The actor behind the Starks’ nemesis talks battles, hounds and holding Winterfell. (Spoilers follow.)
HBO: What did you think when you first read this season’s storyline for Ramsay?
Iwan Rheon: I thought it was a good arc. In terms of the progression of the general Game of Thrones story, I think it’s right that Jon Snow wins and Winterfell is finally back with the Starks. It’s a shame that I’m leaving, but it’s timed out really well.
HBO: What does Winterfell mean to Ramsay?
Iwan Rheon: It’s what he’s wanted all his life – to be recognized as a trueborn heir. He shares that with Jon Snow. He’s got meaning in this world; he’s not just some bastard anymore. That, and the empowerment that Winterfell gives him, it’s the status he’s craving.
HBO: Do you think Ramsay had an overall goal?
Iwan Rheon: He’s got a general plan, but it always changes. Even killing his dad came out of instinct. Obviously, he had to think about the idea that a male heir would be a problem, but he just reacts. He’s very in the moment. Holding Winterfell is kind of the pinnacle for him. I think realistically he’s reached as far as he can go: Warden of the North. He’s done quite all right though, a couple of seasons ago he was just in a dungeon with Reek.
HBO: Do you wish you had gotten one more scene with Theon?
Iwan Rheon: It was a very strange season not to do any scenes with Alfie [Allen, who plays Theon], because we had been together all the time. It would have been nice to see him one last time, but sadly Theon’s journey has gone in a different direction.
HBO: Last year you said you wanted a scene with Jon: Was the battle what you were hoping for?
Iwan Rheon: Yeah, I was really glad I got to do it. There’s quite an interesting dynamic between them, because they are the antithesis of each other. Two worlds colliding.
HBO: Do you have a favorite moment from the episode?
Iwan Rheon: The parley scene on the horses. It’s just an amazingly-written scene. And it was great being on the horses out in that field; it was amazing scene to shoot.
HBO: Ramsay seems to be having a lot of fun in that scene; is he taking the threat seriously?
Iwan Rheon: No, I don’t think he’s taking them seriously at all. He can see he’s got Winterfell and a much bigger army, so he’s using that to try to rile Jon Snow up. He’s got all of the power in the situation.
HBO: What does he think when Sansa tells him he’s going to die?
Iwan Rheon: It takes him aback a bit because he’s enjoying his power and then she momentarily knocks him off his stride. In his head, he’s this all-powerful figure over her, but now that she’s free, he can see this strength. He’s slightly impressed. Ramsay he likes to be in charge, but he quite enjoys it when people stand up to him. He’s thinking, “Oh, she’s got a bit of spirit in her.”
HBO: What was it like filming the battle?
Iwan Rheon: It was such a massive thing to shoot, so it was quite fun. But a lot of the battle for me was on a horse not really sure what I was looking at, because it was all shot very separately. It was cool to be on that set with all of these amazing supporting artists – the respective armies – it feels like you’re at war. In between takes there’s a bunch of guys just lying down with their swords and their armor and shields, using their helmets as pillows. It was a really surreal experience.
HBO: Does Ramsay think he’s lost when he retreats to Winterfell?
Iwan Rheon: He’s more annoyed that his magnificent plan has not worked. But even then, he’s so arrogant he believes it’s going to be all right. He’s got that sort of ridiculous self-confidence. Then the door starts breaking, and he starts to realize, “Right, this is over, so I’m going to go out the way I want to go out.” When he’s shooting arrows at Jon Snow, he knows he’s going to die, but he doesn’t really care.
HBO: Are you good with a bow and arrow?
Iwan Rheon: I’m not bad, I’ve had a bit of lessons, but not quite as good as Ramsay.
HBO: In our cast commentary video, you mention you got punched a few times.
Iwan Rheon: I did, yeah. A few little shots. The way I see it, if you don’t get hit a couple of times doing that, you’re not doing it properly.
HBO: Does it affect Ramsay when Sansa says he will “disappear”?
Iwan Rheon: I don’t think he can possibly comprehend that everyone’s not going to be talking about him forever. In his head, he’s put his mark on her.
HBO: Is that what he means by, “You can’t kill me, I’m part of you now”?
Iwan Rheon: Yeah, it’s really twisted, but I think he’s kind of right. He has broken her in a really dark way, but, thankfully, she has found her strength. It’s great to have another strong female character in the show.
HBO: Did it feel like an appropriate death?
Iwan Rheon: He does talk about those dogs quite a lot, so I think fate has a sense of irony there for him. It’s a justified, gruesome, horrible ending for a horrible character. I feel glad he didn’t die in his sleep or something – he goes out with a bang.
HBO: If you were King, who would you choose for your Hand?
Iwan Rheon: Well, I think Ramsay would like to get Reek back as his Hand. If I were the king I would get Jon Snow in; he’s honorable.
HBO: If you could warg into any character who would you choose?
Iwan Rheon: Drogon.
HBO: Choose your GoT super-villain: Ramsay, Joffrey, or the Night King?
Iwan Rheon: Ramsay’s quite up there, but I think the Night King’s got to be the super-villain.