Pilou Asbæk Didn’t Know He’d Be Back for Season 8

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The actor behind Euron Greyjoy explains why he thought Season 7 was it for him, and how he approaches playing a villain with so much swagger.

HBO: At the end of last season, Euron is part of Cersei’s double-cross and goes to collect Harry Strickland and the Golden Company instead of leaving for the Iron Islands. Did you know that was coming?

Pilou Asbæk: So when I did Season 6 I only got my scenes because I wasn’t a series regular and it was a different contract. When I came on for Seasons 7 and 8, I got all of the scripts — but having the scripts doesn’t necessarily mean reading all of the scripts... I only read my scenes. Which meant when I left the Dragonpit in Season 7, I thought I was off the show.

I remember I was sitting in the Seville airport with Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau who plays Jaime Lannister] and I said, “Nikolaj I think I’m out of Game of Thrones. It’s kind of weird they introduced me as a character and didn’t use me more.” And he just looks at me and says, “Are you f**king kidding me? Have you read the scripts?”

I had to confess I hadn’t read them all. And he goes, “In the next scene after you leave Cersei tells me you went to get the Golden Company!” And I was like “Oh! OK!” But I thought I was out.

HBO: Euron finally gets to sleep with Cersei in Season 8 Episode 1. Does he have any real affection for her or is this simply another power move?

Pilou Asbæk: He likes her. He’s intrigued by her. He says when he first meets her, “Ever since I was a boy I wanted to grow up and marry the most beautiful woman in the world.”  And Cersei’s certainly beautiful and she has power, and those are two very sexy things. So he’s genuinely attracted to her. But he’s not an idiot: He also knows, “I have the Golden Company, I have the biggest fleet in the world, and you need to pay up.”

There was a big discussion between me and Lena [Headey, who plays Cersei Lannister] and [co-creators] Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff] where she was like, “It’s is a pretty big thing that in the final season I’m sleeping with this guy.”

I think she did it because she had to, but the way we did it is to make clear he actually loves her. He’s intimidating and evil, and in many ways a menace, but for me it was very important it was genuine love, or else it would be a bit one-dimensional. You always want to make a more three-dimensional villain because those are the most interesting ones. So he loves her and wants to be with her, but he’s also not a guy that you can bully around and that’s why he bullies her.

“F**k you, I want to see the world burn, and while I see it burning I’m going to have a good time.”

HBO: This show has had some pretty amazing villains like Joffrey and Ramsay…

Pilou Asbæk: And I don’t think they are the biggest villains. It’s Cersei. She’s the antagonist of the story. But I couldn’t you can’t compare Euron to Joffrey and Ramsay. They have been the very definition of pure evilness. They were psychopaths. The actors did and amazing job, they made us hate them, but with Euron I wanted to try something else because I could never walk in their footsteps. They had much more time and much worse scenes to establish it. So in collaboration with Dan, David and [director] Miguel Sapochnik, we created a character that was more like a rockstar, more like “F**k you, I want to see the world burn, and while I see it burning I’m going to have a good time.”

HBO: Joffrey, Ramsay and Cersei seem more calculating than Euron. He’s much more reactionary, and takes things as they come. How do you approach that?

Pilou Asbæk: Although the bridge scene in Season 6 was an awesome introduction, I felt like I needed a little bit more of a swagger than we saw in that season. And for me it’s really important to have fun while I’m working. So I thought, “Why don’t I do a character who is just enjoying it?” Be totally fun and loose about it. Not like Jack Sparrow or something, but a little more like, “I’m on Game of Thrones and I’m going to have fun.” So self-aware in a way, but never more self-aware than followed the stream of the story.

HBO: Since it’s the final season, here are a few “Think Fast” questions to wrap up your time on the show: Who walked around set most in-character?

Pilou Asbæk: I don’t think anyone. The guys have done it for eight seasons; they’ve been at these characters for 10 years. They know them in and out. It’s like turning on a switch. So no one is doing method acting.

HBO: Whose costumes did you most admire?

Pilou Asbæk: My own. I thought I had the coolest costume. And Cersei’s extremely beautiful dresses. Michele [Clapton] is just so good.

HBO: Who always kept people smiling on set?

Pilou Asbæk: Conleth Hill [Varys] and Alfie Allen [Theon].

HBO: What advice would you give your Euron at this point in the season?

Pilou Asbæk: Remember to enjoy it.

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