What was your approach to putting all those conflicting aspects into the character?
Even if a character seems quite alien to you, you've got to find similarities within yourself because that will make it real. … Things happen at the strangest times—when you're just walking up the stairs or having a cigarette you are constantly thinking about it and things will just pop into your mind and you go, “Oh God, yeah. I did have that emotion not that long ago and that definitely is sort of relevant to the theme or storyline.” And so I’ll definitely try and put that in there somehow.
I definitely didn't have some sort of ritual that I did to get into character. It just sort of happens.
So you do draw on your own personal experiences then?
Yeah, for sure. I mean I don't want people to start writing I've had a fucked up relationship with my father and my family, because that's just not true. [Laughs.] But I definitely would draw on personal experiences for sure. I think that's kind of a universal thing, you know?
I speak very frankly about this because I just think it is true, but unless you've had a sort of idealistic family life, which I think really is a bullshit statement in itself—I don't think anyone really has that—I think everyone's family is slightly dysfunctional. [Laughs.] But yeah, I definitely draw on personal experiences for sure, definitely.
I've read interviews where you've said with “Game of Thrones” you’ve sort of been able to come out of the shadow of your family. [He’s the son of actor/musician Keith Allen and film producer Alison Owen. His older sister is singer Lily Allen.]
Yeah, for sure. That's definitely true. It's just great just being recognized as an actor and not somebody's son or somebody's little brother. It's cool and it's definitely gratifying to me and liberating. It's good. I enjoy it and it's something that I have been looking to do for a while. At the end of the day I'm not really trying to prove anything to anyone but myself. I'm just trying to get work and if I keep on working I'm happy.
Now that is sort of similar to what Theon is going through, right?
Yeah, maybe in a way. I think so, yeah. Hmm, I don't want to answer that. [Laughs.]
In the episode where we believe the Stark boys are captured and burned, did Theon know that wasn’t them?
Yeah, he does know. He does know. I've had these conversations with—well I had the conversation with [showrunners David Bienoff and D.B. Weiss]. He knows that they’re not the boys. He's just killed two kids. I think as I'm looking down on the people of Winterfell and I'm enjoying the fact that they believe it is [Bran and Rickon] and I'm definitely sort of so power-crazed at that point that anything like that would just give me satisfaction that they are starting to respect me. But really I'm just getting respect through fear, so it's not real respect. They're just sort of pretending but anything will do for Theon at that point.
He turns around and he sees the charred bodies and he just kind of realizes, “God, what have I done? To achieve this sort of respect and authority that I need I've had to kill these two children.” I think in a scene in Episode 8 with Yara when she says, “You killed the Stark boys” and I go, “I treated them with honor and they repaid me with treachery,” it's back to that point of if you're going to tell a lie make sure it's a big one and make sure you follow through with it because otherwise no one is going to respect you. … He realizes he has to carry on being that person he was pretending to be because if he doesn't he's not even going to respect himself and it's just going to eat away at him.
It's been interesting to watch this season because he does seem to be just going further down the rabbit hole.
Yeah, completely and I think he kind of knows that in the back of his head, but he's hoping that somebody is going to come and save him and it just doesn't happen.
When you started getting the scripts for season two were you surprised by anything? Have you read the books?
I've read the first three books, but I didn't go back to the source material. I read the first three and halfway through the first season when we were shooting it and then I made the decision not to read them anymore because the TV show and the books are two different things. They're already making tweaks to it. Things that weren't in the book are happening in the TV show, so you've got to just understand that it's different things, so I just want to keep everything as a surprise to me now. I'm definitely not going to read the new books until after I finished doing all of it.
But people keep giving me these looks about the new books and going, “Do you know what happens to you in the new book?" And I'm like no and then they’re like, ”Mate…,” and they kind of pat me on the back and go, "Get ready." So it's cool, but I hear its really good stuff for an actor to be able to portray, so hopefully I can do it justice.