said, ‘Have you just run out of huge bearded men to be in this franchise now?’ Which thankfully they laughed at.

I’m a big fan of both Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, although I’m not a massive fan of fantasy. I think they are just on a different level. It’s a bit like Star Wars. I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, but I’m a massive Star Wars fan. Every now and again, something comes along that crosses genres and just draws you in, whether that’s your thing or not. I find that with people watch Game of Thrones. They say, ‘Oh, it’s not gonna be my thing’, but then they watch it and they are absolutely hooked. I think it’s because it’s ultimately about dysfunctional families. It’s a mediaeval fantasy, but you can still relate to the modern day and how family life itself works – how petty arguments can turn into huge wars. That’s my Christmas, anyway.

How did it feel when you got the call to confirm the role?

There’s a big thing in our industry – I think it’s a self preservation thing – that you’re supposed to play things cool and underplay any nominations for awards or jobs. You’re supposed to keep a lid on it. But I burst into tears. I’ve waited for this job for 20 years. I’ve been doing this for 22 years now, since I left drama school, and I’ve done some amazing work – I’ve been really lucky to perform in most of the theatres in the country, the West End, in movies… But a role like this is exactly what I was waiting for.

It was a hard process to go through, and it nearly didn’t go my way. In fact, it didn’t go my way at one stage. I lost the part, and then there was a huge U-turn about two weeks later. My agent called me and said, ‘They’ve come back and they’ve offered it to you.’ I was outside Finsbury Park tube station having been in a meeting for something else. I was standing right by the bus stops, and I burst into tears. So that’s the opposite of playing it cool. 

It was all so exciting. Often these things can be a disappointment. It’s like anything, not just necessarily jobs, but stuff you’ve really put your hopes on. But House of the Dragon exceeded expectations. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. In terms of the people, the sets, the story, the investment from everybody. There’s no one on that job – producers, writers, everyone – that isn’t invested in it and doesn’t think it’s the best thing ever. That’s why the quality is so good. The discussions off camera, no one’s just talking about what they’re going to have for lunch. Everyone is discussing what’s happening and where we’re at in filming.

There was one point when I was standing with one of the writers and the series co-creator Ryan Condal – the three of us were talking about something in the scene, and I was asking why my character would do a certain thing or say a certain thing. And this discussion ran for over 10 minutes before I stepped back and said, ‘You do realise we’re three grown men talking about dragons, with no hint of irony or sarcasm? We’re having a proper serious conversation about why the dragon should be unleashed at what point. My 13 year old self is having an absolute field day right now!’

What was your first day of filming like? 

My first day was a Saturday, and it was all a bit of a whirlwind. They whisked me off to a costume fitting, and then I started filming the following week. My first day was with Matt Smith and Simon Russell Beale, who is a hero of mine – he’s a legend of British theatre. And there I am. I’ve always had these pinch me moments throughout my career because I’m a working class kid that followed a dream. Whenever I’ve been on big sets with big actors – which has been loads, now – it’s never ever something I get used to. I always feel like someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘sorry, we meant the other Jamie’. 

So I turn up, and we’re on the set of Harrenhal: me, Matt Smith and Simon Russel Beale. That was a daunting first day at work. Everyone was as nervous as I was, and as excited as I was. We were all kids in a sweet shop. And it just took the wind out of the nervous sails, as it were. Right from day one, it was just so much fun. 

I’ve had a tattoo, even, of my crest. On my costume, there’s a steel gorget as part of my armour, and there was a crest on it. I just thought it was something they found in the wardrobe department, but someone said to me, ‘No, no, that’s the Broome house sigil. That’s been designed for you’. So I’m the only one in the whole Game of Thrones franchise with this house sigil. That’s mine. So I had it adapted, and I’ve got it tattooed on my leg with my kids’ names on it. I was like, ‘Well, I’m having that as my house sigil. I’m going to have that as the Kenna house sigil’. I showed the producers after filming finished, and they were blown away by it. They love that: they want you to be a geek about it, they want you to be invested in it. So yeah, again, not remotely playing it cool. I don’t have a Coronation Street Tattoo, let’s just say that. I’ve not got The Rovers Return on my back.

(L-R) Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen, Eve Best as Rhaenys Targaryen & Jamie Kenna as Ser Alfred Broome in House of the Dragon

(L-R) Emma D’Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen, Eve Best as Rhaenys Targaryen & Jamie Kenna as Ser Alfred Broome in House of the Dragon. © HBO 2024

How did you prepare for the role?

I watched the first season, and I did loads of research in terms of family lines. There’s so much information online! Being a character, the research you need to do is where you come from and what you’re doing. The main thing I need to know is how I feel about people and how they feel about me. That comes with development of the script, and also when we’re reading around the table and scenes are unfolding – things can start to evolve that way. Although, we were right in the middle of the writer’s strikes, so it was really tricky because nothing could be adjusted, adapted, changed or rewritten. It was a really restricting process. 

