Game of Thrones Gemma Whelan Interview Yara Greyjoy

Actors behind Yara and Balon Greyjoy on the role of the Ironborn in Season 6

Gemma Whelan (Yara Greyjoy) made her return to Game of Thrones last night after a season-long absence. There were fans who feared (or hoped, depending on their point of view) that her plotline, along with the plotlines of many other Ironborn characters, would be cut from the show, but according to a new interview Whelan gave to IGN, that was never the plan.

I did know there was more for me to go and there were plans for the Greyjoys to do more than what they’ve done so far. I was told the storyline would expand in later seasons. Things can change, also; they may go in a different direction than what they decided, but they’re often pretty faithful to what they said. I always knew that I would be given relatively more to do in later seasons, which is lovely.

Yara Greyjoy

Whelan is pretty good at not giving away spoilers, but she drops hints throughout that the Greyjoy storyline is going places (“they probably wouldn’t have invested in such a start to the Greyjoy’s story this season if it wasn’t going to go somewhere”) and shed some light on Yara’s relationship with her Uncle Euron, a giant x-factor who just walked onto the show. “She knows she’s got an uncle that’s been gone, absent, for a very long time,” Whelan says. “I don’t think she’s expecting to see him.”

Whelan also said that Yara is “pretty determined” to find out who killed her father, despite their contentious relationship, so expect those characters to come into conflict at some point. Odds are it’ll happen at the Kingsmoot, where the Ironborn elect their new leader. (Incidentally, Whelan is one of the actors who’s read the books, as she talks about the speech Yara/Asha makes at the Kingsmoot on the page, although there’s no guarantee it’ll play out like that onscreen).

Finally, Whelan talked about how Yara may react to seeing Theon again, if he manages to find his way to the Iron Islands. “I know that she stands for family, truly down deep in her heart,” she said. “One would hope that they would manage to sort things out, but I don’t know, you’ll have to wait and see.” If you say so.

IGN also interviewed Patrick Malahide, who turned in his final performance as Balon Greyjoy in Sunday’s episode. He praised costars Whelan and Pilou Asbæk (Euron) up and down, and discussed what it was like to film Balon’s death scene, where Euron threw his brother over off a teetering rope bridge.

It was wonderful working with Pilou, who is just such a delightful guy…Once the water started — because we were standing under these great big revolving rain machines, and it was in November in the very north of Ireland in a bleak quarry — the most miserable place I have ever visited in my life — and then they started the rain machines. And there was Pilou, who was dancing around all excited on the bridge, which is swinging. They had ropes on it so it was swinging around to make it look like it was high wind. Then the rain machine started, and I’ve never seen anyone’s enthusiasm evaporate quite so quickly. [laughs] But we struggled through it.

Malahide has never watched the show (he plans to binge when it’s all over), but he seems to have enjoyed playing the character—I liked his explanation of how he conceived of Balon. “[Director David Nutter] said to me early on, He’s like the landscape on which he lives,’ and that was incredibly helpful because the landscape is dour and stony like granite. His strength is in he is very, very unyielding. The idea of being loved, I don’t think that would occur to him. He wants respect.”

And actually, Malahide isn’t entirely sure this is the end for the character. “Plus, is [Balon] really dead?” he asked. “There are rumors that characters don’t die in this series. I wouldn’t believe all that you see.”

Balon and Euron

We saw Balon’s funeral, so I doubt he’s coming back, but I wouldn’t complain if we got more time with the character. For an actor who didn’t have a lot of screentime, Balon made an impact, and Malahide’s performance had a lot to do with that.


  • So sign of Victarian Greyjoy, so it seems Yara/Asha will be the principle Ironborn character in the series.

  • I have a feeling “Yara” will be taking on Victarion’s role from the books, and Euron himself will sail for the Reach or….and or Oldtown and King’s Landing.

  • I was looking at the scene again with Balon and Euron on the bridge. And I have to say that even though we believe Euron intended to do harm to Balon, it was Balon who drew the knife first. With that in mind, there’s a good argument to be made that Euron’s reaction to throw Balon off the bridge was in self defense.

  • Does Theon even know how to get home from where he is? I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up on a Bolton Cross again.