Alfie Allen chats about his Emmy nomination and the importance of talking about mental health

Theon Winterfell

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.”

30 responses

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    1. One of the best young actors on GOT, he really deserves this nomination. Quite frankly I don’t understand why HBO didn’t put him up for it themselves. Aside from being a talented actor, he just seems like a really decent human being as well. Would love to see him recognized for his work on GOT!

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    2. Theon was brilliantly and Alfie was amazing. Mr Benioff and Mr. Weiss gave him a beautiful redemption arc and an ending I’ll always be grateful for.

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    3. Had no idea he had a baby! Omg I’m such out of touch with the GOT actors’ real lives. Belated congrats on being a father 🙂

      I think it’s insane he didn’t get a nom before. That’s the real insanity. There were seasons when he deserved an Emmy not the being nominated!

      I’m sure living inside Theon’s head for a few months every year made things hard and dark for him as a person. I am glad he is thinking to put all his experience to use. It may be cathartic and there’s not enough done for this anyway.

      As for Theon: I think Bran’s words were the peace he was looking for. Dying defending the Stark boy was full circle for Theon’s character. It was a terrifying and amazing journey at the same time and I’m looking forward to reading it as well.

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    4. Must be nice to live in a sane country, Boris Johnson notwithstanding.

      “Alfie …

      (dramatic pause)

      “You’re a good man.”

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    5. Lovely and wise interviews from a wonderful, down to earth and talented actor. I do so hope he wins that Emmy! We Theon/Alfie fans haven’t had proper interviews since 2016 (!) so these days are a bit overwhelming but it’s great.

      “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.”

      This is a man who for years and years in most of his 20s have been looked at with scorn when in public because fandom at large found his character weak or stupid or horrible and sadly often don’t know how to separate what they think about a character from its actor. For years, Theon was reviled, like he says himself. Tons of ridiculing memes have been made, and the character and Alfie’s image have been used to exemplify anything bad from hated politicians to evil criminals etc.

      Personally, I always found Theon to be ultimately a good man and was blown away by Alfie’s layered performance and the steps he expertly took Theon through and I have been team Theon for years. But it wasn’t until after season 7 that people, and probably a lot of men in particular began to think more positively about Theon and thus of Alfie. And that’s all due to so-called toxic masculinity which makes and made too many blind to what it means to be a real human being, and a real man.

      He also had to live with the fact that portraying a character who is sexually abused and mutilated was a joke or insignificant to most people because said character was a man. And how important is it that we change that view on male victims of torture, rape and abuse? Theon’s portrayal and arc is one step in a very important direction for sure.

      Portraying the cool characters that beat bad guys up from the beginning is infinitely easier than giving it your all for years to a character so unpopular and complex as Theon and yet, throughout the scorn, Alfie loved and cared about Theon from the beginning (I’ve seen all the interviews out there since 2012 and he did despite feeling at times he was the only one) and that’s why I have a ton of respect for our guy.

      Alfie kept on portraying this hated character with all that he had in him and laying aside all pride and vanity, despite getting paid dirt over and over from millions and millions of people. And you betcha, he’s had to listen to snickers whenever he was out in the public and had his fair share of evil idiotic and provocative remarks from people who didn’t understand what they saw evolve on the screen.

      Yeah, I will shed a tear if he wins that Emmy – and I will shed a tear if he doesn’t.

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    6. From the article:

      “I do think he always revolved around a shred of humanity. He’s constantly having to go back and question what that is. I think he kind of expects it all to make sense when he goes home, in the second season. He expects that identity for himself to be revealed, once and for all. And that’s not what he gets.”

      I’m saddened that no one submitted themselves for Emmy nominations earlier! Especially Alfie. I personally felt that his exemplar performances were seasons 5 and 6 mostly because he is struggling to regain some semblance of identity. Those scenes with Sansa just goes to show how Theon struggled to find who he is now, after being Reek and suffering trauma. I’m so happy Alfie gets the recognition he deserves! And can’t wait to see him in Jojo Rabbit! I’m happy to hear Taika allowed for a bit of improv in that film as well since I feel that’s why there were such hilarious moments in Thor Ragnarok. Looks super fun!

