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Can Euron Greyjoy make Pyke great again?
Game of Thrones‘ recent Kingsmoot in Pyke may have reminded Americans of the current presidential campaign. Not only did it include its first-ever female candidate for the highest office, but there was plenty of name-calling and braggadocio regarding the male anatomy. Sound familiar?
“I’m not comparing Greyjoy to [Donald] Trump, but it’s obvious, it’s very close and it’s a fun thing to do,” Pilou Asbaek, who plays Euron, tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Like Trump’s campaign, Euron’s started out using a strategy so dubious that no one thought he’d last: he boasted about killing his own brother, Pyke’s previous king. Defying all logic, this worked for Euron and eventually won him the driftwood crown. His shameless platform also involved mocking his niece Yara (Gemma Whelan) for daring to enter the Kingsmoot, giving his nephew Theon (Alfie Allen) grief for being castrated, gloating about his own physical endowment and then making outrageous promises about how he plans to thrash his enemies and re-establish Pyke’s place as a leading power in the Seven Kingdoms.
Asbaek says, “Trump starts out by saying, ‘We need to build walls, we need to do this.’ He’s very bombastic in what he’s saying and his approach to the world. Euron was very bombastic, he was humiliating his niece, he was humiliating his nephew with some rhetoric. He wants to make [Pyke] great again.”
That said, Asbaek expects we may see a different side to both Trump and Euron soon. “Now [Trump is] going to be maybe selected as the Republican candidate, he needs to be more soft, because he needs the rest of the audience to follow him,” the actor says. “So maybe Euron will do the same.”
Check out what else Asbaek told THR about Euron’s lack of an eye patch, his god complex and how he might win over the Mother of Dragons.
What was the appeal of playing Euron Greyjoy for you?
It is the biggest show on the planet, and it’s one of the most awesome characters in the books, so it was like a no-brainer. As an actor, you want roles that are full of meat. Euron is this guy, he’s so complex, he’s so diverse and we’re just seeing the start of him. This is just the beginning, I hope. I don’t know what’s going to happen.
You mentioned that the way Euron is depicted in the books was one reason you wanted to do the show. Did you do research?
I read all the things I could read about Euron. I just found out that they released a new chapter about the Greyjoys that I need to get my fingers into. I haven’t read the final chapter because it’s part of the new book. He’s actually very interesting. There’s some kind of demon, he’s the god of demons or something. I like that, because a character that knows he’s full of flaws can work with it. A character that doesn’t know he’s full of flaws can’t. It’s like an alcoholic; you need to admit you’re an alcoholic so you can work with it. Euron knows that he’s not one of the gods’ best children, but if you know it, maybe you can change it or maybe keep working with it because it works for you.
Were you glad that you didn’t have to wear an eye patch like Euron does in the books?
That was an artistic choice by the writers that they wanted to create their own pirate, their own Euron Greyjoy. But for me, there’s a reason why you have an eye patch. If you go to the history books, pirates would have an eye patch so that when you go below decks, you’d have a trained eye for darkness and one eye trained for sunlight. But if you read the books, Euron has an eye patch for something else. An eye patch would’ve been fun, but it’s also a little cliche. Does he need a wooden leg and a parrot? No.
Just how wet did you get in that rainy scene when Euron kills his brother Balon (Patrick Malahide)?
I’ve done some films and I’ve tried stuff in my career so far, but I must admit that that’s probably the coldest experience I’ve had in my entire life, doing that scene. We shot from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the coldest water I’ve ever been in. That was difficult, but it was worth it. It was a great experience, and it totally lived up to my expectations of being on Game of Thrones.
Balon mentions a story about Euron losing his mind during a storm at sea. And then Euron tells Balon that he is the storm. Does he have a bit of a god complex?
(Laughs) I think all interesting characters have some kind of a complex. The guy I worked with on the second episode is a guy called Jack Bender who is one of the main creative forces behind Lost. One of the Lost episodes is titled “All Good Cowboys Got Daddy Issues.” So you want these guys. It’s much more fun and much more interesting to portray them than a typical antagonist or protagonist.
How did you approach the Kingsmoot sequence?
