Iwan Rheon: Pretty Hate Machine

Though he’s probably the most hated villain in Game of Thrones as of the moment, actor and musician IWAN RHEON is nothing but nice and less mad than usual.

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“I’m on a holiday in France. I was just sitting outside. It was lovely,” says 30-year old actor Iwan Rheon. It’s definitely a well-deserved break, since they probably just wrapped up their shoot for HBO Original series Game of Thrones, which is now running on its sixth season. Playing the sadistic and mentally troubled bastard Ramsay Bolton, some might say he replaced Jeoffrey Lannister in the number one spot of the most reviled character in the show. When asked whether he thinks he has anything in common with his merciless character, he hopes that it’s the contrary. “The only thing that I could think of is that, I guess everyone is looking for acceptance from their father. I’m very lucky though, I’m very loved by my father, but Ramsay wasn’t, and that’s a huge part on why he turned out to be such a monster. But yeah, there’s very little that we have in common,” says Iwan.


The Welsh lad got into acting at age 17, then trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. He was casted as Moritz Stiefel in the London production of the notable musical Spring Awakening, a role that got him an Olivier Award under Best Supporting Actor in a Musical category. Iwan misses theater; he said that he would love to do some more, and hopefully, he will be able to soon. “At the moment, it’s been a lot of television and film, but I’m really hoping to get back on stage,” says Iwan. Music is also a huge part of Iwan’s life. He just released his first album Dinard last year after a few EPs years back. As he takes a quick break from his villainous character, Iwan talked to STATUS Magazine more about his music, his not-so-favorite scene that he did in Game of Thrones, and how his character Ramsay Bolton should be killed.

You’re theatrically trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, what are some important techniques that you’ve learned from LAMDA?
In theater, we did a lot of voice work and movement to free up your body so that when you do go on stage, you can use your voice correctly and without damaging it. You just pick up little things that work for you in terms of characterization, which I don’t even think about so much anymore, but at that time, I just learned little things from different people that help you find your character. It’s an amazing thing to have and stage work makes all the difference in the world.


What’s the most satisfying part of doing theater that you can’t get from playing a role on TV or movies?
What’s great about theater is the collaborative rehearsal process where you all get together and work on the piece for weeks. You show it to the world and get to see how that changes when there’s an audience. There’s something really exciting about that. I enjoy the kind of rush when you get put in front of an audience and get tested.

Before Game of Thrones, there was Misfits. How was it playing Simon Bellamy?
I really loved playing Simon; I thought he was fascinating. He’s a very introverted character, which is basically the total opposite of Ramsay. It’s funny how playing a character like Simon is tiring because you’re holding on to this weight inside you, unlike Ramsay who just releases it all, so it’s a very different kind of challenge for me. It was written very well, and I was really lucky that they decided to go with that direction in the series that I got to play the present Simon and the future Simon, who’s totally different and more confident. It was a wonderful experience, and I’m so glad that I got to be involved in it. I think it was a special show, actually.


You were almost cast as Jon Snow. If you had the chance to trade roles, would you have traded playing Ramsay to playing Jon?
No, not in retrospect. I do think that they made the right choice, Kit has been doing a great job, but I think Jon Snow’s life might get a little bit boring sometimes [laughs]. So I’m happy with playing Ramsay, he’s such an interesting character and he’s just a bit more fun to play that Jon.

What’s the best part of playing Ramsay Bolton?
He’s not your typical villain; he’s got loads of different layers. He’s manipulative, very intelligent, quick-witted, and can adapt to any scenario. Even though he’s a bit sick and dark, Ramsay is a very happy guy. He’s definitely a psychopath.


Which Game of Thrones scenes are you most proud of doing and were difficult for you to grasp?
I really enjoyed doing the shaving scene in season four. It was a very well-written scene. It was nice to get to work with Michael McElhatton, who plays my father Roose Bolton. But I guess the scene that I found most difficult from what I’ve done would be the rape scene from the last season with Sophie Turner’s character, Sansa Stark. It was such a tricky scene. It’s such a horrible thing to do as an actor, but you just have to get on with it, be professional, and just do it.

How do you think Ramsay Bolton should be killed?
Really horribly somehow! I think a dragon should eat him or burn him alive. That would be right [laughs].

Last year, you released your first album Dinard. What would be the inspiration of the album as a whole?
Dinard is kind of a symbolic and euphoric feeling of how I met my girlfriend, how we had an amazing night, and how you want to stay in that moment forever. The rest of the songs are written separately from each other. There’s no connection, no certain narrative in the record. I’ve always wanted to make an album; it’s nice to be given an opportunity to do it. I just got together with a couple of mates and recorded a lot of songs. It was really cool. I really enjoyed it. I’ve always been massively into music, so it’s nice to actually be able to make a full album. It has always been an ambition of mine, and I’m really glad that I got to fulfill it.


Can you still remember the first album that you’ve ever purchased?
The first good album that I bought was Parklife by Blur on tape. I was listening to them when I was nine or probably younger. Then I started listening to Oasis, then Radiohead, which was probably what really started changing how I viewed and approached music. They all influenced me in slightly different ways, but that inspired me to learn how to play the guitar. I wanted to be in a rock band and be a rockstar. Don’t we all?

At what point in your life did you realize that amidst the stress in acting, you still want to pursue a musical career?
It’s not really much of pursuing a career in music. What’s great is that I have a career as an actor now, and the music is what I love. Obviously, what’s the point in writing and making music if you don’t want to share it? But I’m not hoping to be number one, and it’s not something that I really want to push, because I like how it is as of the moment. I really don’t want to change that with having money influenced it or all that stuff, so it is nice to actually have something that’s mine and I get to control it. It’s good to do something creative to stop you from going mad, I suppose.


What are you looking forward to this year?
Game of Thrones is about to be on, so that’s exciting. It’s always a really busy time for all of us when we promote the show. I’m really looking forward to seeing the new episodes. There are couple of other things coming up as well. I’m off to America to do a movie. It’s all cool. It’s exciting to move forward and see what happens.


Photographed by Will Bremridge
Styled by Mark Haddon
Location James Vaulkhard’s Studio 141
Special thanks to Victoria Raeburn–Wales from Prosper PR
Published in STATUS Magazine, April 2016

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