Alfie Allen, 28, has tapped darkness and misery in transforming from Theon Greyjoy to Reek for his career-making role in HBO’s smash-hit series Game Of Thrones. The hard-to-watch portrayal demands grit, physical resilience and full-frontal nudity (to those uncomfortable with nakedness, Alfie says: get over it). In real life, the man formerly known as Lily Allen’s Little Brother is awfully cheerful when we catch him on the phone in LA, ahead of Game Of Thrones’ season five launch – even first thing in the morning.
ELLE: Have you just woken up?
Alfie Allen: Yes, I am lying in bed. There’s a dog pawing at my door.
ELLE: I’m glad you didn’t have to get dressed. You seem very comfortable being naked. On stage and screen, I mean…
AA: I think a lot of attitudes towards nudity are so old-fashioned. I’m comfortable with my body and, if it’s needed for a role, I’m perfectly comfortable with aspects of nudity.
ELLE: You’re in one of the world’s biggest shows. What’s next on your career bucket list?
AA: Doing more theatre. It is something I’ve been discussing a lot with my agent.
ELLE: Do you find that daunting?
AA: No. I remember when I was doing Equus [fellow cast member] Simon Callow said, ‘You’re either incredibly stupid or incredibly confident.’ I just wasn’t nervous – I couldn’t wait to get out there and do it.
ELLE: Where does your confidence come from?
AA: It’s all a facade. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not.
ELLE: Which moment in your career has brought you the most joy?
AA: Being on Game Of Thrones. I’ve known some of the other cast members for six years now. I didn’t go to drama school, so I didn’t really have many true friends in the business; Game Of Thrones has definitely brought me that.
ELLE: Did you know how big it was going to turn out for you when you auditioned?
AA: Absolutely not. I was in the middle of watching The Wire at the time, so to be in an HBO series seemed a totally unrealistic prospect.
ELLE: Were you aware of the transition your character would go through, from cocky lord’s son to abused servant, when you were cast?
AA: I knew that there was going to be an intensity to the role – the team had said that they’d seen Equus and that was a point of interest to them: ‘If you can hold down that role, then we think that you’re going to be good for this one.’ I knew that there would be a dark side to it and a struggle for my character.
ELLE: How did you switch off after doing those torture scenes?
AA: Restaurants and wine. There were times when people would know to back off when I was trying to stay in character. In terms of decompressing, sometimes I would come away from it feeling really awful.
ELLE: Generally, are you an optimist or a pessimist?
AA: I flip-flop between the two.
ELLE: Any stress-busting tips?
AA: Go to the gym. I was never a gym person before Game Of Thrones. The idea of it was a bore to me – and it kind of still is – but I had a problem with my knee, so I can’t play sport as much as I’d like to.
ELLE: What can’t you live without?
AA: Television. I like to get home, flop on the couch and watch Sky Sports News. I’m just your average bloke.
ELLE: But you’re a natty dresser…
AA: My everyday wear is so boring. I’ve got a few statement pieces in my wardrobe, like my Keith Haring x Joyrich jacket. I’ve got no qualms about putting on a crazy jacket if I want to. [Laughs] I’m just a crazy guy.
ELLE: So, crazy guy, what do you think makes you a good actor?
AA: An emotional honesty. I would like to think that I’m always honest with myself and others. I guess that’s what makes me a half-decent actor.
Watch Game of Thrones Seasons 1- 4 TV box sets on demand with Sky. Season 5 launches on 13 April on Sky Atlantic.
PHOTO: Ari Michelson/AUGUST