True Superhero Paddy Considine‘s Battle to Keep the Peace Within Westeros and Himself

At first, Paddy Considine seemed like an unusual choice to play King Viserys Targaryen, the diplomatic and amiable ruler of Westeros in A Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon. Considine is famed for playing unpredictable and violently intimidating characters, very much the opposite approach to that taken by Viserys, but the two have much in common; the King’s battle to control his unruly court from the Iron Throne is mirrored in Paddy’s lifelong struggle with a poorly understood neurologic condition that has shaped the course of his career. Happily, Paddy has now found a solution to his troubles, but it remains to be seen whether his on-screen counterpart will do the same.

True Superhero Paddy Considine‘s Battle to Keep the Peace Within Westeros and Himself

Finding his audience

Paddy was born in 1973 in the town of Burton, in the English Midlands, and grew up on a social housing estate in the nearby suburb of Winshill. His father was a working-class Irish immigrant, and while he was a highly intelligent man according to Paddy, he was also someone who struggled to hold down a job and was frequently getting into fights. His son was similarly unruly, garnering a reputation as a troublemaker with his teachers in the local school. They could see that Paddy had potential but felt he was unlikely to make the most of it; one teacher chastised him for acting the clown, telling him, “Everyone’s laughing now, Considine, but one day you won’t have your audience.”

True Superhero Paddy Considine‘s Battle to Keep the Peace Within Westeros and Himself

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At first, Paddy Considine seemed like an unusual choice to play King Viserys Targaryen, the diplomatic and amiable ruler of Westeros in A Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon. Considine is famed for playing unpredictable and violently intimidating characters, very much the opposite approach to that taken by Viserys, but the two have much in common; the King’s battle to control his unruly court from the Iron Throne is mirrored in Paddy’s lifelong struggle with a poorly understood neurologic condition that has shaped the course of his career. Happily, Paddy has now found a solution to his troubles, but it remains to be seen whether his on-screen counterpart will do the same.

True Superhero Paddy Considine‘s Battle to Keep the Peace Within Westeros and Himself

Finding his audience

Paddy was born in 1973 in the town of Burton, in the English Midlands, and grew up on a social housing estate in the nearby suburb of Winshill. His father was a working-class Irish immigrant, and while he was a highly intelligent man according to Paddy, he was also someone who struggled to hold down a job and was frequently getting into fights. His son was similarly unruly, garnering a reputation as a troublemaker with his teachers in the local school. They could see that Paddy had potential but felt he was unlikely to make the most of it; one teacher chastised him for acting the clown, telling him, “Everyone’s laughing now, Considine, but one day you won’t have your audience.”

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Paddy took this to heart, but the advice had the opposite effect to the one intended. Instead of buckling down to his studies, Paddy went in search of new audiences, signing up to a school production of Grease. If this sudden turn toward the stage affected his reputation as a hard case in the school, nobody said anything to his face; as he later told the Guardian, “[That was] probably ’cos my dad had a reputation; he’d give them a duffing up.” The die was cast, and on leaving school Paddy signed up to study performing arts at college, and it was here that he would meet his longtime friend and collaborator, Shane Meadows.

Filling the Dead Man’s Shoes

Meadows shared Paddy’s desire to find bigger audiences, but combined it with a knack for getting things done. At first, the pair formed a band and Paddy - who could play no instruments - announced he would be the drummer. Within a week, a drum kit had arrived at his house, arranged by Meadows. The band did not take off, but before long Meadows had become a successful director of low-budget indie feature films and he began to cast his old friend in his movies, beginning with 1999’s A Room For Romeo Brass. This led to the performance that would define Considine’s early career, as the lead in the shockingly brutal 2004 revenge thriller Dead Man’s Shoes, which the pair co-wrote about their youthful experiences with bullies in small Midlands towns. Considine’s intense portrayal of an ex-soldier returning to his hometown to wreak vengeance on small-time drug dealers was an enormous critical success and made his name as an actor. He would develop a similarly impressive reputation as both a writer and director thanks to his 2011 film Tyrannosaur, another harrowing naturalistic movie starring Olivia Colman (in her first non-comedic acting role) as a victim of domestic violence. Meanwhile, Paddy was landing parts of his own in bigger budget movies, but although he would play roles as diverse as a comically crooked policeman in Hot Fuzz and a timid newspaper journalist in The Bourne Ultimatum, it was his turn in Dead Man’s Shoes that cemented his reputation for playing erratic, violent characters. 

Paddy as the vengeful soldier in 2004's Dead Man's Shoes

This reputation was compounded by his refusal to tread the usual path followed by other actors. Paddy did not just eschew the call of Hollywood, he would rarely even be seen in Soho, the artistic center of London, and continued to live in Burton with his wife and family. The only major change to his lifestyle was that he lived in a slightly larger house with a garden. He also refused to audition for parts, only working with directors who sought out his services for specific roles. Many interpreted this as arrogance, but the truth was that Paddy was simply insecure about his acting skills. Having never had formal acting training, he had great doubts about his own abilities and - despite his tremendous success - he believed himself to be a bad actor, leading to a reluctance to work with directors unless they seemed ready to support and nurture his confidence. Paddy eventually took acting lessons in 2014, but this did nothing to resolve other issues that were affecting his personal life.

A crucial diagnosis

In 2010, Paddy was told that he may have a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome, a diagnosis that he said at the time “made sense” to him. He had felt hypersensitive for a while and had severe anxiety problems, often becoming convinced that his wife and three children were somehow in danger, and even hiding under a table when there was a knock on his front door. This diagnosis did not alleviate all of his issues, however, and he continued to experience debilitating symptoms including difficulty concentrating, poor memory, and awkwardness in social situations. This affected his work a great deal, as he had difficulty memorizing lines, and even struggled to maintain eye contact with other people. It wasn’t until 2014 that he found a productive explanation for his symptoms when he was diagnosed with Irlen Syndrome, a visual processing disorder that has links to dyslexia and autism. Irlen is poorly understood and a contentious subject among psychologists, as is often the case with loosely defined syndromes; proponents of the condition claim that it affects upwards of 10 percent of people worldwide to some degree, while critics claim there is no hard evidence to support the existence of the condition. 

One person who is in no doubt about Irlen’s existence is Paddy Considine, who credits the diagnosis, and the tinted glasses he now wears to correct the issue, with helping him overcome a wide range of difficulties in his day-to-day life. He has also ascribed his difficulties in his school years to Irlen, and also believes that the condition - which can be hereditary - also affected his father. As he told the Guardian in a 2014 interview, soon after he was diagnosed: “When I started off acting, I was always portrayed as being angry and I wasn’t angry. I was just ill, in a way. I wasn’t diagnosed with this [Irlen Syndrome]. I didn’t know what was going on. I was becoming more detached. But I always knew I wasn’t that dark guy they were talking about. I had the potential in me, of course, but I wasn’t educated about who I was and what I was feeling.”

Paddy is more at peace with himself now than ever before, and although he still lives in unfashionable Burton, his new role at the heart of one of the most popular franchises in entertainment history is sure to help raise awareness about Irlen Syndrome and also bring awareness of his tremendous acting skill to a much wider audience. One recent convert is Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, who was moved to tell The New York Times, “Every once in a while, an actor or the writers will take a character in a somewhat different direction that is better, and I look at it and I say, ‘Damn, I wish I had written it that way.’” While Paddy may have seemed a surprising choice for the role of King Viserys Targaryen at first, it’s clear that his experiences as a True Superhero have added a great deal of weight to the character. 

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