Game of Thrones actor Lino Facioli was surprised to wake up to an overwhelming number of notifications on his phone on Monday morning. The HBO series finale had just aired in the United States and fans were gushing over the grown-up version of his character, Robin Arryn, whose “glow-up” had many viewers comparing him to Harry Potter’s Neville Longbottom.
“I gained more followers in a night than I had in my whole time having Instagram. It just kept on going up and up and up, and that still seems to be the case,” Facioli told BuzzFeed News. “Honestly, I just kind of laugh and sort of just act as humble as possible. I never know how to react with compliments. I love them but it’s always like, how do you react? I really don’t know what to do but I’m enjoying it, I really am.”
Facioli, 18, said he was about 8 or 9 years old when he first auditioned for the role of Robin, who was originally supposed to be named Ronald Arryn, and just a few weeks after the audition he accepted the part and started filming in Belfast.
Robin Arryn was famous for being the whiny, immature cousin to the Stark children (Robin’s mom Lysa was Catelyn Stark’s sister), who was also the Lord of the Eyrie and the head of House Arryn in the wake of his father’s death. When viewers first meet him in Season 1, Robin’s being breastfed by his mother as a boy, something that became defining in the character’s legacy.
“I find the whole thing quite amusing really,” Facioli said.
Filming the breastfeeding scene “wasn’t actually as hard or difficult or stressful as people think it was,” he added.
“I love the idea that people find my character so amusing and so bizarre,” he said. “I think there were points when I was growing up that I wasn’t sure about that, I didn’t really know how to handle the reaction I was getting. But I’ve sort of learned to love it and learned to have a laugh at it.”
When Facioli first got involved with GoT, he too young to realize how massive the show would be. The actor said he didn’t always know how to make sense of being a part of “something that skyrocketed and reached that level of fame,” especially considering the response to him playing “such an interesting and weird character.”
“In the process of learning and seeing people’s reactions, I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve become a lot more confident in myself from these experiences,” he said.
After appearing in Season 1, Robin shows up again briefly in Seasons 4, 5, and 6. We don’t see him again until Season 8, Episode 6, “The Iron Throne,” when he travels to King’s Landing. After Jon Snow kills Daenerys Targaryen and leaves Westeros without a queen or king, the leaders of the Seven Kingdoms unite and vote Bran the Broken as the new king
As the sole ruler of the Vale since his mother died, Robin’s perspective and vote is needed in this moment, reuniting him with his Stark family members and bringing Facioli back to set for the first time in years. He got a call last May to make a grand return on the show one final time, then spent two weeks filming the scene in Seville, Spain.
“The whole thing was just a dream. It’s been such a surreal experience,” Facioli said. “I wasn’t expecting to be called to act in the last season, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to make it to the last episode because so much stuff gets cut and changed throughout the process. I’m just really happy that it’s all worked out.”
Facioli got to spend time filming with a lot of the main actors, since the King’s Landing scene includes Game of Thrones stars Peter Dinklage, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, and Isaac Hempstead Wright. The reunion was a welcome one for Facioli, who was thrilled to be with the actors who play the Stark children.
“I always felt like I was at home there,” he said. “I always felt like I was with a good group of people and these are people that I’ve known for a while.”
Even without much dialogue or screentime, the 18-year-old actor’s reemergence in the Game of Thrones series finale sparked a mass of newfound fans. Not only did his social media following increase dramatically, but Facioli is also at the center of countless memes and Twitter jokes.
“It’s weird because to me I’m still me, I haven’t changed. My friends don’t see me as different, everything has stayed the same more or less,” Facioli said. “To other people who haven’t seen me since the last season I was on, it is a shock. So for me it is sort of a funny realization to sort of think, okay, something’s changed.”
The Game of Thrones series may have come to an end, but Facioli is still trying to comprehend his popularity.
“There were all these people talking to me and thousands of people just commenting about me and the memes had gone up,” he said. “I really couldn’t comprehend what was going on and I still can’t. I’m just enjoying the ride.”
As for how the series ended, Facioli said he’s aware that some fans aren’t happy and “everyone seems to have an opinion,” but he’s had some time to settle into the events of the finale since he first read an outline for the episode back when he filmed in Seville.
“It didn’t come as that much of a shock for me as it did for other people,” he said. “But when you think about people who have named their daughters Khaleesi or Daenerys, I mean that’s got to feel like a bit of a mistake, am I right?
“I feel for those people and I understand why a lot of people aren’t too happy. But I think it turned out okay for Robin.”