By Karin Herig
Big T Editor
HE’S the son of a well-known British actor and his sister is chart-topping singer Lily Allen, but Alfie Allen says “Game of Thrones” has finally meant that he gets recognised as an artist in his own right.
The 25-year-old actor plays the role of Theon Greyjoy in the award-winning HBO show based on the fantasy novels by George R R Martin; it’s a character whose motivations and actions have become increasingly complex and interesting to watch during the second season.
Sitting down with The Big T and other reporters from Latin American and the Caribbean last week, Alfie talked about the show and his character with lots of enthusiasm, love and a sort of tongue-in-cheek kind of humour with which he can’t help but charm his audiences.
“I kind of like Melisandre (Carice van Houten), she’s cool. She’s just really mysterious, you don’t really know what her intentions are at all. She’s the red priestess, she’s great.
“And this is a weird one, but I’d liked Jory Cassel (Jamie Sives) in the first series for some reason. He had a couple of good lines in it, there was that bit in the brothel where Ned Stark was like, ‘come on’, and he’s like ‘okay, sir’; that really made me giggle, that was a good part. And I like Davos (Liam Cunningham) as well, because he’s another one of those where you don’t really know what his motivation is. You don’t know if he’s a good guy or bad guy; I think that’s kind of similar with a lot of the characters.”
For the second season, Alfie said he’s most excited about Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), a warrior and new member of King Renly’s Kingsguard.
“She’s a really close friend of mine now and I just want to see her go on and on, and next series she really goes crazy, so that’s cool. She’s absolutely brilliant.”
“I just love (the sex scenes); it’s great,” said Alfie while giggling as he answered a question about the numerous and explicit sexual acts shown in “Game of Thrones”.
On why “Game of Thrones” is enjoying such immense success, he said with a smile: “Well, there’s a lot of sex and violence in it, people love that.”
But Alfie was also quick to point out that he thinks a major factor in the show’s success is “the great bunch of actors in it”.
“Everyone in it; there’s not one sort of weak point, I don’t think...From the extras to the main cast, everyone I think is really brilliant.”
Alfie said he has learned some new lessons about acting by watching Peter Dinklage, who last year won an Emmy for his role of Tyrion Lannister.
“There’s just something about him and his performance, it’s just so natural and relaxed, but it’s still grand as well.
“I don’t know if anyone else could see it, but I was kind of nervous in the first series, because it was new ground for me, new territory. I thought I didn’t know what I was doing, but obviously I did because (show creators) David (Benioff) and Dan (Weiss) cast me in it. You have all these insecurities in your head, but I think what I’ve learned in acting is just that I have to be 100 per cent confident the whole time and definitely not watch the monitor afterwards, because I did that sometimes in the first series and I was like, ‘no, no, no’; so I don’t do that anymore,” he said.
Alfie is the son of Keith Allen and Alison Owen.
Keith is a well-known Welsh actor, comedian, musician, author and television presenter. He has starred in such movies as “Trainspotting” and “De-Lovely”. He also recently directed a documentary about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, called “Unlawful Killing” which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival.
Allison is a film producer, whose credits include “Elizabeth” (1998), “Shaun of the Dead” (2004), “The Other Boleyn Girl” (2007) and “Jane Eyre” (2011).
Alfie’s older sister, Lily Allen, is a singer/songwriter best known in this part of the world for her 2006 hit “Smile” and more recently for her collaboration with T-Pain on “5 O’Clock”.
Filming the second season – or ‘series’ as viewers in the UK call it – has meant long hours and a lot of hard work for the London-born actor, but Alfie said he hopes he has managed to make his character Theon Greyjoy – who has started down the road of betrayal of his adopted family, the Starks – as sympathetic as possible.
And while Alfie said he prefers playing the role of the villain – “it’s more interesting” – he doesn’t see Theon as a villain as such.
“When he’s going back to Pyke (the Greyjoy’s stronghold), I don’t think his intention is to betray Robb (Stark) at all. I think he wants to go back there to be someone, to be someone important. And to maybe get to know his family.
“I think he wants to go back and be a prince, because he’s been around Robb Stark and Ned Stark for years, so I think he’s felt like he deserves a place in that sort of high-born society. So when he goes back I don’t think his intentions are actually bad, it’s just because the rejection he gets from his family and the humiliation that he kind of just makes the wrong decisions. But I’d say, yeah, I definitely like playing a darker role more than a more likable role,” he said.
“That was my intention with Theon from the start. I didn’t really think people would like him as much as other characters in the show, but as long you sympathise with him then I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve; so hopefully you sympathise with him.”
“Alfie” – The Song
Alfie’s sister, singer Lily Allen, featured a song about her brother on her debut album, “Alright, Still”. The track was released as a single in March 2007 and in it the songstress criticised her younger sibling for his lazy behaviour.
While Alfie was reportedly upset about the song initially, he has long since gotten over it.
“When you’re younger, you can kind of do what you like; so it never really played that much of a part (in my life). It may be as an actor you have to have a sort of anonymity and that (song) kind of showed a part of my life I didn’t want other people to see, but whatever, it’s fine. It’s all behind me now, it’s like it was ages ago, it’s all good.”
Alfie said he has read up to book three in the series (“When my character started being in it not so much I lost interest; no, I’m joking,” he said) and hopes he has been able to give Theon more layers than he has in the source material.
“I would like to think I gave him a bit more layers than he has in the book. He knows what he’s going to do in the book, he knows he’s going over there to betray Robb and he knows he’s going to make a name for himself somehow, but people have told me on the show as well, some people behind the scenes have gone, ‘you’ve made him a lot more layered’.