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    7. I really hope Alfie gets that emmy, it will be so symbolic of everything that he’s given to the character over eight seasons. I think he’s one of the best actors in GOT if not the best and not being nominated by HBO is incomprehensible.
      The most crushing moment for me was when Sansa put that direwolf pin on him, finally making him a Stark. I remember in season 5 I was thinking “won’t this be over now? Please go; please leave that monster”. In the show Sansa and Theon save each other, while in the books he rather saves himself and f!Arya with some help from Jon Snow.
      Dying is a very cruel ending for this character that has suffered so much. I really hope he doesn’t die in the books. His chapters are among my favorites along with Bran’s, filled with sensitivity that verges on insanity. I don’t know how Martin does it so well, but the way he approaches trauma adapts to each one of his characters, it’s different for Theon, Bran, Sansa, Arya, Daenerys and for me it’s the main attraction of the book, how all these characters deal with what has happened to them induvidually taking into account their age and their sex.
      There’s a passage where Martin describes what Ramsay was doing; that he skinned the member first, and then the pain was so excruciating and unbearable because it lay exposed to air and flies and whatever that one had to beg him to cut it off, eg a finger. Or something else.

      I wish Alfie all the best for the rest of his life, and congrats on becoming a father.

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    8. The lack of comments are telling. Like because Theon is something that a lot of people shy away from identifying with or from trying to understand you just won’t see a whole lot of men (or women) tripping over each other’s feet to praise the character or comment on the actor’s interviews the same way that they do with the more stereotypical male characters such as Jon, Jaime, the Hound etc or with female badasss characters (who are mostly considered badass because they can physically fight = act “manly”.) It’s sad that way but we have a long way to go yet, I guess?

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    9. singedbylife,

      Um this post hasn’t been up very long. I do know that many on this site have praised his performance since S1 and have been frustrated that he has not received nominations in the passed. I think I speak for most here who have watched him from the beginning – Alfie has been an incredible actor in his role, and we are thrilled to see him finally getting the positive recognition he rightly deserves

      ETA I had no idea he himself was suffering, which makes it more appalling that people treated him so badly (why can’t people separate actors from characters?) Its amazing he has done such an amazing job despite the hate and cruelty. Hope now he can move on; I look forward to seeing him acting in many years to come

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    10. Awww he has a 9MO daughter! I’m so glad he’s motivated to work to address the problem that the more toxic aspects of masculinity cause to the world so it’s a better place for her to grow up in… Feminists can’t be expected to solve the problems of men’s mental health and emotional problems – mostly because those who need to change the most won’t listen to women in the first place!

      Good men like Alfie here need to take the lead for real change to happen. Go Alfie! You da man!

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    11. If there was an Emmy for a series long portrayal, Alfie would be a shoe-in! From a proud peacock; to letting his insecurities goad him into monstrous actions; to sadistic, complete erasure of his very personality; to a penitent, hoping to make amends; then finally finding his true courage to die a loyal and heroic death.

      That’s five characters in one!

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    12. singedbylife: Alfie kept on portraying this hated character with all that he had in him and laying aside all pride and vanity, despite getting paid dirt over and over from millions and millions of people. And you betcha, he’s had to listen to snickers whenever he was out in the public and had his fair share of evil idiotic and provocative remarks from people who didn’t understand what they saw evolve on the screen.

      Didn’t this article specifically say that he hasn’t had any moments of weird fandom and that his experience with fans remains positive? Or did I read that wrong?

      I agree with ash in that MANY people here have previously said that Alfie has deserved an Emmy for a long time now and it’s overdue, including me. he was amazing as Theon.

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    13. Mr Derp,

      I also think he should have already gotten an Emmy for what he did in the previous seasons. I hope that this year he’s not only nominated, but also wins.

