Alfie Allen has arguably one of the most difficult parts to play in the whole Game of Thrones universe. Theon Greyjoy spent Season 1 in Robb Stark's shadow, only to break out in Season 2 with a prominent arc that involves betraying the Starks, killing two children, and still failing to impress his Ironborn brethren. Theon's not an easy character to like and, indeed, many fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series came into the show hating him before he ever appeared on screen.
That didn't stop Alfie Allen from finding a core of humanity that transformed the character into someone who is at the very least understandable, if not downright sympathetic. Wetpaint Entertainment recently had the chance to talk to Alfie, and he explained how he approached the character, and why he thinks Theon is not only sympathetic, but potentially even redeemable.
Wetpaint Entertainment: You've had a much larger role this season than you did last year. How has the fan response been?
Alfie Allen: Overall, I think positive. I'm not really getting tomatoes and rocks thrown at me in the streets, which is kind of cool. I think people have been happy with it. Things seem to be sort of really positive. It's a sort of a complicated character to play — I mean, god, that sound so ass of me, saying that — but it's one of the more sort of realistic, human characters in the show, and I hope people can relate to it in some ways. But, yeah, the fan reaction has been positive. But what annoys me is when people can't differentiate between the character and the actor. And people are sort of going 'I hate that Alfie Allen.' It's like, no you don't hate me because you've never met me before, but you've seen Theon. So if you hate Theon, that's cool, but don't put that hate on me. So that can get a little bit annoying.
Theon's not exactly the most popular character, especially for fans of the book series. What was your goal in trying to capture this character that so many viewers already hated?
I think in the books there's really no space to sympathize with him, because he's sort of portrayed as wanting to be a traitor from the beginning. He wants to go home to Pyke and betray Robb right away. But in the series I think it plays out more that he didn't really know what he was going to do when he got home to Pyke. I think really his primary objective was to get an army together, and to be a commander of his own army. That's how he was going to get the respect from his family, and from Robb — though already, I don't think he had a problem with respect from Robb, I think he saw him as this sort of half brother, and as his friend. But I think [Theon] is less traitorous [than in the books]. Obviously he is a traitor, but I think he does that because of the humiliation that he receives from his father. He wants some sort of status. He wants to be Prince Theon, which he's never had in his life. I think that's his number one objective, to achieve that.
He becomes quite power crazed halfway through. At one point he realizes that he's at the point of no return and he just has to carry on being this person even though he knows deep down that he isn't. I hope it's turned out that way. Other people might think differently. I just wanted people to sympathize with him, really. That was the number one point. I wanted people to feel sorry for him, and know that there is a reason for him being the way that he is. It's because of the hard cards that he's been dealt in life, and the situation that he's been in. He's never had the power to make his own decisions over his own fate. He finally gets that sort of power and he just makes brash decisions that he thinks are the right ones. I think if you're going to tell a lie, you should make it a big one. If you're going to do something, follow through with it to the fullest of your ability. I think that's what he thinks he's doing. Other people will see it in different ways, but that's definitely how I tried to play it.
You did an excellent job conveying Theon's thought process throughout the season. But one moment that was intentionally kept vague was his decision to take over Winterfell. What do you think was going through his head when he decided to make that move?
I think when Dagmer plants that seed in his head, that's when he sort of figures it out. But yeah, you'd have to be really smart to know where he's going with that. I think they wanted to leave it as a surprise. But to me it would be when Dagmer plants the seed in his head and goes "those are the Ironborn, they don't do what they're told." It sort of clicks with me and I'm like "then I should not do what I'm told, and go and try." He thinks taking Winterfell is going to be the ultimate accolade to his father, and that it would get him that respect.
People focus on Theon's mistakes, but what are his good qualities?
I think he's got a determination to succeed. And he also kind of just wants to be loved, and that's definitely a human side of him. He just wants a bit of love in his life, and he's never had that — real love, from his family. Even in the first series, he saved Bran's life, and he thought he was going to get some sort of thanks from Robb, but he didn't even give him that. He is trying to care for and protect this Stark family to point, but then I think he just gives up on it. Well, it's not that he gives up on it. The recognition from his own family becomes more important to him than from the Starks.
He thinks that if everything did turn out well then he would be loved by his father and his sister, and he kind of just wants that idealistic family. And that's just never true in anyone's life, let alone in Game of Thrones! I think he'd be very very lucky if he had that. I think that's definitely one human things about him, he just wants to be loved and wants a family, and he has a determination to succeed. Those are definitely admirable qualities, I think.
For a lot of people, when he killed the farmer's children he crossed a moral line. Can he be redeemed from that?
Yes. Yes, I think he can. I think there's definitely a way back for him. It's a long way back for sure. I know this sounds really bad, but if things were to go well, and people were to come and save him at Winterfell, and he did get to command his army and the Greyjoys did go and rule and somehow succeed in the war that they're trying to have, all of it would be forgotten, in a way. That would be his way of sort of redeeming himself — he did what he had to do. But because things don't go well, it's something that eats away at him, because he's just done something that's brought no results or victory towards him.
Really bad things happen in war and he has to deal with what he's done. Like I said, if you're going to tell a lie, tell a big one. I think that's his attitude towards it. The things that he has to do, he has to make these really hard decisions. They end up not being the right ones — even thought they could be the right ones. If things went well than he would have been revered as a hero by the Greyjoys. But he never gets that recognition, and he never gets the respect from his family that he ultimately craves.
To see the conclusion of Theon's Season 2 arc, remember to tune in this Sunday, June 3 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO. And for more from Alfie, check out part two of our interview with him, where he discusses Theon's sex scenes, his incredible castmates, which characters he'd like to see Theon interact with, and much more.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaMartin47.
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