Marvel’s world of Inhumans is expanding beyond the quirky-powered S.H.I.E.L.D. allies to the actual royal family — but among them is a dangerous new foe who will be very familiar to Game of Thrones fans.
On Marvel’s Inhumans, the Royal Family, led by King Black Bolt (Anson Mount) with his city-leveling whisper and Queen Medusa (Serinda Swan) with her prehensile hair, lord over the moon-based colony of Attilan that the race of hybrid alien-humans call home. But they’re forced to flee to Earth when the king’s brother Maximus, played by Thrones star Iwan Rheon, usurps the throne with aims of reclaiming their birthright on Earth. Before you feel too sorry for Black Bolt & Co., though, the royals have long demeaned the powerless — including Maximus.
“He’s not an evil person,” Rheon insists. “He doesn’t want to kill his family. He’s ruthless in the execution of his plan because he believes that is the only way to solve this issue.” How does Maximus compare to Ramsay? Read our full interview with Rheon below to get the scoop.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How was this character first pitched to you?
IWAN RHEON: Initially, when I was up to play the part, I did a little bit of research, and he seemed to be — I wasn’t sure, because it felt like it was something that I’d already played in Game Of Thrones. It took me a little bit of convincing, but Jeph Loeb and Scott Buck spoke on the phone with me, and they explained what they wanted, which was a charismatic leader who really, if you listen to what he says, he’s got some really good ideas, but he’s just frustrated by this situation he’s in, that he feels his brother, the King, isn’t really doing anything to prevent this imminent discovery by the humans of the Inhumans. Also, because his Terrigenesis renders him powerless, he understands what it’s like to be at the lower caste of the Inhuman society, so he understands the people. He’s a man of the people, and he’s a politician, really, who wants to go out to change things for the better for everyone. That was kind of how they got me. They were very adamant they didn’t want me to do the same thing as I’d done in Game of Thrones. They weren’t interested in that. They were like, “No, no, we want you to play this character. It’s a new character. Forget about all the literature. We’re telling a different story,” so it immediately felt to me like something that was really exciting, and I was interested in doing it because of course, it was a big day, because when Marvel asks you to do something, it’s great, and I really wanted to do it. So after speaking to them, I was convinced.
How does Maximus handle being powerless? Does that make him more dangerous in certain ways?
Yeah. He went through his teenage years after his Terrigenesis basically being confused, and he was the lowest of the lows. He was only allowed to be around because he was the brother of the king. What that’s meant is that he’s had to develop other skills in order to get by in a very difficult world for him. He was always belittled by the members of the royal family, and he’s constantly reminded that he’s never been Inhuman, which in that society, makes you nothing. He’s had to develop his mind, and he’s had to develop his cunning, and his form of manipulating people. He really understands the people, so he knows how to talk to them, which in theory makes him a very exceptional leader, and he probably would have been a fantastic king had he got power, and he could have been king. It’s kind of tragic really, so it’s made him have to think outside the box, I suppose. He hasn’t had to rely on his status through the power that he developed, so he’s had to find other ways to make himself relevant to the world he knows.
Yes, he is a man of the people, but at the same time, is there part of him that is doing all of this a little selfishly? After years of being put down for his lack of power, is this his revenge?
I don’t think it’s revenge. The thing is he feels that Black Bolt’s lack of action is a danger to them. They all know the threat that humanity has to offer to the Inhumans once they’re discovered, if they’re discovered, so he thinks that the best way to deal with this situation is head on, but Black Bolt’s saying, “We do nothing,” Okay, that’s not a plan, is it? So he just feels that he has to do something, and because he knows how to talk to the people, he knows how to gain people’s trust, and he has their ear, he thinks, “Right, well I’m going to take over.” He doesn’t want to hurt his family, and he tried to convince them time after time, “This is going to be an issue, and you need to deal with this situation,” but they haven’t listened. In terms of politics, there’s always an element of it being personal. He always wanted to be king, and he feels he’d make a better king, and under different circumstances, he probably would. Instead of this quiet, silent man who just spends his entire time in his own thoughts, Maximus is much more extroverted, and I think he would make a good leader. He feels that it’s time to take over, that his brother’s not doing anything, so it’s his go now, and he is the king.
He thinks the Inhumans should take the fight to the people. What does he ultimately want, though? Does he want the Inhumans to take over Earth?