I prepared as much as I could, but there’s also a big element of wanting to come at it fresh. You don’t want to be too bound by the restrictions of other people’s views. I discovered a lot of stuff along the way, which hopefully everyone will like.

Where were you based for filming?

All of the filming I did was at the Warner Brothers Studios in Leavesden. I know they filmed other parts in Spain, Wales, Surrey… But I was in the comfort of a boiling hot studio in 15 layers of armour.

Who was your favourite person to work with on set?

Do you know how many people are in this show?! In the main, I’m part of the Black Council, so I spent a lot of time around the table with Phil Daniels, who is just a legend; James Dreyfus, who is a friend I’ve worked with before; Nicholas Jones, another legend of TV and theatre. Also, I got to work with young Harry Collett: we did a short film together 10 or 11 years ago, where I played his dad, and he was only nine. Now he’s obviously the son of the Queen! He is still as cheeky as he was, but he’s a lot bigger. Eve Best, Steve Trussant… They were all just lovely. Emma Darcy is amazing. I can’t wait for everyone to see their performance because it’s just phenomenal. Matt Smith, like I’ve already said, welcomed me with open arms. Simon Russell Beale. I’m name dropping at will here! These are big names, but there was so much humility around the table. Everyone welcomed me with open arms and everyone was committed to telling the story. There were no egos. 

I’ve danced around it long enough: I’m not picking one person. Everyone I worked with was amazing. And Max Wrottesley and Tony Flanagan – I’ll drop their names, too.

You’ve also starred in the likes of His Dark Materials, Gran Turismo, The Crown, Peaky Blinders, Coronation Street… What has been your favourite project to date?

It’s a really difficult question to answer, because there are two different perspectives on it: you can either look at the thing that’s been the highest profile, the biggest, fanciest job, but some of my favourite things have been really small budget productions. That’s where I’ve met some of the best people, and I’ve made some great friends. 

In terms of TV and film, you’re supposed to run away from soaps, but I had a great time on Coronation Street. I know it’s not as cool as House of the Dragon, but I met some great friends and I had a really nice time. Peaky Blinders was another ‘pinch me’ moment. That show was the biggest show in the world at the time, and it’s still massively iconic, so to have played a part in that was huge. 

I’ve been really lucky. I’m really grateful for all the jobs I’ve had, and as I said, I’m always a little bit in awe that anyone ever picks up the phone and chooses me. I’m not saying that to evoke any sympathy. It’s a genuine thing. I took a punt, went to drama school and thankfully – touch wood – I’ve been working at a good level. 

Another stand out was walking out in a massive spandex diamante suit in Mamma Mia!. Who’s not gonna love that? I was six foot nine in those platforms – that’s a memory to behold.

Any roles in the pipeline that you’re excited about? (If you’re allowed to tell us!)

I’ve got a couple of projects I’m not allowed to talk too much about, but I’ve just finished a movie called Promenade. We wrapped on that two weeks ago, and it was filmed in Brighton, which is my hometown, which is another thing I’ve been waiting for. I was literally 10 minutes away from set. Promenade has got some cracking people in it. It’s very funny. A really nice story. So fingers crossed that that’ll be out fairly soon. That was a lot of fun to film.

Jamie on a stool

Photographer: Jemima Marriott | Styling: Prue Fisher | Grooming: Megan McPhilemy

Who has been someone you worked with in the past that you learned a lot from?

I’m going to give you generic answers, not because I’m being awkward, but I don’t think there have been many jobs where I haven’t learned something from someone. Sometimes you go in as a day player, or you pop in with a few lines here and there and you don’t have time to settle. But anything I’ve been in for more than a few days, I’ve learned something from most people I’ve worked with. 

Cillian Murphy is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet: really warm, really friendly. Once, we went down to set on Peaky Blinders and we did a rehearsal for the camera. That’s where they set up all of the cameras and block the scenes, but we’re in just normal clothes. Then off we went to make up and got changed into our costumes, and we came back and I watched that man transform. He’s not huge, and he’s got very friendly, lovely big eyes. But he came back dressed as Tommy Shelby, and he did this thing with his shoulders, and he was terrifying. It was like seeing someone else. I don’t really remember delivering the lines or acting. I didn’t have to make any decisions. He’s so good, and he delivered everything on a plate. I learned huge amounts from him on that job: how to give everything and how not to stress about it. Because it can be a very stressful thing. Whether he was stressing about it inwardly, I don’t know. 

When you’re the lead in something, it is a different responsibility to just being in it. Everything has its own responsibility, but when you’re the lead, there’s a lot on your shoulders. I’ve worked with lots of leading actors, and I’ve been a leading actor, and when you’re a young actor, you always want to be a lead. When I wanted to do it when I was young, I wasn’t ready. I had to work with some of these leading people to learn how to steer the ship, how to be the top of the pile, to learn the message that filters down, how you keep the council a little bit and set the tone for the entire job, whether it’s theatre, TV, film or whatever. 

