‘Game of Thrones’: Alfie Allen talks poor, misguided Theon Greyjoy
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Theon Greyjoy spent most of the second season of ‘Game of Thrones’ making one bad decision after another in his quest to rule Winterfell in Robb Stark’s absence. But after a series of increasingly despicable acts, he finally got a chance to shine in the season finale, rallying the troops before reaching quite an unexpected conclusion.
For actor Alfie Allen, that scene was one of his favorites of the entire season. The 25-year-old British actor (who’s the brother of singer Lily Allen and son of actor and musician Keith Allen) has had a career on stage, television and film, but his role as Theon is his highest-profile to date. He spoke about his character and the season finale in advance of the episode’s Sunday airing.
Would you describe Theon as misguided? Selfish?
I’d say both of those words. Definitely. On the selfish side of it, he’s looking for a bit of status. He wants to be Prince Theon and he wants to have the ability to make his own decisions and decide his own fate, which has never happened in his life. But he’s also misguided -- he’s trying to do things because he wants approval from his father. He thinks to achieve respect from the people in Winterfell, he needs to rule through fear. And that’s never a good way to start off things.
But he just wants love. He wants to have this idyllic family with his sister. But it doesn’t turn out that way. And when it doesn’t, it leads him to make more of these decisions that he didn’t usually make. I think Theon’s trying to assert his power to the fullest of his abilities and to do that means doing despicable things. Even if that’s not who he is deep down. I think in Episode 10 you see everything come back around and he realizes that maybe that wasn’t the way to go about things. But he still knows he must continue in that same vein, because if he doesn’t he may not respect himself. It’s funny. In that scene in Episode 10, he finally gains the respect of his soldiers through being ready to die.
Your final scene in Episode 10 was one of your favorites from the season, correct?
It’s cool. I shouldn’t say he goes out in a heroic blaze, because he’s not a hero. But he goes out in a blaze. People betray him that he put his trust in. I hope it was one of those points where you find yourself rooting for someone you didn’t like for the whole series. When you see how badly he wants it, you’ll find yourself rooting for him slightly. It’ll twist your moral compass a bit.
What has been the public reaction to your character’s despicable behavior?
Different. Some people hate me. Some people throw their arm around me and say, ‘Mate, I know where you’re coming from.’ I think Theon is one of the most human characters on the show, to be honest. There’s a lot people can relate to in real life. It definitely made it easier for me to play the character because I think it’s a universal theme that people are looking for the approval of their parents the whole time.
You were left to interperet Theon on your own, independent from how he’s portrayed in the books?
Yeah, in the books Theon sets out to betray the Starks. That doesn’t put him in a good light straightaway. So when we were talking about it in the first series, David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] were saying they were going to go there in a different way. So that he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. The way I wanted to play it was that he’s going over to Pyke to enjoy a bit of status and also form an alliance between Robb and the Greyjoys and possibly command his own army into battle and to get the approval and respect of his father. But it all gets thrown back in his face and he’s forced to make these brash decisions and he’s pushed past the point of no return. He just has to carry on being that person. It’s very sad.
Did that make it more palatable to you as an actor, to make him more sympathetic?
Definitely. It was something I set out to do.... There’s a lot of people who sympathize with him and in a weird way, respect him. I just think there’s a lot people can relate to.
In the first season you were part of the ensemble. In the second season your character was isolated from the rest of the main cast and brought to the front. Was losing the ensemble unnerving?
Not unnerving. It was funny that most of the people in my storyline were new characters, so often I found myself putting my arm around people saying, ‘Don’t worry. Don’t be nervous. I’ve been here before. I’ve done that.’ Being a ‘Game of Thrones’ vet was a funny feeling. There were points during the first season where I was nervous, but I couldn’t wait to get around to it. When I started to see some of the scenes they were adding for me...
There’s Theon’s final scene in Episode 10 that wasn’t planned. And they wrote it halfway through the shooting of Season 2. I couldn’t wait to get around to doing it. I didn’t put much pressure on myself, to be honest. I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone. I’m just trying to prove it to myself. That’s the whole thing about doing TV and film, there’s the delayed reaction. In theater you get the feedback and approval straightaway and you feel good about what you’ve done. On TV, there’s the torturous waiting for five months.
Is this the longest you’ve been with a character?
It’s definitely the longest I’ve been with a character. It’s part of my life. I see Theon as me. But I see that in any job I do. You have to find similiarites in any character you play. As an actor, that’s one of the challenges. When you get a part you make it real to yourself. And to make it real, you bring parts of yourself into the character.
After two years, do you still find new things about the character?
Massively, man! All the time. It’ll come to you in a weird way. You think you have to sit in a room and think about it for ages, but it’s not like that. You’re constantly thinking about it. You’ll be walking up the stairs and it comes to you. Really, that’s being an actor. You torture yourself about it and then you move on. One thing that took me awhile to realize was that Theon has a determination to succeed. And that’s definitely something I’ve got. I definitely want to succeed as an actor.
How much time do you spend filming in Ireland?
All in all, about 30 days, but the shoot takes about four months. 30 days spaced over those four months.
The weather doesn’t get you down?
No, it’s all in keeping with the show isn’t it? It’s good. I remember last time it was one of the coldest winters they’d had on record in 25 years. For us, it was quite difficult in the first season but HBO treated us well. They give us nice trailers we can go retire to. The armor helps us get into character too. It can get a little tiresome at times when you want to sit down and have lunch. You have to position your sword in the gaps in the chairs and stuff but it all helps. I love it.
-- Patrick Kevin Day