Pilou Asbæk Is Creating a New Type of Villain in Euron

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The actor behind Euron Greyjoy chats Euron’s strategy, filming a boat battle and dressing Euron like a rockstar.

HBO: How did you come to the series in Season 6?

Pilou Asbæk: I was a big fan of the show. When I got the audition, I did a bit of investigative work and started reading book passages where Euron Greyjoy was mentioned, so I would be prepared for the casting. But what I didn’t know was my agents f**ked up and only gave me one of the casting pages. So when I’d done my first page, I was like, “Alright guys thank you very much, [series creators] Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff]. It’s wonderful meeting you.” They were like, “Dude, where are you going? You’ve done 40% of your audition.”

HBO: You must have read that one page very well.

Pilou Asbæk: Apparently. The good thing was I couldn’t be nervous after that. How could I f**k up more than I already had? 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.

HBO: What’s it like to have Euron playing a bigger role this season?

Pilou Asbæk: I’m so glad we made some radical decisions for the character regarding Season 7. 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?

HBO: Why does Euron act different with every person he’s with?

Pilou Asbæk: It’s 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.

HBO: Can you talk about his “look”?

Pilou Asbæk: [Costume Designer] Michele [Clapton] and I did the whole f**king rockstar look — leather pants, leather jacket, open shirt — because Euron doesn’t give a s**t.

HBO: What’s he seeking with an alliance with Cersei?

Pilou Asbæk: When Euron says a line, he believes in it. In the scene with Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime] and Lena [Headey, who plays Cersei], Euron actually meant every single word — ever since he was a little boy, he wanted to grow up and marry the most beautiful woman in the world. If you look at Cersei, and how Lena portrays her, she is an extremely beautiful and powerful woman. What’s not attractive? There’s nothing more sexy than a powerful woman who stands up for herself.

HBO: At the red carpet premiere, Nikolaj told HBO that you two knew each other before filming. What was it like antagonizing him in that scene?

Pilou Asbæk: I was the nanny for Nikolaj’s kids. That was giving back for the bad pay he gave me.

It's awesome to do a scene with another Dane [both men are from Denmark.] It's so weird that the first real scene we do together is in English.

HBO: Euron has been compared to Joffrey and Ramsay. How does he measure up to other villains on the show?

Pilou Asbæk: 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 Dan and David, 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.

HBO: Can you talk about filming this battle?

Pilou Asbæk: I like those stunt scenes. There’s something mental with you running around on a ship, and the ship’s f**king burning for real. Because [stunt coordinator] Rowley [Irlam] is just mental. He’s awesome. He’s like, “Ok, stunt guys! Pilou has to go from here to here. We’ve rehearsed it. He knows exactly how the beats are. You guys got to f**king sell it. It better be the best f**king battle I’ve ever f**king seen on the screen.” You feel like you’re on a sports team, and you have to do this together. That’s what I love about doing these big stunt sequences: you are nothing without the stunt department. They sell it.

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.

HBO: What’s running through Euron’s head when he sees Theon jump overboard?

Pilou Asbæk: He knew it. 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.

HBO: What are his plans for Yara?

Pilou Asbæk: 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.

HBO: Can you tease what’s next for Euron for the rest of the season?

Pilou Asbæk: I can tell you one thing: it’s going to be better and better. [In the] next episode, he’s going to be a f**king brutal man.

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