In anticipation of the Emmy Awards next month, Alfie Allen spoke with Deadline and Gold Derby about his absolute shock at being nominated, the fan reaction to Theon’s story and the importance of talking about your problems.
In his interview with Deadline, Allen’s excitement for his first Emmy nomination was evident. “For me, it’s dream stuff,” he said. “To be nominated alongside people I’ve spent eight, nine, ten years working with; it’s a dream.”
However, he admitted that part of the reason the nomination feels so gratifying is that it’s for playing a character who took him on such dark journey. “Theon was kind of hated. Reviled, in fact, might be the word,” he said.
“I was pouring my all into this character, and I would feel it at times, when I would enter rooms and people would give me a certain look,” he said. “It was like I was wearing a really bad outfit or something. That was testing, at times, without a shadow of a doubt.”
“Even up to the point of getting an Emmy nomination, this character did make me get inside my own head a lot, and there were dark, dark moments. To have fans give the character a pat on the back after all of it, and end it on a note of positivity for Theon, that feels nice.”
One unexpected benefit of the struggle to play Theon was that it got Allen to open up to friends about his problems and helped him realize the importance of addressing mental health issues directly.
“Gwendoline and Kit were the two people (everybody a little bit, but them most so) who were always willing to talk to me about that stuff. There’s a lot to be said about men’s mental health within Theon’s journey to Reek and back again.”
Indeed, Allen said he’d like to address mental health in his work moving forward.
“I’d love to try writing something,” he said. “I’ve always had an idea, again on the topic of men’s mental health, to look at the world of conventions, and make a really positive story set there … It’s about something larger I’m interested in, too, involving mental health, because that idea of the male ego and toxic masculinity, if we can talk about it a little more, and start a next generation without those kinds of ideals, I think that would be a good thing.
“I also have a nine-month-old daughter, so I’m going to try my best to show her that I talk about my problems, rather than projecting them on her. It was something I learned with Theon, where I shied away from talking about how hard it was, and how much I struggled with it. I think if we can just open up and talk about that, and allow ourselves to be more vulnerable, that’s the way forward.”
Allen also spoke with Gold Derby editor Rob Licuria about Theon’s arc and his Emmy nomination, which he really, really, really was not expecting.
“I was just – I still am in shock. I wasn’t expecting it because all that had just kind of faded into ridiculousness that that would even happen,” he said (at :58). “I’m not going to lie. When I first started Thrones there was a part of me that was like, ‘Maybe one day I’ll get an opportunity to be up for an award or something’ but all that faded into … [it] just definitely wasn’t going to happen … It wasn’t that I didn’t have any hope. It just wasn’t realistic. And so for it to happen, it’s just insane.”
Again, Allen expressed how gratifying it is that his long-suffering character ended the series with honor and redemption.
“Now that the character is in more of a positive light … to have that kind of turn around is nice because the fans feel that way about me and the character,” he said (at 10:00) “So, yeah, those dark moments do stay with you but the positive ones do as well.”
When asked about Theon’s arc and his quest for identity and redemption, Allen said he doesn’t think Theon found closure until his death scene.
“I think he only really comes full circle in those last moments, you know?” he said (at 10:52). “… And then, morbid as it may be, you know, that’s what they say, isn’t it? People have those struggles their whole life and if you don’t address them and try to do something about it and kind of take care of your mental health you’ll be on your death bed and realize these moments of clarity when you’ve only got so much of your life left. So, I think we all kind of owe it to ourselves to work through those things and, eh, not have an identity crisis.”
Lastly, Allen talked about how Game of Thrones has changed every aspect of his life. Interacting with fans, though, remains a positive experience for him.
“I’ve not really had any moments of weird fandom. If everyone’s nice I don’t mind, you know?” he said (at 15:47). “Obviously people have related to Theon’s trauma and his aspects of PTSD and I think it’s important that we just talk about that openly moving forward without a shadow of a doubt. It’s all just positive for me.”