‘Game of Thrones’ Star Iwan Rheon on Ramsay, ‘Battle of the Bastards,’ and the Sansa Pregnancy Theory
Joffrey was terrible, Olly betrayed Jon Snow, and Cersei’s had her share of wicked moments, but there’s no doubting that the most hated character on Game of Thrones is Ramsay Bolton. Or at least (SPOILER ALERT), he was.
In Sunday’s “Battle of the Bastards,” the penultimate episode of Season 6, the sadistic villain was finally killed – or I should say, punched to a pulp and devoured by dogs. After the epic bastard battle, Jon Snow stormed the gates of Winterfell and turned Ramsay into his personal punching bag before handing him over to Sansa. The eldest Stark girl finally got vengeance on her rapist by feeding him to his own dogs. It was a brutal and vicious death, but one certainly in line with Ramsay’s own grisly means of torture.
I caught up with Iwan Rheon, who plays Ramsay, to talk about his gory demise. The Welsh actor told me about shooting his final scene with Sophie Turner, what Ramsay could’ve done differently to defeat Jon, and what it was like getting into the mind of a horrible character for four seasons. Rheon also addressed that Sansa pregnancy fan theory, which fired up again after Ramsay's dialogue in Sunday’s episode.
There’s two types of Game of Thrones deaths, the devastating ones and the ones fans celebrate. What’s it like to play a character we’re happy to see die?
[Laughs] I guess it means I’ve done my job properly, doesn’t it?
Are you satisfied with the way Ramsay died?
Yeah. I thought it was really good ending for him. I think it’s very important for Sansa’s character to kind of put him behind her so that she can now move forward and be the strong woman that I’m sure she will be. I think it was a very fulfilling ending, and in terms of the story and the overall narrative of the show, I think it’s great.
Did you ever pitch an alternate death for Ramsay to Dan Weiss and David Benioff?
[Laughs] No. I’m sure if I did they probably wouldn’t listen anyway. They know a little bit more than me about how to make TV shows I think.
What was your reaction when you first learned Ramsay would die this season?
I kind of saw it coming to be honest. With a character like Ramsay there’s not really – you know, he’s done so many horrendous things, there’s not really much you could do to top it. It just felt like he needed to go in order to get him out of the way so the Starks could get Winterfell and they can prepare now to move forward. It was kind of a weird reaction. It was kind of sad that I’d be leaving the show, but also I think it was the right time to go and I’ve had four lovely seasons. I’m just really grateful I got to be a part of it at all.
Do you know if Ramsay’s death is true to what will happen in the books?
I don’t know. I’ve got no idea, yeah.
The battle scene was incredibly choreographed. What was it like to shoot?
Yeah, it was pretty amazing. I didn’t have that much to do in it. I sat on my horse for most of it. It was a long three weeks in the mud in Belfast. It was great to be involved in something like that where it’s such an epic scale and so impressive. They put all the time and money into making it on to the screen and you see the results and they’re fantastic. It’s just great to be a part of it.
What was it like to shoot your last scene with Kit Harington when he's going at your face with punches?
It was a pretty intense thing because we were literally doing that all day. It kind of it gets a bit demoralizing after a while, but that’s how filming works. I got a couple of punches to the face, but if I didn’t I don’t think Kit would’ve been doing it properly. So I’m glad I did.
It was a bit surprising Ramsay did so little to stop Jon from attacking him near the end by only shooting arrows. Do you think Ramsay’s ego got in his way? What led to his downfall by the end?
Well, there’s a lot I’d say, but I mean I don’t understand why he’s trying to shoot the arrow into the same place every time. Put one in [Jon's] leg. Can’t walk. That ends that. But anyway, that’s Ramsay’s capability, as well. But that’s all, it’s dramatic license. It was also tension and dramatic – “Is it gonna happen?” I mean, yeah, I think he probably didn’t do a very good job.
The final death scene with the hounds is so intense. What was it like shooting that final moment with Sophie?
It was great. I think it’s really important for her character as well. It’s great to see how she’s grown, even though all that horror that Sansa’s been through, you kind of see this real strength coming out now. It was the last scene that I actually shot as well. It was great, one final hurrah with Sophie.
The last line Ramsay says to her is, “I’m a part of you now.” Some fans think that means Sansa is pregnant with Ramsay’s child. Do you think there’s a possibility to that?
They’ve certainly been doing something that, well, one of them’s been doing something that would make the other one pregnant, yeah. Um, but I mean I’ve got absolutely no idea. You’ll have to wait till next season I guess, and see. I mean yeah, that could be. But I don’t think Ramsay’s got like X-ray vision or anything and he can’t see, he can’t make medical prognosis sitting in a chair and tell that she’s pregnant. So I think what he means is that his mark has been made on her, she’s never going to be able to shake him off. I think that’s what he meant by that.
Playing such a terrible character who enacts so much violence, was it ever a challenge for you to get into Ramsay’s mindset?
Yeah. Some of the things he did in particular were very difficult to think about let alone actually portraying. But that’s the job of an actor, you kind of try and approach it without bias and truthfully, and you play what’s written in front of you. So you just kind of have to get on with it and be professional, but yeah he was a very horrible character.
Looking back on your four seasons on the show, was there a particular scene that was most difficult for you to play?
Yeah, the whole rape scene with Sansa was pretty awful. It was very difficult for me as an actor, and very difficult for everyone involved. It was quite a bleak day on set and I didn’t get any sleep before either, I just kind of – some horrible things have to do. But again we just have to be professional and get on with it.
Did you ever stay in character when on set or did you have to shake Ramsay off between takes?
I don’t stay in character. I’m only ever in character when we’re shooting. It’s not really healthy to carry Ramsay around with me.
Initially you auditioned to play Jon Snow on the series. If you were cast as him how would you have played him differently than Kit?
That’s a very difficult question to answer. I don’t know. I’d play him knowing more things. [Laughs]
In “Battle of the Bastards,” what characters were burning on the crosses in the middle of the battlefield?
Uh it was Robert, who works in the stables. He looked at me funny, he looked at Ramsay funny, so we burned him. And it was the blacksmith’s son, Jim. I’m joking. [Laughs] I have no idea. It was just a little decorative mood-setter that Ramsay decided, in his own little way, to set the scene.