It’s always difficult when something is so well described in the books; it’s always difficult to make it a live-action version. I think it’s like a whole chapter in one of the books, and we had to cut it down to make it make sense and part of the Greyjoy universe. For me it was just incredible being with Alfie and Gemma in North Ireland shooting this scene for four days. I remember the first night of arriving at this extreme, remote hotel in the middle of nowhere; we arrive and I left a note at reception for Alfie saying, “Theon, your uncle’s here. He’s waiting at the bar.” We actually sat at that bar for the next four days when we weren’t shooting, discussing acting, discussing life and discussing Game of Thrones. We became very, very good friends. And now I’m very good friends with both Gemma and Alfie.
In contrast to your great relationship with the actors, Euron wanted to kill his niece and nephew. Where is his family loyalty?
You know, you kill family first and then you move on from there. Killing people, it doesn’t seem that strange when you’re working in the Game of Thrones universe. You know what I’m saying? Maybe it’s almost a compliment, saying, “I need to kill these guys because they’re such strong characters.”
Euron has another brother, the Drowned God priest Aeron Greyjoy (Michael Feast). Should he also watch his back?
I think six seasons are telling us one thing about Game of Thrones: Everyone should watch their back. No one is safe. That’s what I love about the show. I love that it’s so unpredictable. We have no idea. Honestly, I swear to God, I have no idea what will happen.
What was it like to “drown” as part of the crowning ceremony?
It’s always difficult when you’re working with Mother Nature, because you need to adapt to that. It’s not being shot in a studio somewhere in Hollywood. It’s being shot off the coastline in North Ireland, and we had to adapt to that. I want to do as much of my stunts, and this is being considered a stunt, myself because I think it gives a lot to the character, it gives a lot to me as an actor, and it gives me something to react on.
How religious is Euron?
I think there’s only one god in Euron’s universe, and that’s himself. I really think he considers himself as a god, and I want to keep on working with that. You can only tell one side of a character at a time. Now we’ve seen the serious side, the one who says he is a lord in the first scene, the one that says, “This is my time to rule. You’ve had your time, brother.” And then we see the guy who is the politician at the Kingsmoot. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the mastermind, the guy who would play the other people like a chess game, the true Euron Greyjoy. And then also the adventurous guy, the guy who’s seen the world, who knows the world and therefore has the knowledge of taking the advantages of it. He’s one of these characters that doesn’t have any boundaries. I think everything is possible with him.
Euron last declared he was going to ally himself with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and the dragons. What’s the next step we’ll see in that?
I don’t know. If it was me personally, you can’t get her with a power move or being arrogant or being a bastard. I think you need to charm her if you want to win over those dragons, you need to charm the dragon mom and make her go for you, make her even wishful thinking or even having her fall in love with him.
How would Euron go about wooing her?
I don’t think flowers would work — I don’t think flowers would be enough, but if you could present a kingdom, if you could present power in a Shakespearean way, maybe you can woo her with that. That’s what I love about Game of Thrones; it’s about power. That’s what I love about Shakespeare; it’s about gaining power. There’s an old saying from the sports world: “It’s not difficult to become No. 1. It’s difficult to stay No. 1.”
Is Euron someone you’d trust?
The character I need to portray delicately because I want to show as much [many] sides of him as possible. I want to make him as nuanced as possible. I don’t want to portray him as just a nut case, a guy who wants to kill everyone. I want to make him a modern leader who knows if I want to gain power, I need to play the game, and I need to be part of the game. And now I’m a contender in this big fight for Westeros. And now I need to find some allies.
Although Euron wanted to kill Yara and Theon, they had stolen his fleet. How fast can the remaining Ironborn actually build more ships?
I think we need a little bit of movie magic to build a thousand ships. The last time I checked, there wasn’t a lot of wood in Pyke, so maybe I need to start importing lumber or wood from the North. Do some sort of deal or arrangement with the White Walkers. I give them slaves for the army and they give me wood in return.
Are you a good swimmer?
I am. I come from a land full of water. I also come from a country that descends from Vikings, so I can build a ship, I can tell you that.
Are you aware that some have dubbed you the Danish Joshua Jackson?
(Laughs) I’ve been compared to a lot of great, great American actors throughout time, but I have to say I’m just a Danish guy. As an actor I’ve worked for 8-10 years now and maybe Joshua Jackson reminds people of me. But it’s always nice when you’ve been registered for someone who’s been doing a great job acting-wise.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.
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