By James Hibberd
April 17, 2019 at 01:21 PM EDT

Some Game of Thrones fans have so little faith in Euron Greyjoy.

The murderous pirate played by Danish actor Pilou Asbæk was the final series regular to join the sprawling ensemble cast of the HBO hit, coming aboard in season 6 with a couple scenes as Theon’s power-mad uncle. In season 7, the character gained some attention with a dashing new look and swaggering humor, earning Euron seat at the finale’s Dragonpit summit as Cersei’s newest ally. Yet going into the final season, at least one sportsbook site ranked Euron the odds-on-favorite to be the first character killed off, with other gambling sites giving similarly strong odds for Euron to perish right out of the gate. Asbæk says those who bet against the Greyjoy will be forced to pay the iron price.

“My agent sent me a text that said the most likely character to die first is me,” Asbæk says. “So a lot of people are gonna lose money … I do some cool s—.”

As fans know, the first character with a speaking role to perish in season 8 was already revealed in Sunday’s premiere, “Winterfell,” when young Lord Umber met a gruesome fate, while Theon (another character frequently predicted to die first) successfully rescued his sister Yara from Euron’s ship without having to confront his uncle. For now, Euron is waiting out winter at King’s Landing and seems relatively safe, while most characters are down at Winterfell in the path of the Army of the Dead advancing south.

For Asbæk (Lucy, Overlord), his behind-the-scenes journey on GoT has been not entirely dissimilar to that of his character, as the actor has been thrilled to have a place among iconic characters as the story’s final machinations play out. Below, the actor gives a “brutally honest” interview to EW about his efforts to make Euron breakthrough, reveals he used to be another GoT actor’s babysitter, discusses character’s final season journey and tells a couple rather funny anecdotes about the weirdness of GoT fame.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First let’s go back a bit. What was it like coming on board the biggest show in the world so late into its run? 
PILOU ASBÆK: It was f—ing awesome. It was a big deal. I had like two introductory scenes in season 6 but I wasn’t until season 7 until I felt I was a part of the GoT universe. You need screen time and your own scenes to establish a character. When I did season 6, I had some great lines at the Kingsmoot that they took away. I had some lines where he’s talking to Yara and then, there was like 20 more lines where he was being ruthless, where he was like doing a comedy show for the Iron Islands. And [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] were like, “This is too much.”

Helen Sloan/HBO

The character seemed to evolve a bit, in both his look and personality, between the seasons. 
I had a long talk with Dan and David. In season 6 I was such a newbie and I didn’t know how much I could influence the character. I had an idea for season 7. I read the script and I said, “What if we made him a bit more like a rock star, where you don’t know if he’s going to kill you or f— you?” The costume designer was totally into that idea and made his outfit more rock star-ish and it established the character more than I expected. And when I was talking to Cersei and Jaime in the throne room I say, “So here I am, with 1,000 ships, and two good hands.” And Dan and David came up and said, “Take away the ‘two good hands,’ it’s too much.”

Really? That was such a good line.
Because I had more confidence in season 7 and felt like I belonged more, I went to them like, “Guys, don’t take it away. I know exactly how to be this guy, he’s gotta be charming, he’s gotta be arrogant, he’s gotta look Jaime right in the eye and say it with the biggest f—ing smile — because he’s an idiot and a prick and that’s what I like about the character.” So they said, “Okay, let’s try it out” and we did it. They said later, “We’re so f—ing happy you insisted on that.”

How did you feel about the response to Euron last season?
I was surprised. I’ve [been a working actor] for 15 years in Denmark and in international productions. I’ve worked with Morgan Freeman, Scarlett Johansson and Kirsten Dunst — big-ass stars. But it wasn’t until Thrones where people were like, “F— yeah, bro, we love you.” It’s the biggest show in the world and you feel privileged to be a part of it.

This is a crazy story: I was flying to the Chilean airport. I was standing in the customs line and one of the customs people look at me and goes, “Greyjoy?” I’m like, “Yeah, man.” They closed the border at the airport in Santiago for 15 minutes just so we could take photos! For 15 minutes no one could enter the country unless you were driving. I was like, “Holy f—ing s— this is massive.” I can’t imagine how it is for Kit [Harington] or Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau] or some of the other cast members.

