"They are such a messed up bunch of maniacs."
The rising British actor Eugene Simon ("Game of Thrones") talks with us about his child actor times, the psychology of his character Lancel and the humanity of the Lannisters.
Nice to meet you! How did you arrive in Vienna, is this your first time here?
It is! This is day two in Vienna for me. So I am thinking about what I have to do, what I have to see for the limited amount of time that I’ve got. I’m gonna walk around the center of Vienna today but before I do I’m gonna spend most of my time enjoying the Comic Con.
Maybe I can give you some tips after the interview?
What can you tell us about how you got into acting and how did you get the role in Game of Thrones?
So I got into acting when I was eight, when I was a child. For most of my childhood I used to listen to poems on my way to school and I would listen to them in the car, and one day, when I was six or seven, the cassette in the car stopped. For some reason it was lost or not working, or something and I remember I was really into these things so much, I knew them by hear, I could recite them. So I recited them back to my mum and she said: “Well, he obviously remembers things quite well, fairly easily and he’s got a lot of energy and we should do something with that.” And she took me to a child agency. I was just thrilled, I was like a kid in the candy store, I was so excited to be doing something so creative. So I focused on that pretty much from the age of eight. And ten years later I had an audition for Game of Thrones and on the day I turned 18, literally on my eighteenth birthday I got a call from my agent saying “You got the role”. (laughs)
Nice! Did you play as a child actor in some movies?
Yeah, absolutely! The two large jobs that I did as a child – I played at the beginning of Casanova Heath Ledger’s younger self as a child. And I was in Venice for that and I was about twelve or eleven. That was really inspiring, really wonderful to be part of. I was amazed by him. He was just a wonderful soul and spirit, just a wonderful person really. I remember him very clearly in my mind. And then I did a film that is a popular UK, sort of British book, it’s called “My family and other animals”. It’s about a man called Gerald Durrell, and his family, who live in Corfu before the outbreak of the second world war. And it’s about the fact that he loves animals. He became a zoologist and as a child went around collecting animals. So I played him with Imelda Staunton who played Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter, and Matthew Goode and Russell Tovey and Omid Djalili and all this cool, fun, great British actors. Those were my two big jobs as a kid. Along with a lot of anothers – commercials, Burger King adverts, that kind of stuff.
Of course. Did you know what you’re getting into? You said you were listening to poems as kid, were you into Fantasy, reading Fantasy books? The Song of Ice and Fire was already a well-known fantasy saga at the moment the series started. Did you know something about it?
I never knew anything about it, before I got the audition, before I got the job. I didn’t know about the books. I mean, I wasn’t a particularly… I wasn’t the strongest reader, but I certainly had some books that I loved as a kid. I used to read Darren Shan. The Vampire stories. Twelve Darren Shan books. They were brilliant. I really started to read the books when I got the role. Before that I wasn’t particularly aware of them. Then I read the books just… hungrily.
You wanted to figure out what you were playing, what kind of world this is?
I wanted to do research into what George had in mind. Because what we ended up with, was a different kind of character to the one that George wrote – as far as his ark in the series. It wasn’t a major, for the first couple of seasons it wasn’t a massive difference, but certainly when Lancel comes back as member of the Faith Militant it is pretty altered. (snickers)
Yes! And this happens to a lot of the characters…
And this is interesting: you were there in the beginning, then your character faded out of sight. We didn’t know what happened to him and you returned, a surprising return.
I think in season 4…?
Season 5, yeah.
So how did that happen? Did you think you will get ever back to the series?
I never knew. When I left season 2 as Lancel Lannister, I didn’t know he was going to come back. I mean, I knew the books had him in it towards the end of the most recent story but I didn’t know (?) what they would choose to do or not do with that idea. The idea that George made in his story, I wasn’t sure how they would carry it on. So I had two years, being like wow – I mean, you know, I was working, I had plenty to do. I had House of Anubis season 3 which was filming in Liverpool this time, I had two films I did… more than that actually, I can’t even remember. Two or three films or something? I can’t remember. It was good, I was working, regularly enough. When I got this phone call saying “they’re bringing you back” I was like “Woohoo!” I was like “GREAT!” They sent me the script and I was so mesmerized, how they had written it. I was like “Oh!”, it was so exciting. I still get excited about the fact that I came back to season 5, like the fact, they did that story for him. It was so fun, so exciting.
That was quite a character turn. Getting from the young, aspiring noble to the religious zealot.
How did you prepare for that?
I had enough time and I spent two months between being told and actually getting on set. I did a lot of research into religious fanaticism over the course of history. The idea of holy wars and how you integrate kind of religious obsession into your personality. And a lot of the things that I thought about, a lot of the work came when I looked into the idea of the seven pointed star. You know, the seven gods. How Lancel feels about each one and how he incorporates them into himself. How Mother, Father, Maiden, Smith, Crone, Warrior, Stranger – how they all form parts of his personality. When I did that work, I worked on it as much as I could, I found the Mother, the Father and the Warrior are really the most prevalent, prominent rather, Lancel’s personality. Maybe lesser the Crone, but you know, those are the parts of his character that really came out. The faith of the Seven is a good kind of blueprint, a skeleton of Lancel’s personality in my mind.
