In case you’ve been living under the rock for the past six years, Iwan Rheon plays the maliciously disturbing Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones and is arguably the most hated man on television today. He makes torture and cruelty look pleasurable, inflicting some of his flagrant abuses with a boyish glee on his face. But more importantly, Rheon has become the emblem of the show’s darkest impulses.
Otherwise, this young Welsh actor is best known as Simon Bellamy in E4’s BAFTA award-winning science fiction comedy-drama, Misfits, which, to date, has been sold to over 100 territories. Rheon also starred in ITV’s studio sitcom Vicious, where he starred alongside respected luminaries of British stage and screen, Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi and Frances de la Tour, as well as BBC One’s hugely popular five-part series Our Girl.
What’s more, Rheon is a passionate musician and, despite his hefty schedule, has managed to release his first album Dinard last year, following a series of well-received EPs—Tongue Tied, Changing Times, and Bang! Bang!
As an actor, how were you discovered?
When I was 17, I got a part in the longest-running Welsh-language television soap opera produced by the BBC, Pobol y Cwm and thought, “Maybe if they think I can be an actor, I can be”. Thus, I decided to enrol myself at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art to be trained. After that was auditions. I was out of drama school for about a year before I got a role as the haunted, suicidal Moritz in the London production of the musical version of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening. It's tough out there and you've really got to believe in yourself.
I’ve read that you started off singing before taking a break to concentrate on acting. Did something major happen and inspired you to take such an action?
I've always played music and in my teens, I'd say music was what I was really into. I've never really stopped singing. It's just because acting became more dominant at a certain point and led to a career, taking up more time… Which is really great because I still have my music. It's mine and nobody can tell me what to do with it or what I should write about. There's no financial pressure, no one's over my shoulder asking for a "single" and such. I can write as well as record whatever I want, and I love it!
You played a great number of different characters in a very short span of your acting career timeline. Which is your favourite character and why?
That's hard to answer. Every character and every production are so different. I think my favourite was playing Hamlet, which I haven't done yet, but yes, Hamlet.
You have also worked with numerous established personalities. Who is your favourite thus far and why?
I couldn't possibly choose. I've been very lucky and I've got to work with some of my heroes. I just can't choose!
Apparently you auditioned for Jon Snow but got a completely different Snow instead. What do you think the producers saw in you to carry such a disturbing character?
I'm not entirely sure. People often ask me this and I simply don't have an answer to it. I've never played a role like this before and I approached it like any other role I would have. By finding the truth of the person you're trying to portray and trying to deliver good acting. But more often, to avoid tripping over my sword!
Though Ramsay is a total psychopath, you really aced it! How do you get into such a dark character?
Thank you. I guess I’ve answered this in the previous question. I just got on with it like any other role. Albeit I do try not to get too absorb with characters I play in general. It's good to be able to leave him (Ramsay) on set as much as possible. I think it's important to let go, especially for the people closest to you. Normality is crucial.
What do you like and dislike about your character as Ramsay?
On a personal level, I dislike pretty much everything about him. But there is humanity in there, somewhere, as you'll see in Season 6. He's not all evil... Just mostly evil. He craves for his father’s love and acceptance. Then again, at least he does his own dirty work... They're probably his only redeeming quality.
What is the most amusing event you have experience when people recognised you as an actor outside of the studio?
People are usually very polite. They tend to know I'm an actor and not the character, which is nice. They usually say they love the show and the character, so that’s great too! However, Jimmy Carr did say that he thought I'd be much taller and scarier. I felt like I’ve let him down!
Is there a story behind Dinard? Whose idea was it to weave Welsh into your latest album? You performed ‘Rhodd’ and ‘Feeling It Coming’ together with your brother. How is the relationship between you guys? Was he the person who inspired you to take up music?
The song ‘Dinard’ is about the night I met my girlfriend in Dinard. I kind of wanted to catch the magic of that night in a song. There isn't a theme throughout the album, though. The songs are mostly stand alone in terms of narrative. But I really wanted some Welsh on this record. When I was coming up with the idea for ‘Rhodd’, it just felt like it should be in Welsh and I could hear two melodies kind of weaving in and out of each other. So I thought of my brother Aled. I've always wanted to record something with him and this felt perfect. I wrote it with both of us in mind. His voice is gentler and lighter than mine, which I think complimented each other really well. He'd already been in the studio to record additional vocals for ‘Feel it Coming’ whereby we’ve created a Rheon chorus. Nonetheless, he's a great singer and songwriter. I hope we can do more collaboration together in the future.
So, what is next for Iwan Rheon?
I’m about to start filming Beth LaMure’s indie drama Daisy Winters. It’s about an eleven-year-old girl's unconventional yet deeply loving relationship with her mother, which at some point in the plot, was harshly broken. The production explores the outcome when such strong mother/daughter bond is shattered.