He feels they have to deal with the threat in one way or another, whether it’s taking over Earth, or whether it’s going into a negotiation, but at some point, they are going to have to integrate, because their resources are running out on the moon. They can’t stay hidden, and he knows that, and he thinks that he is a much better person to go down there to maybe speak with the humans to do a deal or they have to do something. In his mind, he’s thinking, “The Inhumans, they’re much stronger, they’re cleverer, and it’s their rightful home.” He doesn’t understand why they can’t just go to earth and try to integrate, or at whatever cost, maybe it wound up in war, and Maximus thinks that he’s the right man for the job to lead them.
How far is he willing to go to get things done?
He’s ruthless. Definitely, he doesn’t want to kill his family. In an ideal world, they’ll listen to him, and he’ll just go, “Look, this is what we should do, this is the best plan, let’s do this,” but because of their loyalty to the king, they follow him blindly, and he doesn’t want to kill any of them. It’s just he gave them the option, join me or you die. He’s ruthless in the execution of his plan because he believes that is the only way to solve this issue, so he has to do it, and it’s just something that he feels like he really needs to do. He’s not an evil person. He doesn’t want to hurt them, it’s just he has to do this. He’s ruthless, so that’s all it is. Obviously, it’s not very nice, but that’s how he thinks.
Can Maximus even be trusted, considering he attacked his own family and usurped the throne?
No. Well, it depends. Trusted by whom? I don’t think he can be trusted by any of his family anymore, but I think he can be trusted. Well, I mean, you’ll have to find out.
Maximus has this infatuation with Medusa. What can you tease of that moving forward?
Well, Maximus and Medusa were best friends, and as soon as his Terrigenesis made him a human, she kind of ditched him and shacked up with his older brother, so you could understand he’s a little bit annoyed about that. You’ll have to see how that develops. At the end of the day, in his mind, she should be his queen, and he believes that he was wronged, which he was. He feels that she should be his queen, and it’s wrong that his brother is on the throne with her as his queen.
The story is basically fear of the unknown or different. Would you say that this is basically a metaphor for what life is like right now in our current political climate?
I think a huge theme in this show is the idea of integration. That’s essentially what the Inhumans are going to have to do in order to survive. They have to figure out a way to get on with the humans or they’re going to have to fight, so I think if you look at it in that way and what’s going on in the world, yeah, it is, but you know, at the end of the day, it’s a story about a bunch of people who live on the moon, so it’s fantasy. You could look into any metaphors and see what you like. I think it’s one of the great things that Marvel do, is the goodie and baddie, the hero and villain, the lines are all blurred. So you have those different shades, which it makes the whole thing a little more interesting for the viewer.
We know who Ramsay is as a character, and now we have a sense of who Maximus is as a character from this interview. Who do you personally think is worse?
Definitely Ramsay. Ramsay’s a sociopathic egomaniac who just wants to inflict pain on people for no real reason, just that he enjoys it. His quest for power is all for himself and ego and he’ll more than happily kill a whole group of people. He’s the kind of person who, if the King asked their most trusted knights, and there’s a room of children there, “I want you to go and kill them for the realm,” Ramsay would absolutely jump at. Most sane people would be like, “Oh, I don’t want to do this,” but through loyalty, they might do it. Ramsay would be, “I’ll do it, that will be great fun!” Maximus isn’t that. He doesn’t want to hurt people. He’s got no interest in causing people harm, just he has a very strong political view, and he feels that this is the only way to carry it through. Ramsay’s a miserable human being, definitely, he’s complete evil. Maximus isn’t evil, he’s just had a life that was led into this point, and he’s been wronged in so many ways growing up that this is the effect of that coming through.
How does it feel for you to be on a superhero show but have no superpowers?
It’s interesting. It means I have to speak a lot more. I have a lot more lines. It’s good, and obviously you want a power, but I’m happy. Until people started asking me that question in interviews and stuff, I hadn’t really thought about it, to be honest, and it hadn’t really bothered me because I was playing the character and I play the given circumstances of the character, whatever they are, so I hadn’t really thought about it, but yeah, when you look at it now, it’s a bit annoying, yeah. I’d like a superpower, something great. So would Maximus.
What superpower would you want, if you could?
If I could? I’d get teleportation, I think. I think it’d be the number one. People say flying, but if you could teleport, you wouldn’t need to fly. Brilliant. You’d get so fat because you just get lazy and just teleport to the refrigerator to get a drink. I just wouldn’t do any exercise, so you’d have to keep that up.
This is why Lockjaw is so heavy.
Exactly, yeah. He was tiny, he used to be tiny. He was a tiny little creature. Yeah, he got really fat. He’s not looking after himself. [Laughs]
Marvel’s Inhumans debuts Friday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.