In the wake of the Last War and Daenerys Targaryen’s violent rampage at King’s Landing, the fifth episode of Game of Thrones’ final season was the end for a lot of characters, including one of the show’s most hated villains: Euron Greyjoy.
And yes, he knows how unpopular his character was.
“You’re probably only going to do a character like Euron Greyjoy once in your life because he’s such a fucking idiot,” Pilou Asbæk, who played Euron on the hit HBO series, told BuzzFeed News. “And you don’t want to keep doing those roles because you want to develop as well, but he was so much fun and I love the character. It’s fun being the guy the world hates the most just for a couple of days, as long as it’s only temporary.”
Euron and his Iron Fleet pledged allegiance to Cersei Lannister and her army — they even managed to take down Rhaegal the dragon — but they were ultimately defeated by Daenerys as she rode through King’s Landing on Drogon, her last remaining dragon, burning the city.
A smarmy and evil man even to his death, Euron, his fleet obliterated by Drogon, confronts Jaime Lannister after being washed ashore and initiates a battle that ends with them stabbing each other. Jaime leaves Euron alone to die, bleeding on the shore of King’s Landing.
“When you’re away doing a movie or a TV show 200 days a year, you want to enjoy your character,” Asbæk said. “And I can tell you one thing: I have not had one dull moment playing Euron Greyjoy, not one.”
Asbæk added that his haters don’t bother him. He also accepts the wrath of the GoT fandom because he understands that “some people can’t detach” the actor from his character, and “the hardcore fans...are just passionate.” The Danish actor was also happy to play a villain since Euron was such a departure from the roles he’s used to playing.
“I’ve always been the hero,” Asbæk said. “And it’s been wonderful being the main lead, it’s been marvelous because the characters have been able to help so many people, but it’s also a little bit boring.
“For once in my life, I actually got a chance to play theater on a television.”
A reader of the original Game of Thrones books by George R. R. Martin, Asbæk said he thought Euron’s character on the show would be more similar to his literary portrayal.
“I wouldn’t have minded if he was a little more like a Dark Lord,” he said.
But the actor said he ultimately “loved” the way GoT showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wrote Euron because he enjoyed having the opportunity to play a character who was “over the top.”
“Being a bit of a self-centered actor, you always want more screen time and you always want more dimensional work,” Asbæk said. “But there wasn’t room for it because I got into this very late, so the scenes I had I just wanted to make memorable.”
Asbæk told BuzzFeed News he first learned about his death at a table read with the rest of the cast for Season 8, Episode 5, and that he was happy his character made it as far as he did into the series.
“I remember those two days when we did the table read, everyone was really nervous because we’d only had the script for one or two days and a lot of us hadn’t had the chance to read it,” Asbæk said. “So everyone was kind of like, ‘Oh my god is it my time now? Is it my time now?’ We were so focused on trying to make it, but when we got through ‘The Long Night’ and saw we made it we were like, ‘Phew, alright! We dodged the first bullet.’”
The actor enjoyed filming his death scene because it meant working with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, his onscreen enemy as Jaime Lannister but his offscreen friend of over 15 years. But death by the one-handed Lannister isn’t exactly how Asbæk anticipated Euron would meet his end. Given the in-depth history of the Greyjoy family and Euron’s strained relationship with his niece and nephew, Theon and Yara, after killing their father, Asbæk said he thought some of his last scenes would involve the actors who portray those characters.
“I always thought he would go out with a fight with Alfie [Allen] and Gemma [Whelan] because that would be the logical consequence of the Greyjoy family,” Asbæk said. “For her to be Queen of the Iron Islands, Euron needs to die and he needs to die by her hand.”
With only one week left before the Game of Thrones finale, Asbæk has made his peace with Euron Greyjoy’s final fate. Even though he knows Euron’s character will be hated by GoT fans for years to come, Asbæk said he’s hopeful that people will eventually move past their annoyance and remember him for other future roles, especially since Euron was just a supporting role on the series.
“This has in many ways defined my career, for the next few years at least,” Asbæk said. “But it’s not going to define me for the rest of my life.”