When did you first get a sense of your season 8 role?
I’ll be brutally honest: [In season 7] I only read my own scenes. And while we were shooting it I was sitting in the airport with Nikolaj and I said, “I think that’s it for me, I think I’m [off the show]. [Euron is] going back to the Iron Islands.” And Nikolaj was like: “Are you f—ing kidding me? Tell me you read the scripts and you’re not one of those cliché actors who only read their own lines. You’re sitting with the most hyped scripts in the world and you haven’t read them?” I’m like, “What do you mean?” And he says, “In the next f—ing scene Cersei tells Jaime the whole plan of what might happen in season 8, and you’re part of that and you haven’t even read it? You think you’re out?” And I was like, “Oh, don’t tell anybody Nikolaj.”

I was such a big fan of the show and it’s like when you see magic as a kid. You see all these spectacular tricks. And then one day you start reading about the tricks and find out how they’re actually done and the magic kind of disappears. I haven’t seen one episode since I became a part of the show. I’m going to wait and then watch all of it.

Euron and Jaime are antagonists on the show, but you and Nikolaj are friends, right? 
We’re actually good friends because we both come from Denmark and — he will hate me saying this, but it’s true — I was the manny for his kids before I became an actor in 2003. I was like 19, 20 years old. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I thought I wanted to be a teacher because I love kids. I was like a substitute teacher at a kindergarten and his kids were there and I was a manny for them.

Here, this is one of my favorite stories: I had a meeting with producers on a very big film before season 6 was released. And it was for the [role of the] villain. They were 45 minutes late and I hate it when people are late. I’m never late. Show respect and show up on time, it’s not difficult. But it was a massive film and I wanted to be a part of it. So you suck it up and smile — because that’s Hollywood. So we sat down and they were so uninterested in everything I had to say. They couldn’t care less. I had asked for the meeting and they were just doing it to be nice to somebody at UTA. After 20 minutes of talking they go, “Okay, yeah, great, so, what have you done?” And I say, “Oh, I’ve done Game of Thrones.” And then one of them goes: “No f— you man! I knew it! You’re f—ing amazing! You’re amazing!” They went from zero to too much interest. “You are a chameleon! Dude, tell me one thing and be honest … how was it to do the scene where you got your d— cut off?”

Oh my god. Please tell me you just pretended to be Alfie.
They thought I was Alfie Allen! It was the worst meeting in the history of the meetings. And I just went, “That [scene] was very tough but I’m a professional and I’m going to keep it as a secret.” I went out of the meeting and called Alfie and went, “If you get this villain role in this movie, it’s because of me.”

At least they got the family right.
Exactly! That’s a credit to [casting director] Nina Gold, because that was great casting. Alfie and I both got these [similar] eyes.

Marc Hom for EW

So season 8, you get the scripts. What did you think?
I think Dan and David are creative geniuses and they have known from the beginning where they wanted to go. From a selfish point of view, I wished I could be in every scene because I love it so much. Like I love playing sports but I don’t like watching sports. It’s the same thing with acting. It’s truly spectacular. I wish I was a part of this from season 1.

And for Euron?
Euron’s in a position where he can bet on two horses. He can go with Team Cersei or Team Daenerys. He’s got opportunities. He thinks Cersei is sexy and he wants to be the king with her and wants to be on the Iron Throne. Because what’s more sexy than a powerful lady? He wants to become the king of the Seven Kingdoms. He’s also blackmailing Cersei — if you want a fleet you gotta do stuff.

His look is the same this season, right?
He looks the same for season 7 and 8. I didn’t think it was necessary to change anything. When he was with the Greyjoys on the Iron Islands he looked like them. When he’s in Kings Landing he needs to dress up to approach the queen of Westeros. She doesn’t want to be with a guy who looks like a hobo. Maybe a bit more … smokey eyes? 

More guyliner?
Guyliner! That’s what it’s called. You can never get enough guyliner. I remember in Demark in theater school I was walking around with it on. I’ll tell you: It was awesome working with [Lena Headey] and how amazing and awesome and sweet she is. You always get so surprised when you meet people. I’ve known her from her movies and she’s so different [from her roles], she’s so warm and friendly. It always surprises you that these people you think you know from the big screen are not like that; it surprises me even though I work in the industry.

What is his relationship like with Theon and Yara at this point, in his mind? 
There are a lot of people who think there’s a conflict. But honestly? I don’t think Euron gives a s—. For Euron his main focus is power and Theon doesn’t have any. Yara and Theon are nothing to him. They’re not a concern.

Exclusive Game of Thrones episode 1 “Winterfell” coverage:
— Kit Harington reveals exactly what Jon was thinking when he learned his parentage
Got writer Dave Hill breaks down the big moments
EW’s deep-dive recap of the episode
— Season 8 episode 2 trailer and new credits
EW’s Game of Thrones weekly podcast

HBO’s epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin’s novel series "A Song of Ice and Fire."
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