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    14. Chilli,

      I really wish they could all win. I can’t think of a weak link in the bunch, as far as acting goes. They all deserve it, but at least some of the other actors got to play “cool” and “popular” characters, which gave them more media exposure and popularity.

      I suppose it’s a double-edged sword though. Sometimes that popularity can be a bit overwhelming when it comes to mental health. It’s taken its toll on Kit as well as other actors, so it can be good to fly under the radar sometimes even though it might make you less likely to stand out professionally.

      Actors have the keys to the good life. They can get anything they want for the most part, but there is a price to pay. They are more scrutinized and judged than just about any other group of people and some of them can’t even go out to run a simple errand without getting mobbed by people. It can’t be easy, especially for younger actors.

      I honestly dont know which one I’d prefer more. To be rich at the expense of privacy, or vice versa.

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    15. I hope he wins his Emmy, he deserves it.

      And he is right about mental health, it’s something that not everyone understands and should get more attention. And his portrayal of PTSD was brilliantly acted on screen.

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    16. At first I despised Theon, then he became Reek which tugged at my heartstrings. Protecting Bran until his last breath brought him full circle and made him heroic. Alfie made me feel so many different emotions through his subtle but powerful acting.
      I’m so happy he got the nomination and delighted that he has a baby girl. Well done!

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    17. singedbylife,

      Ok, yeah, Im now surprised by the lack of comments as wll, but I do know many posters have sang his praises to the moon….maybe they are off sailing somewhere

      The scene of his that shows to me his best work in the show was when Ramsey told his father he’d get him Moat Caitlin . So Theon is dressed as himself, given order to act as Theon to the men, asked but who are you really and when he saw the slaughter he was Reek again. Just genius what he can do with a look, a head turn, his eyes. Ive wanted him to hav an award since about season 3 (hell even WOW never voted one for him! – I think?) good luck to him at the emmys, and nothing but the best for you, your career, your family

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    18. QueenofThrones,

      I didn’t know he was a dad either. Theon was a character I put up with in the first season, became angry with in the second season, then came to pity in the third season and gradually came to feel he had turned himself around. I will be interested to see him playing other roles. It’s in the genes I suppose. Keith Allen his father is not unknown on British TV.

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    19. Alfie’s Theon perhaps suffered in a deeper way than most characters on GOT, and his acting was so good that he drew you in to his suffering in a disconcerting way. This was even before his torture by Ramsey, as he was railroaded down a murderous path having seized Winterfell, you could sense his frustration with his own powerlessness to stop this slide to evil.

      Now his engagement with mens’ mental health shows how deeply he became immersed in his role and an inspiringly positive reaction to it. I’m sure Alfie is someone we will be seeing a lot more of in future.

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    20. Sigh. I just love Alfie. His Theon was absolutely perfect. Good for him for nominating himself and shame on the production for not nominating him for earlier seasons. One of the best portrayals in the show.

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    21. singedbylife,

      I really couldn’t have said it better. Alfie has so much empathy and imbued Theon with humanity. I’m glad people seem to be looking back on his character more kindly now that that show has concluded, but nevertheless it should’ve happened all along, because he’s truly the best the show has to offer.

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    22. Dire guineapig: even before his torture by Ramsey, as he was railroaded down a murderous path having seized Winterfell, you could sense his frustration with his own powerlessness to stop this slide to evil.

      Yes, well put. I found myself feeling sorry for Theon even then. He was treated with derision and contempt by his own men, and manipulated by Dagmer. I never forgave his bitch of a sister for the way she treated him either.

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    23. I can imagine this was an emotional article for you to write Petra.

      Got to love Alfie too, here’s hoping he wins next month.

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    24. I hope he wins. And it’s so nice to see interviews with Alfie, period – he’s a bit of a rare bird and holds his cards a little closer to his chest. More serious, more thoughtful, concerned about issues that matter.

      I don’t follow many celebs on social media, but he’s one that I do. Nice to get a view that isn’t all partying and drinking all the time, which gets old fast.

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