What if the sadistic teen bully from your high school nightmares was given unlimited power to rule the world? That’s King Joffrey as played by Jack Gleeson, who torments the Seven Kingdoms on HBO’s Game of Thrones with his petty, juvenile cruelty and preening, witless arrogance. As Thrones‘ producers often point out, the character’s personality is radically different from the 21-year-old actor, who shuns media attention, studies philosophy as a scholar at Trinity College, and recently gave a speech about the evils of celebrity culture that went viral.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: As a kid, what Hollywood villains impacted you?
Jack Gleeson: Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus in Gladiator; certainly for my characterization of Joffrey, that had a big impact, the smirk. And the monster Hexxus from FernGully, certainly as a childhood fear that was a big one.
Wow — Gladiator and FernGully! What qualities should a good villain have?
Gleeson: It’s interesting sometimes when an audience can empathize with a villain. But to get completely lost in it, it’s exciting just to be intrinsically evil and not have a speck of good or humanity in their bones.
Which is part of what makes Joffrey so fun. Unlike almost all the Thrones characters that are shades of grey, Joffrey has no redeemable qualities.
Gleeson: That’s exactly it. I remember in season 2 we were filming a scene where I come to Sansa with a necklace and tell her I’m very sorry. I was going to play it like I don’t actually care but [showrunner Dan Weiss] said to try and express any genuine love for Sansa that Joffrey actually has. That was the one attempt to put some grey into the black. But overall, it’s a pretty black evil road.
The showrunners said other actors who auditioned for Joffrey played him more like a demonic evil seed. But you won them over by playing him like a spoiled brat, a more familiar type of character. What inspired that?
Gleeson: My characterization pretty much hasn’t changed a huge amount from the first audition. It came from the writing. Everyone has met Joffrey in some shape or form. He’s a very contextualized and plays off other people, he’s not an abstracted Omen character.
Has it ever worried your friends and family that you’re so easily able to play such a terrible guy?
Gleeson: I don’t think so. I can do that with any character. All my friends and family are used to it. They know when I’m being Jack. READ FULL STORY