‘Game of Thrones’, HBO’s hit fantasy series, has constantly been made great because of its pantheon of villains, and standing tall in that rogue’s gallery is Iwan Rheon’s sadistic psychopath Ramsay Bolton. In television’s recent history, no character has been more widely hated and yet more keenly watched, and it’s all down to Rheon’s joyous performance of an ultimately irredeemable role.
The weekend before the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ hit TV screens, Welsh actor Rheon was in Dubai to attend the Middle East Film & Comic Con (MEFCC), and took part in a panel discussion on Saturday, along with the show’s storyboard artist William Simpson.
“The overriding thing about working in ‘Game of Thrones’ for me was that the show was bigger than any actor or anyone involved. The show is the star and everyone else serves the show. The morale that gives the whole crew is incredible and you really feel it is special,” said Rheon, speaking onstage.
From almost getting to play Jon Snow to his funniest moment on the ‘Game of Thrones’ set, following are Rheon’s excerpts from the panel.
Getting the role
“I initially auditioned for the pilot episode for Daenerys’ brother’s role [Viserys Targaryen]. And then they wanted me to audition for Jon Snow’s role, so I did that. And it was literally down to me and Kit [Harrington] to play Jon Snow. They gave it to Kit, of course! [Laughs.] Retrospectively, I think they made the right decision. But yeah, I had no idea what [the show] was. I hadn’t read the books or anything, I just read this first episode, the pilot, and I thought ‘This is a brilliant script, I love this script and I really wanna be in this’. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the role. But then luckily they came back a few years later and I got to play a different bastard.”
A different kind of Jon
“I think I’d have been a different kind of Jon Snow. But I think Kit’s nailed it. He brings something that I couldn’t and there’s something in the way he delivers it that’s absolutely bang on and I can’t imagine it any other way now. I think mine would have been a little more angst-ridden, a little bit angrier maybe... I would have known more stuff though [riffing on the ‘You know nothing, Jon Snow’ line].”
Playing the villain
“I approached it like I’d approach any character, trying to find out the given circumstances, the facts, what the script says, who you are, what you discuss with the directors, the creators and producers... You’re essentially telling the truth of that person, that’s what the job is. But then it’s nice to have some references, so I was thinking Heath Ledger’s Joker meets Dennis the Menace with Liam Gallagher’s walk.”
Working relationship with Alfie Allen, the actor who plays Theon Greyjoy/Reek, Ramsay Bolton’s prisoner
“It was great working with Alfie. He’s a really dedicated actor. I think what makes [it really] work as actors is that we trust each other and we’ve got each other’s back. And we spent so much time together, just the two of us. The thing is that he was in the show for ages, and he took me under his wing and took me to meet the other guys. And he had this thankless task where he was tied to that cross for hours and everything was negative, negative, negative and I was just in his face, being horrible. And after we were done [with the shoot], we’d head out, play some pool and have dinner, just forget about it and talk about football. And I think neither of us would have been able to do it without that.”
Funniest moment on set
“I think it was when we filmed the wedding [between Sansa Stark and Ramsay in Winterfell]. It was like one in the morning, a night shoot. And it was just beautiful because the set was incredible — it was snowing and there were lanterns everywhere. And Michael McElhatton, who plays Roose Bolton, was just standing there, and he kept making funny faces, and I was like, ‘Dad! Behave yourself!’. Sophie Turner was making us laugh and I couldn’t look at Alfie because he looked just so pathetic. And the whole thing was so ridiculous. I was just trying to keep it together because everyone was losing it and everyone was giggling; [but] we were just tired and in this weird delirium. It was such a funny day. And I think that’s a great example of Sophie being naughty and making everyone laugh and as soon as they call ‘action’, she goes into stone-face. And some of us older actors, I’m afraid I have to say, can’t do it as well as she can. She’s too good.”
Playing a psycho again
“I’ve only ever [played a villain] once. But because the show is such a big thing, everyone just assumed that that’s just what I do, but I don’t want to get boxed in as an actor. It’s obviously about the right character or the right role. When you do something and everybody sees you doing it, suddenly you’re getting a lot of offers to play psychos. But they’re not all as well-written or formed as well as Ramsay. But if the right one came along, like, say the Riddler in the DC world, there’s so much depth to the character, I would love to play him.”
‘Game of Thrones’ ending
“I was thinking like ‘Terminator 2’ scene where all the liquid metal comes together… I was thinking that but with dog [expletive] and it all comes together and Ramsay’s back… sitting on the Iron Throne, where he belongs.”
Don’t miss it
The final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ will air in the UAE on April 15 at 11pm exclusively on OSN. OSN Play and On Demand will air it at the same time as the US (5am UAE time) on April 15.