If there was one character among the many who died on last night’s episode of Game of Thrones whom everyone will mourn least, it was probably Euron Greyjoy, the maniacal king of the Iron Islands who courted Cersei Lannister and managed to kill a dragon, all before Daenerys launched a counterattack and Jaime Lannister killed him in one-to-one combat on the beach. It’s a wild grand finale for a character who’s always tread a little further on the wild side than most everyone on the show, and while Pilou Asbæk, the Danish actor who played Euron, hasn’t yet seen the episode in full, he was happy to chat and make jokes about Euron’s fate. Vulture caught up with him over the phone to discuss what messed with Euron’s aim this time around, shooting his final scene with his Danish compatriot Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and his weird Instagram account.
So what was your reaction to last night’s episode?
Dude, man, I haven’t seen it! I’m based in Denmark, which is a part of HBO Nordic, and normally we watch it Monday nights. So I haven’t watched it. But I haven’t watched anything since season six, when I became a part of it, because it went from a passion relationship to a professional relationship. It’s my job; it’s not my girlfriend. But I remember the table read through, and reading it was very emotional because a lot of people got chopped.
The big thing in the episode was that Euron was doing well with his scorpion, his giant crossbow — he’d shot down Rhaegal last week. Why do you think his aim got so much worse this week?
Because they needed it for the story line? I don’t know. I think we had to take out one dragon so we level the fight just a little bit, and they caught her off guard. It was a sneak attack. That’s the reason why they could kill one of the dragons. But now she’s prepared and now she’s pissed, and if there’s one thing you don’t want, it’s the dragon mom pissed. She’s going to go fucking rogue man.
Euron dies in this final fight with Jaime Lannister on the beach. What was it like shooting that with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau?
That was wonderful because Nikolaj and I are old friends, and he’s such a nice [guy] and I’ve known him for so many years. We’ve worked together in Denmark as well, so that was very emotional. The reason it was also very emotional was because it was Nikolaj’s last day of shooting Game of Thrones. He was wrapped after that fight, so when I said, “I’m the man who got Jaime Lannister,” it was also me saying, on a private level, I’m the man who did the final scene with Nikolaj.
Did you have a celebration with him afterward?
Yeah, man, you hug and you do a high five, and I actually think we drove home together and we talked about everything. He was just being realistic about, because it’s been ten years of his life, and now he needs to redefine [himself] and his career and do something radically different than Game of Thrones. That’s a big challenge. That’s a big challenge for everyone. But would you swap anything and not be a part of Game of Thrones? I don’t think so. This is a phenomenon. Even though some people have been very critical with some of the things this season, it’s also because people are emotional about it. It brings a lot of things up in people.
So many people have such a close relationship with it, any of the choices the show makes are going to provoke a deep response.
And I’ve tried it on so many things. I did a TV show back home called Borgen that divided people because it was about politics. I did it on Ghost in the Shell, where we got divided by whitewashing. I’ve tried a lot of stuff where people have been very, very emotional about it, and I don’t get angry or on defense, I just appreciate the passion and the commitment that people give to it. You’ve gotta respect it. It’s your baby as much as it’s my baby. You’re totally right to have your opinion. You just can’t force me to agree with you if I don’t. Just don’t write it on my fucking Instagram!
You were playing someone like Euron, who was pretty divisive because he was one of the most aggressive characters on a very aggressive show. What did you think of the way people reacted to him?
I’ve enjoyed it. The reaction has been so positive, and people have been so sweet and wonderful about it, as long as everybody’s writing the same thing: “I hate your character, but I love you.” Some people forget the last part of that sentence and just write, “I hate your character,” “I hate your acting,” “I kind of just hate you, man.” Those are fun as well because you’ve just got to embrace it. For me, this is my job, and next week it’s over and people will calm the fuck down, and they will start appreciating what Dan and David have created. But right now, people are so emotional; it’s quite intense. I’ll tell you that.
I’m glad you brought up your Instagram because you posted a great photo of yourself sopping wet with an umbrella on the set. What’s the context for that?
It was because it was the final day. We’d been fighting for two and a half days straight, Nikolaj and I. My trousers were soaking wet. I was so tired. I wanted some cake from catering, and I was just like, “You know what, guys? I’m muddy as hell; everyone has seen me more or less naked because when I get drunk, I get rowdy. So I’m gonna go down, and I’m gonna eat some food.” It was paparazzi everywhere, so that’s the umbrella. So when I came back, David was just like, “Hey, I’m just gonna take a photo.” He sent it to me and everyone else in the cast. My humiliation was total, so I thought to myself, You know what? I’m gonna share it with the world. This is what Euron Greyjoy looks like when he’s just died on Game of Thrones.
You’ve shared a lot of good behind-the-scenes photos on your Instagram, and you have a lot of fun with the captions on that. Where do those come from?
HBO had a very strict policy for this season because it was post a lot of bad stories about leaked episodes and people taking photos — people trying to tell what’s going to happen and ruining it for everyone else. So HBO and Game of Thrones were very strict: No private photos at all while shooting until it gets to air. That’s also the reason why people have been very restricted; the cast members have been very private about it because you don’t want to ruin it. But now we’re like a bunch of wild animals that get free.
HBO PR rep, also on the call: Some for better and some for worse!
Asbæk: You haven’t yelled at me yet, so you’re still okay with the photos I’ve posted.
HBO rep: Lucky for you, I’m so busy I don’t have time to look at it all.
Asbæk: Perfect, perfect. But now, I’m dead, so I can post away!