Jack Gleeson wants something cleared up.
On HBO’s Game of Thrones, the 20-year-old plays King Joffrey, easily the most despised character on the show. That’s really saying something on a drama with more than two dozen major characters, many of whom with resumes that would easily get them rubber-stamped into the Evil League of Evil. Joffrey is considered worse than the guy who crippled a boy by pushing him out a window (Jaime Lannister) and worse than the guy who killed a couple innocent orphans because he needed small corpses (Theon Greyjoy). Joffrey “wins” because he isn’t just evil. He’s a total d–k about being evil. So some fans assume Gleeson must get harassed for his successful portrayal.
“If you could, clarify that people aren’t mean to me on the street,” Gleeson says while relaxing between takes on the Thrones set in Belfast. “Nobody’s ever said a mean thing to me. Instead people say,’Are you okay? I hear you get bullied on the street.’ And I say, ‘No! Everybody’s been really nice.'”
Thrones producers like to point out, too, that Gleeson is completely polite on the set, yet somehow almost unnervingly makes the right performance choices to make Joffrey come across as despicable as possible.
Like during our set visit (mild season three spoiler ahead!). It’s finally Sansa Stark’s (Sophie Turner) wedding day and Gleeson-as-Joffrey steps up beside his royal hostage. They’re in a towering cathedral before hundreds of guests and she’s about to walk down the aisle to meet her groom (whose identity we won’t reveal). In the first season, Joffrey had Sansa’s father executed. She quietly asks him what he’s doing. “Your father is gone,” Joffrey taunts. “As father of the realm it is my duty to give you away to your husband.” He is literally bouncing on his heels in delight at her discomfort.
Yet in between takes, Joffrey cracks up Turner with an invented song. “He was rapping about Winnie the Pooh,” she explains. “His rap was called ‘Got Monies and Honies.'” The director then reminds them to stand far enough apart so audiences will think they hate each other. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he does,” Turner adds. “Jack is such an insane actor and he’s able to change like that. He’s a scary kid.”
This season, Joffrey courts his own bride-to-be, the beautiful and clever Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). But will she manage to tame or just further unleash his psychopathic tendencies? “I think he’s as evil as he ever was but he’s channeling it through a different means,” says Gleeson, who is Irish but does a British accent on the show (or rather, Westeros-British). “There’s a different dynamic; he’s trying to impress Margaery with his evil deeds and he still rebelling against his mother. There are some disaster dates.” Then he quips, “I think he’s a bit unlucky in love.”
As far as Sansa goes, tormenting the Stark girl is just “a thing he does on Tuesdays now — a little plaything with which he can amuse himself.”
Another change is that Joffrey, who cowered in fear of going into battle last season, will take an increased interest in the management of his kingdom. “He’s certainly more interested in council meetings, he wants to mature more as a king and engage more with administrative duties,” he says. “He’s got a lot on his plate, but at his core he’s still a bratty kid.”
Thrones returns March 31. And … oh yes:
We got another two of those Game of Thrones fancy box sets from HBO to give away. Be one of the first two readers to hit me up on Twitter with the code word: “Crossbow.” Fulfilled!
17 DAYS OF THRONES
EW rolled out 17 Game of Thrones stories with exclusive and spoiler-free behind-the-scenes content, largely drawn from our Northern Ireland set visit last fall, leading up to the show’s season 3 premiere on March 31. After each episode air we’ll have our popular recaps (catch up on the recaps for the first two seasons here) and interviews. Follow me on Twitter @james_hibberd for Game of Thrones news and bookmark our Thrones hub here.