In 2006, the unapologetically candid pop star Lily Allen released her debut album, Alright, Still, with a song about her weed-smoking slacker brother called “Alfie.” In the years that followed, Alfie apparently heeded his big sister’s advice to get off his “lazy arse.” In 2009, he scored a recurring role on HBO’s wildly popular fantasy drama Game of Thrones as Theon Greyjoy, the havoc-wreaking heir to the Iron Islands. “Sometimes it’s a release when you get to do a role and completely immerse yourself in it for so long-to get away from yourself, in a way,” says the 28-year-old actor with relaxed candor, a few days after a showing of the series’ fifth-season premiere at the Tower of London.
His character’s arc has been defined by one of the most gruelling scenes in a show known for its extreme brutality—one that culminated the literal and figurative loss of his manhood. “As a person, I would like to see if there is some light at the end of the tunnel for Theon,” he admits. “But as an actor, I would like to see how much darker they can get with it.”
Allen cites seeing Doubt on Broadway as the moment that sealed his penchant for dark, emotionally charged roles. In 2008 he took over Daniel Radcliffe’s role in the revival of Equus, an experience that, he says, “was essentially my drama school.” However, from the ease in which he adopts different personas in conversation—jumping from a 1950s Italian-American accent when describing a theatrical production of A View From the Bridge and then dissecting the “down-south kinda dude” he plays in the upcoming indie thriller Pandemic—one would assume Allen had years of coaching.
Aside from acting, Allen’s experience in the world of Westeros has given him the idea for an as-yet-unrealized project: writing a screenplay about fan conventions. “I think that world hasn’t been portrayed enough,” he says with the knowingness of someone who has witnessed a cult following up close. “There are so many unobserved, beautiful things that take place, like getting to see each other at this yearly reunion. It’s about them; we’re secondary.”