I learned a hell of a lot from an actor called Daniel Betts who I did To Kill a Mockingbird with; he is an incredible guy and an incredible actor. Again, he was that calm captain of the ship. He dealt with so much and helped us all in what was a really intense, brilliant production.

I could name so many people that I’ve learned from. What’s nice for me is, you know, I mentioned young Harry who I worked with when he was nine, and now I’m working with him again, and hopefully he’s learned stuff from me. I then become one of those actors and I can pass things on. Actors need other actors for sure.

What’s your dream role?

House of the Dragon was one of them, absolutely. I also always wanted to play a gladiator, but I think the ship might have sailed on that one with the second film coming out. There are a few classics I’d love to do: John Proctor in The Crucible, Lenny in Of Mice and Men… They were on the list when I left drama school. Sometimes I revisit ‘the list’ and I realise I’m too old for my dream roles now. So I need to rethink it!

What’s a genre you’ve never done that you’d love to try?

Screen wise, I haven’t done a lot of period stuff – Elizabethan, Victorian, even Centurion, although House of the Dragon is kind of ticking that box a bit. One of my favourite things is comedy. I’ve done a lot of comedy, but I would always want to do more. I’ve just finished watching Loudermilk, I love Schitt’s Creek, Arrested Development… I’d love to be in something that breaks the mould comedically – like Superstore or something like that. I’d like to be in something where you don’t know. And you’re like, ‘This could be awful. Or it could be genius.’ And it turns out to be genius.

You’re also partnering with PANDAS. Can you tell us a bit about that?

PANDAS is a really brilliant charity that helps spread the mental health message. They work with a lot of parents, but they realised they were neglecting, a little bit, the service they provide for dads. It’s a harder message to get across. I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say that as a male who’s had mental health issues, battles with anxiety and depression and so on. I’ve never ever been shy about talking about that. In fact, I want to talk about it, because I think it’s really important. 

PANDAS approached me as someone with a bit of a profile who’s a dad, who is candid about my mental health struggles, and asked if I would be happy to come aboard and work with them to help spread their message. I absolutely jumped at it, because it’s really close to my heart. I’ve been on their podcast, and I’m an ambassador for the charity. They do great work: they provide helplines and support packages for parents who are struggling. It can be any end of the spectrum in terms of ‘struggle’. Often my struggles have come when things are going well. It can feel easier to say you’re struggling because you’ve got no money, there’s no work or you can’t pay the bills. But when you’re like, ‘I’ve got money, I’ve got work, everything’s going well’, mental health struggles can hit you then, too. And when you have kids, there’s often no place to sit with that feeling. You’ve got responsibilities and that’s daunting. I’ve been there – before kids and since having kids. So I’m very happy to be involved.

What do you do to find balance in your life?

I’m surrounded by people who don’t care about what I do. I have two children who don’t care how much I’m on TV. I keep myself steeped in reality. I do the school run all the time. We own a cafe in Brighton that I work in all the time. I just keep it normal. And mainly, in terms of the mental health thing, what has helped me is recognising it. When you start to reach out and speak out, it’s amazing how many people say, ‘Oh, me too. I feel like that, too. That’s how I’ve been.’ So I reach out all the time, I speak out all the time, and I acknowledge that I’m having a bad day. I accept it, I live with it, I let it run its course. 

Meditation is a massive thing for me, too. There’s a local Buddhist centre here, which I visit regularly and do courses. I try to find all the things that work for me, but it has to be an evolutionary process. You’ve got to roll with it. Certain things might stop working for you, so you find something else.

But for me, mainly, I surround myself with friends and family. That’s why I like living down in Brighton, because I keep the industry at arm’s length. I don’t want to be in the thick of it. I love being by the sea; I swim in the sea every day. This is my world down here.

 

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What advice would you give to someone who needs a boost?

Tell yourself you’re proud of yourself. I joked about ‘playing it cool’ earlier, but I think this is a really important thing that people don’t do. We’re encouraged not to be proud, because you might come across as smug or big headed. Just be proud of the day to day stuff. I’m proud of my life and I’m proud of everyone around me. I think all of that is an accomplishment in itself.

Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?

Probably going to New York. That’s massive. I’m really excited and very proud of that. My first home was a caravan on the side of the A20 behind the transport. And here I am going to New York to the red carpet. I’m going to get styled. I can’t let those things slip past me – not acknowledge them and not give myself some praise for that, and say how proud I am because I’ve worked really hard to get here. 

I also run my little boy’s under nine football team, and they just won their first ever tournament. So that surpasses everything, if I’m honest. All of us parents were in tears!

WATCH

Jamie Kenna stars as Ser Alfred Broome in House of the Dragon season 2. Episodes air weekly from Monday 17 June at 9pm on Sky Atlantic and are available to stream on NOW from 2am on Mondays. All episodes of season 1 are streaming now. nowtv.com