Game Of Thrones, Season 06 – Roose & Ramsay reminisce

Q: Set the scene for Ramsay and Roose as we begin Season Six.

IR: For Ramsay the elation of defeating Stannis is immediately followed by the shock of realising Sansa has got away. This, obviously, has huge repercussions for many people, but none more so than Ramsay, I’d say, because their union made his position far stronger in the north and having a Stark in our family obviously is major cache – because no-one likes the Boltons. They want to try and win over all the northern houses by getting Sansa involved and having a trueborn heir. With that, those two houses could really consolidate their position in the north. So, losing her, I guess, is a major issue for Ramsay.

Iwan Rheon, as (Ramsay Bolton)

Iwan Rheon, as (Ramsay Bolton)

Q: Is Roose as concerned by the loss of Sansa?

MM: Oh yeah, I think so. It’s a major, major error and it’s Ramsay’s fault – he’s behaved so badly with the way he treated her and this is one of the reasons she’s left. She’s a powerful ally in this whole thing – there are still many other houses in the north that we haven’t really seen in the series, but they have to be appeased. So it is a ying yang thing: my character feels a great relief and is very proud of Ramsay for finishing off Stannis’s army, but an heir is the all-important thing… you know, this is the continuation of house Bolton. An heir, through Ramsay and Sansa Stark, would have been an amazing alliance in the north; and that is now lost. We have lost a major ace.

Q: Does Ramsay have specific motivations or is he just a sociopath, in your view?

IR: I mean, he does have motivations in life, like all the other characters do in their striving for power. But he is a sociopath, without a doubt. You know, there’s his lack of empathy towards other people and his love of hurting other things is frightening. Yet he has motivations to succeed in this world and that’s driven by being a bastard all your life. You’re a second-class citizen in this world, especially if you’re around all of these very powerful people, the Lords and the Heads of Houses. You’re almost in there, but you’re not and so he inhabits that weird place in between. It leads to a lot of uncertainty in his world. He gets left behind. He’s never had any security in his life. He feels dispensable, so he’s constantly having to prove that he’s useful.

Q: In a crowded field, the Boltons have been one of the most wicked families in Game of Thrones. Is there a certain relish to playing people who are villainous?

MM: Yeah! Although we’re not as nasty in real life! I mean they are great characters and then the dialogue is great and the scenes we get to play are great, so baddies are good. Some characters in Game of Thrones have greater journeys than others – you hate them in one series and you love them the next as you have pity and understanding. That’s not really the role of the Bolton characters in this storyline. Roose is a very cold, pragmatic politician and that ain’t gonna change, you know. It’s nice playing the bad guys.

Michael McElhatton, left - as (Roose Bolton)

Michael McElhatton, left – as (Roose Bolton)

Q: Did you base Ramsay on anyone in particular?

IR: I’ve got a couple of references that I used for him. It was somewhere in between the Joker from the Dark Knight and Dennis the Menace, with a bit of Liam Gallagher in there too. But the challenge is making him real, because you easily could be so over the top. He’s a big character and I think the key to him was finding that joy he takes in everything. He’s not, like, bogged down and evil. He’s like, ‘Oh, this is great – I get to do this.’ He genuinely enjoys it. He was left to his own devices for too long and he’s gone mad. Basically, he’s a sociopath. He’s got no empathy for anyone. So, you know, making him not too big is always a concern, but he never likes to let on what he’s actually thinking and I think that’s quite a fun thing to play.

Q: So does this mean that the show gets even darker this series…

IR: Yeah, well, I guess the more desperate the characters get, the darker the things that they do. It’s only at a point of real desperation that you see what Ramsay’s capable of.

MM: But last season was incredibly dark too. I mean, that whole storyline with Stannis burning his daughter; and the very end of that his wife hangs herself? I mean people go on about the rape of Sansa but the burning of the daughter was pretty horrendous and, then, at the very last, that shot of Stannis there, asking himself what has he done, what has happened to all of his men? That’s the brilliance of it: you do feel a sympathy for him as a man. What a fool – he put his trust in Melisandre, but he didn’t have the moral code to stand up and say, ‘I can’t do that’ when it came to his daughter. That’s an example of the layers and the forethought in the writing. Everything is connected.

Q: What sort of response does Roose Bolton get on the street?

MM: I go round with a hat on most of the time so I don’t get recognised. No, generally, it is very respectful and people are polite. They say they love the show, so nobody’s throwing things at you or screaming at you.

Q: What about with Ramsay?

IR: People go, ‘Ooh, you’re horrible, you are,’ but I don’t think I’ve had an experience where I’ve thought, ‘You’re insane, you don’t know the difference between reality and fiction.’ I think people generally quite like Ramsay. Because he’s not just pure evil. Not like Joffrey – you just hated him, because he was just a little shit. Joffrey was just horrible for no reason. At least Ramsay does his own dirty work, right?

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