Who Is Nanna Blondell, a.k.a. Laena Velaryon in 'House of the Dragon'?

Meet the actress behind the dragon-rider, who became an instant fan favorite in Episode 6.

laena velaryon from nanna blondell house of the dragon hbo
(Image credit: Ollie Upton / HBO)

Episode 6 of House of the Dragon marked several new beginnings for the Game of Thrones prequel series. Serving as a sort-of second pilot, the episode introduces new House of the Dragon cast members portraying the adult versions of Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower, as well as an entire generation of royal kids to get involved in the upcoming succession battle. It also marked an ending for a fan-favorite character, who was also re-introduced via recast in the same episode she met her fiery demise.

Laena Velaryon, daughter of Lord Corlys Velaryon and Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, has been part of HotD since the beginning, and we watched her grow from a 12-year-old potential bride (played by Nova Foueillis-Mose) to a flirtatious 15-year-old (Savannah Steyn) for King Viserys to a fierce adult dragon-rider who married Daemon Targaryen and had twin daughters, Baela and Rhaena. Episode 6 saw the couple ten years into their marriage, living away from Westeros in the east, as Laena was expecting her third child.

In a standout scene near the end of the episode, Laena (now played by Nanna Blondell) takes her life into her own hands during childbirth. Her baby will not deliver, with the maester telling Daemon that the only hope of saving the child is an emergency C-section similar to the one that killed Queen Aemma in the show's premiere. Laena overhears, and rather than letting Daemon decide her fate, she walks out to meet her dragon Vhagar, the largest dragon in the world. She commands the dragon to burn her alive, and though Vhagar hesitates, he eventually puts out her misery.

Laena's powerful scene was the talk of the episode, a change from the source book Fire & Blood that gave the dragon-rider more agency over her death (in the book Laena dies of childbirth complications). It's also an introduction to Blondell, who is best known among Swedish TV fans and some Marvel fans who recognized her from a recent film. Read on for everything we know about the talented actress.

who is laena velaryon

(Image credit: Dominique Charriau/Getty Images)

She's Swedish.

The 36-year-old actress grew up in Sweden and attended the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. She made her on-screen debut on a Swedish TV show in 2005 and also worked as a VJ with MTV Sweden early in her career. She also appeared in the popular Swedish sci-fi drama Real Humans and the French war film Sœurs d'armes (Sisters in Arms).

She had a role in Marvel's 'Black Widow.'

In addition to her work in Swedish and French film, TV, and theater, she also appeared in the Marvel film Black Widow, acting alongside Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh. Her other recent projects include the first Netflix feature film from Sweden, Red Dot, and the Swedish series Partisan.

She has a podcast celebrating successful non-white Swedish women.

Blondell is an advocate for diversity and representation of Black women in Sweden, and interviewed non-white Swedish women on her podcast Fenomenala kvinnor (Phenomenal Women). In a 2021 interview with Nordic Watchlist, she said of the podcast, "This is a way to preserve the stories of these phenomenal women, so young women can have a larger range of role models that looks like them. So in every episode I meet a black woman with a different profession and talk about their journey, life, work and hair."

She was "shocked" when she first saw her Velaryon wig.

Blondell opened up to Vogue Scandinavia about her audition process for the series, saying that she was surprised when she got the opportunity to join the Game of Thrones universe. "When I even got a request to do a casting for it, I was like, 'Are they kidding?'", she said. "I was like, 'Is this for real? Why are they asking me? A Swedish black girl? That’s so weird.'"

She also shared her first reaction seeing Laena's silver-haired wig for the first time. "I was shocked. I was like, 'Oh my god, I look like a glam rocker'." Once she put it on, she said the wig was "big and warm," adding "It’s like having a wool hat."

She also added that every actor who donned a Velaryon wig had a similar reaction. "They were just trying to calm everyone down and be like, 'It’s going to look good.'" 

She bid farewell to her 'House of the Dragon' role on Instagram.

Following the airing of her episode, Blondell shared a special behind-the-scenes pic from set, paired with a sentimental caption. In the pic, she makes a strong-arm pose as she's dressed in the Velaryon wig and a prosthetic baby bump.

"I just wanna acknowledge all of you that have taken the time to write me, I read it all and I'm overwhelmed by all the kind messages you send me. I don't think I fully grasped until now what a loved character Laena was from the book. It was an absolute pleasure to get a chance to walk in her shoes," the caption reads.

who is laena velaryon nanna blondell house of the dragon hbo

(Image credit: Nanna Blondell/Instagram)

Blondell also shared a sweet behind-the-scenes pic of her TV family, including Daemon actor Matt Smith, Baela actress Shani Smethurst, and Rhaena actress Eva Ossei-Gerning.

Quinci LeGardye
Contributing Culture Editor

Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.