That’s an interesting direction we could go, because Lancel Lannister is not the most sympathetic character in the beginning – probably for the viewers. Because he’s the guy who’s responsible for Robert Baratheon’s death in the end. How did you handle this? You were kind of on the villainy side at the start.
Yeah! In the beginning Lancel was kind of innocent. He was naïve. So that’s how I would describe him. He was naïve and he was childish. He was a childish guy in the first seasons. I was interested in doing that kind of cross. I think it was very important. I knew that he had an ark. What I didn’t knew as an actor when I started season 1: are the writers and the producers – cause there are so many ways that they can go in so many senses - are they going to expand on his story in a way that I imagine it should be told? I got myself ready for the role on the basis that there wouldn’t be a full story to tell – cause they could get rid of him. They could have go on “Oh yes, there’s so many characters!”
In Game of Thrones it’s one of the easiest things to do.
Yeah! People go, people vanish. Now they die or they vanish, they disappear. But I knew I had to trust them. I knew I had to present that story as best as I could with that limited amount of time. We, as actors have to show the audience who the characters are. So I knew, he was a medium-sized character, Lancel, but he has a very important role to play, in every scene he appears in. He’s done something complicit or done something destroying something. That has consequences, you’ve seen for the rest of the show. So I had to work as much as I could with what I was given – fortunately quite a lot.
Do you meet some repercussions from the fans about the fact that the Lannisters are kind of the bad guys or are imagined as the bad guys?
The funny thing is, what’s so messed up, is the people love the Lannisters, they love them.
They are like “Oh you’re a Lannister, awesome!” Cool! They love them, because they are so screwed up. They are such a screwed up people. They are such a messed up bunch of maniacs. They’re just terrible. They’re awful. But they are so real. They are so human. They’re so real. Real, real people. The Lannisters, they’re not archetypes. I mean they are no stereotypes. They are real people, they got massive problems, huge problems in every sense. Emotionally, practically, politically, familiarly - it’s all messed up. And they carry on only about what they do. And it’s this horrendous tale, the people are all in them. It’s almost like it’s complicit. What I find so funny, even if they might hate the Lannisters, it’s like “Yeah, but I want to keep them going!”. So it’s like every one is complicit in it. So they don’t like want it to end. People aren’t like that, you know, when you’re going through something, you’re human, you really wanna see what being human is like. So people feel that for them, they feel a greater sense of humanity for the worst people in the show.
Because they are winning.
Whoa, yeah, because they’re winning! I mean Cersei is winning. But she is a TERRIBLE person. It’s a great story to tell for that reason.
I think they are a pretty typical family to be alive from the middle ages or the renaissance?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely!
Or today – if some of the things they are doing would be legal.
Look at Henry VIII.! He divorced his wife, he killed his wife, his other wife died and he killed another one… it’s a MESS, a complete nightmare. So anyway.
We could talk even more about this! What are your plans…
Are you joining another interesting TV show?
No, I’m not joining another cult… TV show.
Becoming a zombie maybe?
Precisely, becoming a white walker – it’s not going to happen for Lancel. But I got five different productions that are coming out at the moment. It’s a very busy time. A feature film which is on Netflix right now, it’s called “The Lodgers”, it’s a 1920ies gothic ghost story set in Ireland. It’s a very good film, I really recommend it. If you don’t like horror films, then this is the horror film for you. It’s very atmospheric, and very light. Then I got another feature film, called “Kill Ben Lyk”, it’s an action-packed comedy and I play Ben Lyk. It’s about a young YouTube sensation, that discovers to his horror, that there’s somebody going around town, killing anybody that has got his name. Basically it’s about him going on a run, going into police custody, so he doesn’t get killed. It’s a funny film, it’s a very crazy story. So there’s that, that’s the second one. If you go on to my Twitter page (eugene_simon), or my Instagram page (eugenesnaps), you’ll see a link to Vimeo and you can watch right now the film that I produced and was the lead in: “Resonance”. It’s about a young man who is deaf. Then there’s the fourth one, a film that’s called “Mens Sana”, it’s a psychological thriller that’s doing festivals right now. And then the most recent one is a film called “Love have I known”, it’s about a young man who fells in love with a boy at school in 1910 and seven years later goes to fight in the trenches of the first World War, and how he misses the friend who he loved back when he was young. So there are five jobs! Check it out all on my social media to hear more.
Thank you very much for the nice interview.
Cool man, I appreciate it, nice to meet you.Fotos von Michael Seirer Photography