House of the Dragon’s Olivia Cooke opens up about having ‘full mental breakdown’

A split/screen image of actor Olivia Cooke, with the right image showing her character Emma Decody in Bates Motel. (Getty/A&E)

House of the Dragon actor Olivia Cooke has opened up about going through a “full mental breakdown” earlier in her career.

Cooke, who plays the adult Alicent Hightower in HBO’s House of the Dragon, spoke to The Guardian about the impact her high-stakes career has had on her.

Cooke has had an eclectic acting journey so far, starring in blockbusters such as Ready Player One to five seasons of Bates Motel.

Originally from Manchester, Cooke had to relocate to Vancouver to shoot Bates Motel when things began to take a turn for the worse. 

I’m so grateful for that job, but I had a really tough time on it,” Cooke said, “the way the schedule worked, we all had different storylines, so a lot of my time was spent in this apartment in Vancouver, working once every two weeks.” 

The intense filming schedule, coupled with taking on major projects such as Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One and Thoroughbreds soon took its toll. 

Olivia Cooke. (Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Olivia Cooke is still learning to cope with the pressures of being famous. (FilmMagic/Jeff Kravitz)

She explained: “It was a big old lovely cocktail: being homesick and not knowing it, having not stopped since I was 18, being on my own for large swathes of time.”
She was working on both films when she hadI a “full mental breakdown”.

“It was bad, bad. Awful, actually,” she said, noting that she “was working all the way through”.

“I was very good at hiding it.”

To this day the 29-year-old is still grappling with the realities of stardom and, particularly, spoke of her struggle on red carpets. 

I find it really zapping of my energy,” Olivia Cooke admitted. “I just hate the person I become on these things – so amped up with adrenaline, and so shouty.”
Cooke, along with Emma D’Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen, are the latest additions to House of the Dragon. She has previously spoken about the queer vibes emanating from the two characters.

“When you have your first intense friendship, you’re throwing all these emotions at the other person and seeing which one sticks, and it’s incredibly complex, but very passionate,” she told Insider.

House of the Dragon airs every Monday at 2am and 9pm on Sky Atlantic.