When you're a young British actor starring in two hit series at once, even a visit to the U.S. isn't all down time. Eugene Simon wrapped up his 22-day stay Wednesday, but not before a round of phone interviews earlier in the week.
The 19-year-old Londoner plays Lancel Lannister in HBO's "Game of Thrones." In Season 1 Lancel, then a squire to King Robert Baratheon, indirectly killed the king at the behest of Robert's wife, Cersei, who is Lancel's cousin—and lover. In Nickelodeon's English-boarding school set "House of Anubis," Simon plays a jokester named Jerome Clarke.
Simon filmed both shows at the same time last year, living in Liverpool where he shot "HOA." But when he was needed on the set of "GOT," he would head to Belfast. The productions worked their schedules so he could be in both shows.
"You have to learn to kind of switch off one part of your brain and turn on the other," he said of playing two parts at once. "So that was a good learning experience, really. They definitely couldn't be more different than they are."
In Sunday's episode of "GOT," titled "Garden of Bones," Lancel crosses paths with yet another manipulative Lannister, Cersei's brother Tyrion, and things continue to go badly for the newly minted knight as he becomes a pawn in their battle for power. Simon believes Lancel's inherent naivete; makes him susceptible to the will of others.
"He's quite a tragic figure in my mind because of his desire to have a romance with Cersei. He has an utter infatuation with Cersei, and I think that kind of desire is sort of both Lancel's greatest strength and also his greatest weakness, his kind of undoing...," Simon said.
"Tyrion and Cersei just have such an opportunity to use him for their own ends, which, ultimately, is what 'Game of Thrones' is all about. It's all about power and how you dominate that power over your peers."
The actor says he's looking forward to hearing fan reactions to Lancel's story this season and, if creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss follow George R.R. Martin's books enough, Lancel's transformation into a man who "takes life by the reins" in later seasons.
Simon and I talked more about both his shows, why he was pretty much naked when he first met Lena Headey, how he got into acting at age 8 and the "Game of Thrones" cast member he unexpectedly, and happily, ran into in L.A.
How are you?
I’m very good, man, very good. How are you?
Good. Are you in L.A.?
Yeah, I am. I’m at a café at the moment. I just had like a really, really, really nice little strawberry kind of desert, so I’m just sitting here feeling very, very smug. [Laughs.] I had a strawberry bowl with whipped cream, so I’m just pigging out. I thought I might as well treat myself before I head back to London on Wednesday.
When did you get into the States?
Well, I’ve been in now for about like 20 days, 20 days as of this morning. And I’ve been staying with a couple buddies of mine in a really, really great apartment just off Hollywood. That’s been it, really. That's been kind of my stay. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too short for my liking. But, yeah, I had no idea what was going to happen when I first came out here or the activity that was going to go on. So, yeah, that's life, unfortunately. It’s being an actor. It’s not knowing and getting it wrong. [Laughs.]
So did you come out for like auditions and everything or just to hang out?
Well, I came out here for a couple of auditions, which I’ve been doing over the course of the past few days, of which I’m now waiting to hear back. ... A lot of press is going on for "House of Anubis" and "Game of Thrones," so I thought I'd be obliging and just come out and meet some people in person and speak to people like your good self.
Well thanks. Have you been staying with any British actors we might know?
Well, you may. If you’re a fan of “House of Anubis,” you’ll know them, Alex Sawyer and Anastasia Dhanraj, who both star in the show along side me, are the two people I’m living with.
But what's been nice this year, I’ve managed to kind of see people from both sets, both “Game of Thrones” and “House of Anubis.” By sheer coincidence, I was having a meal in Hugo’s the other day and of all people to wander through the door [comes] Kit Harington—the famous Jon Snow—was in with a few friends of his. And it was just great.
I saw him; I popped out of the chair and I gave him a big hug, because he and I—unfortunately, Lancel doesn't have any scenes with Jon Snow—but he and I happened to be in Belfast at the same time for the first season, so we’re buddies now. Me and him and John Bradley as well. So it was good. I’ve got the best of both worlds.
Lancel’s back this coming Sunday. What do you think about the character?
What I’ve kind of come to appreciate, particularly within the past eight months and having finished doing the second season and also reading the books, is that he’s one of these wonderful characters, Lancel [is]. But I’m lucky to say I can't really compare him to many other people within the story. He’s one of the few characters that I’ve encounter with this inherent naiveté, which I find to be incredibly sort of moving but also quite tragic. He’s quite a tragic figure in my mind because the desire he has within the story is to have a romance with Cersei. He has an utter infatuation with Cersei, and I think that kind of desire is sort of both Lancel’s greatest strength and also his greatest weakness—his kind of undoing within the plot.
So I kind of related to him in that sense that as you’re a teenager growing up, you do develop these kind of absurd, irrational love interests. They’re your first. And I like Lancel because I like to see that obviously this completely unrequited love is what leads Lancel to become a much more interesting and much more kind of tragically messed up character later in the series.
I’m so looking forward to kind of having the opportunity to be able to bring that to screen, really. I was nervous with Lancel because obviously reading the books he’s one of these characters that’s always on the peripheral of the scene. But at the same time, he’s always intrinsically involved. His involvement with Robert Baratheon within the first season is so important to how the story developed, particularly for the Lannisters. But we never quite see Lancel actually, what it is that's going through his head as he decides to kill the king for the sake of the love that he bears for Cersei.
So I have a huge amount interest in him. I really do. I wouldn't want to play any other character, that's for sure.