Pilou Asbæk: Euron Greyjoy gets “better and better” as Game of Thrones season 7 goes on


“Stormborn,” the second episode of Game of Thrones season 7, ended with Euron Greyjoy intercepting the fleet led by his niece Yara and messing it up but good. In the course of a few minutes, Euron torched Yara’s ships, killed two of the Sand Snakes, took Ellaria Sand prisoner, and bested Yara in combat before intimidating Theon into jumping overboard. What did actor Pilou think of Euron’s big moment? Judging by what he said to HBO’s Making Game of Thrones blog, he loved it, particularly when thee were stunts involved.

"It was sick. It was six days in Northern Ireland on a fake ship with a big green screen. Cold. Raining. But it was all beautiful and magical, because it just fit so perfectly in the story we’re telling. And it was great to get to work with [the actors who play Theon and Yara] Alfie [Allen] and Gemma [Whelan] again, who I hadn’t seen since Season 6.”"

Whelan agreed. “It was just extraordinary to film,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “We rehearse our fight sequences very slowly in a clean tidy environment with no costumes. It’s very easy. But on set there’s fire flying everywhere, the deck is really wet, there are these incredible stuntmen running around. Pilou and I worked together carefully to make sure we didn’t hurt one another. I also had a fantastic stunt double to do a couple of the bits that weren’t convincing for me to do.”

But however elaborate the sequence was, it all led up to the moment at the end when Theon, who was vividly yanked back to his time as Reek by all the brutality happening around him, opted not to save his sister from Euron’s clutches and jumped over the side of the ship. “It’s such a shame, but it’s such a beautiful heart-wrenching twist!” Whelan said. “We think Yara has managed to get Theon back, they had all these scenes of solidarity and comradery in season 6. It seems like he’s back, then there’s that wavering faltering moment that Aflie plays so beautifully. Yara’s just willing him, ‘no, no, stay with me.’ It’s just so heartbreaking!”

“There’s conflicting emotions for him,” said Allen in a separate interview on the Making Game of Thrones blog, “because he’s sort of back in battle mode, which he hasn’t been in for a long, long time. The sight of blood is going to remind him of physical pain or mental torment. It brings him back to that place, and he’s torn as to what to do. The reptilian part of his brain just takes over.” And then: plunk.

To hear Asbæk tell it, Euron knew exactly what he was doing when he challenged Theon to stand up for his sister. “He knew [Theon would jump],” Asbæk said. “You can hear it in his laughter.”

"He wants to break Theon down and see the humiliation. Or, even better, he wanted Theon to stand up for himself. Because why doesn’t Euron kill Yara? He should kill her! Or he should kill Theon. I think he wants them to become what’s in their blood: a king or queen – a Greyjoy. That’s more interesting than just wanting to slaughter them.”"

If some of those motives seem contradictory, I remind you at this juncture that there’s no understanding crazy.

Far from running from those contradictions, Asbæk has embraced the, and folded them into his performance. “I’m so glad we made some radical decisions for the character regarding Season 7,” he said. “When I came on board in Season 6, I was such a big fan. I wanted to do a good job. When I got the new pages for Season 7, I was like: What if Euron would be different with every single person he’s with? What if he was charming with Cersei? But when you meet his niece and nephew, he’s f**king brutal?”

"[The performance is] based on the guys who have these social abilities to climb the ladder and still be totally ice-cold. When you’re with them, they say what you want to hear. The moment you leave the room, they transform into something else. They’re social chameleons. You never know where you’ve got him."

In other words, he’s a psychopath, a group of people well-known for their ability to compartmentalize. Game of Thrones has had several notable psychos, and many fans have already compared Euron to characters like Joffrey and Ramsay. But Asbæk doesn’t think those comparisons hold up.

"Joffrey and Ramsay were the essence of pure evil. I don’t see Euron as pure evil. My job is not to walk in the same footsteps as those actors. My job is, with [showrunners] Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff], to create a new kind of villain — a villain you actually think, “You know what, you’re such a f**king douchebag, but you’re f**king awesome.” Leading up to the sea battle, this is a completely different Euron than the one we see in the Throne Room. This is the guy who doesn’t give a s**t. This guy feeds on blood."

So Euron is a monster, a charmer, a family man and a bargainer, depending on who he’s with at the time. (Note that I’m not including “kind person” on that list.) It makes him a dynamic character, and I’m looking to seeing where he goes next.

So what’s next for Euron Greyjoy? Per Asbæk, probably nothing we’re going to like. “I can tell you one thing: it’s going to be better and better,” he said. “[In the] next episode, he’s going to be a f**king brutal man.”

I wouldn’t hold hope that he’ll be gentle with his prisoners, either, particularly Yara, his niece.

"I think he wants to keep her for fun. I think if Yara is dead, she’s of no use. He wants something to negotiate with, always. That’s the reason why he’s not 100% evil. I think for him, it’s about the game. He loves the game more than he loves the result."

I’m just going to start feeling awful for Yara in advance. If she should ever gain her freedom, I get the idea that she and Theon will be able to compare notes.

As for Theon, Allen says that he’s “dealing with decisions that he made a long, long time ago. Now he’s having to face up to those decisions, and the people who it really did affect.” So that’ll be on top of the new awful (if understandable) decision he made at the end of “Stormborn.” We suspect the favorite Greyjoys are in for a rough year.

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Next: Book-Reader’s Recap—Game of Thrones, Episode 702—”Stormborn”

Some other fun notes from the Asbæk interview:

  • When Asbæk auditioned for Game of Thrones, he did so without all the pages he needed, on account of his agent screwing up. “So when I’d done my first page, I was like, ‘Alright guys thank you very much, Dan and David. It’s wonderful meeting you.’ They were like, ‘Dude, where are you going? You’ve done 40% of your audition.’ I didn’t know what to say, so I just started improvising. I ended up kissing the guy next to me who was doing the reading with me. I was kind of desperate.”
  • Asbæk and Game of Thrones costume designer Michele Clapton designed Euron’s “whole f**king rockstar look — leather pants, leather jacket, open shirt — because Euron doesn’t give a s**t.”
  • Asbaek once worked as a nanny for Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s kids! (Both men are from Denmark.) So when Asbæk threw shade at Jaime in the Red Keep Throne Room, “[t]hat was giving back for the bad pay he gave me.”

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