“In the books, the rejection from the family is not played upon that much, it’s more about Theon; so I think this shows the family relations on the whole, that’s definitely something different from the books.”
Being on show since episode one means Alfie is now considered a “veteran” on the “Game of Thrones” set, something Alfie said feels really weird.
“I had a lot more to do this series, so I was over in Belfast longer periods of time, but the changes are the new characters that have come into it. Being the sort of vet is weird, you’re just as nervous as everyone else, not nervous, but you can kind of see people coming on who are brand new to it and you kind have to be the one to put an arm around their shoulder and say, ‘it’s fine, don’t worry”, but it’s weird,” he said.
Not as weird as one would expect, is the filming of sex scenes. Alfie has had two explicit scenes so far, one in each season, and both times he has had to deliver important plot-furthering dialog during those scenes.
The Big T asked Alfie if having important lines during sex scenes makes filming more difficult.
“In a way, yeah. The first sex scene I’m in the first series, there was a lot of sort of explanation for who I was in that scene. I enjoyed that scene and the girl I was doing it with, (Esme Bianco who plays Ros), was great.
“I wasn’t nervous at all, in fact, I was probably more nervous in the one in the second series than I was in the first series, which is kind of weird. You’d think once you’ve done it one time you’d be fine with it next time.”
He said he agreed with a statement his co-star Kit Harington (Jon Snow) made, about how sex is important to the show.
“I think it is (important), because it’s real, it’s not sort of dramatised, it’s just how it is,” Alfie said, before adding with a laugh: “My scene was with a sort of prostitute so I kind of just got to do what I wanted to.”
Alfie said he also had little problem with baring it all for the cameras.
“I did it for a play called ‘Equus’ where I had to be (nude) on stage for about 15 minutes, but when you’re in the theatre you’re just in the moment more. I was very unconscious of the audience. But it is a bit strange when you’ve got a mic boom and stuff and there’s people there. To a degree they have a closed set, but then the directors and producers have to be there.”
To ensure that he is in shape for the nude scenes, Alfie said he works out a lot.
“I did a lot of training for the first series, partly, obviously, because I wanted to look better in the sex scenes, but I think it needed it. I wanted to feel like a warrior, I wanted to feel like I was battle-hardened, so that definitely helped me get into the character in a way.
“It was hard-core because I’d – this is quite personal – I’d split up with someone I was in love with and so I went into the gym, and you know that’s the best cure sometimes, is to just to concentrate on getting fit, getting healthy, so that was definitely a big motivation for me. I did a lot of training, I lost a lot of weight. From the (unaired) pilot to when we did the first series I really stripped down and I was proud of myself, and I thought I did quite well.
“I mean David and Dan were just like, ‘Alfie, don’t come back looking like Arnold,” he said mimicking an American accent.
As to the question if he prefers the clean-cut look he sported during the interview to his scruffier appearance on the show, Alfie said he doesn’t really care all that much about looks.
“As an actor I should be worrying about my appearance all the time, but I don’t really, that’s what the makeup artists are there for and the costume department people, to make me look pretty, because I don’t,” he laughed.
Sporting a beard and longer hair, as well as a heavy and elaborate costume on the show – which he says feels like he’s wearing a skirt half the time – the question is, does he get recognised on the streets by “Game of Thrones” fans?
“I get recognised more here (in the United States) than I do in the UK,” Alfie said.
“It’s funny, Richard (Madden) gets recognised as Kit, and then I get recognised as Richard sometimes. People are like, “it’s the King of the North” – I’m not actually, but I feel really silly and should just along with it.”
But despite getting recognised on the streets, even if he is mistaken for another character, Alfie said his life is still very private.
“I don’t like all that Facebook, Twitter, and all that stuff. I kind of just keep everything to myself. (My life) is as private as it can be, but I don’t go to ridiculous measures to keep it private,” he said.
“In terms of fame and stuff like that, I come from a family anyway where I’ve sort grown up with it throughout my life, but it feels good, people coming up to you going, ‘you’re an actor’, rather than, ‘aren’t you someone’s brother?’”
When it comes to trying to stand out in a famous family, Alfie said it’s not something he pays attention to.
“It’s just feels nice to be recognised as actor, rather than a son of someone else. I’m just like, as long as the people who love me are happy with what I do, and I can get their opinions of what’s going on, then I’m happy.
“We’re all grown up now anyway, we’ve all got our own lives going on, so it’s not like we’re watching (the show) all together as a family. I know they’re all immensely proud of me and I’m proud of them, so it’s good; my dad’s a big fan of the show, so that’s cool.”
Outside of starring on “Game of Thrones”, Alfie – who currently lives in Islington near the stadium of his favourite football team, Arsenal – said he would like to do more theatre, something that was recently thwarted by the show’s shooting schedule.
“Theatre is where I would like to be. I just like the freedom of it, it’s not so constrained, it’s just great. I like not being able to feel anyone’s eyes on you, and you’re just in the moment. If you mess up, you can you can just wing it and do your own thing, and I love that. It’s great because you never know what’s going to happen, the spontaneity of it is great,” he said.
But in the meantime, we can enjoy Alfie play Theon on our TV screens as he navigates through the political quagmire the Seven Kingdoms find themselves in.
The actor promised viewers that the upcoming episode nine will be “very, very interesting.”
“I can’t wait to see it,” he said.
New episodes of “Game of Thrones” air every Sunday at 9pm on HBO.
• Check out next week’s The Big T for part three of the “Game of Thrones” interview series in which we talk to Richard Madden, the Scottish actor who plays “King of the North” Robb Stark.