Having made such an impact during his time on Game of Thrones—especially becoming the basis for at least two memes, the Joffrey slap and the Purple Wedding—actor Jack Gleeson would seem to be inextricably tied to Joffrey, his most iconic role. (Before that he was Kid in the laughably bad Matthew McConaughey dragon fantasy Reign of Fire and Little Boy in Batman Begins.) But the sarcastic, smiling actor who took the stage at New York Comic-Con had absolutely no relation to the late king. While his level of fame is not dissimilar to the power Joffrey wielded, such status makes him uncomfortable. And it turns out Game of Thrones fans are able to divorce him from Joffrey—even without the help of his latest project, the Off-Broadway puppet play Bears in Space.
In his charming spotlight panel, Gleeson revealed which Game of Thrones role he’d want to play besides Joffrey, who he thinks will sit on the Iron Throne (or not), and whether he’s ever replaced “Netflix and chill” with “Netflix and crossbow.”
Despite the fame that Game of Thrones has brought him, Gleeson tries to live “as normal a life as possible. In terms of this ostentatious showing of wealth or privilege or status—it’s the status thing I find uncomfortable,” he explained. “People can be wealthy and not be mean. It’s just the status thing—feeling like when some people become famous or a celebrity, they feel better or more worthy, more entitled. That’s what makes me uncomfortable. I try to eschew that on a daily basis.”
He pointed to the NYCC panel room. “I’m literally raised above you guys, talking on a microphone voice like, ‘I am better than all of you, I am a divine entity.’ My two gigantic screens like ‘HELLO!’”
Gleeson much prefers being on the same level as his fans, literally and figuratively: “If you only see me on the TV show or a magazine cover—not that I really do those—if you imagine me as an actor or a kind of celebrity or otherworldly creature, then that’s how you’re gonna view me. That’s just gonna be your reality versus if you actually get to meet me and I get to meet you, and we hang out and get to know each other, that divide or that status is dissolved, and we can just enjoy each other as people rather than as gigantic screen monster.”
But when he does meet fans, does he still get crap for embodying such a universally loathed character? “Never,” he responded. “Thankfully, I’ve evaded that stuff. It’s a question I get asked all the time, but no. I love coming to these conventions, and I love meeting people on the street—hanging out, getting photos… My point is, I’ve met a lot of fans and 0.000% of those fans have been in any way negative. I think every fan thinks that every other fan is a crazy fan [but] everyone’s just as sane as each other. Everyone’s on the same page. Everyone’s pretty OK in the brain that they can realize that I’m an actor and I’m not actually Joffrey. Maybe it’s the shirt.”
But that doesn’t mean he can’t slip back into character when the situation calls for it. After a fan asked him to give her his best Joffrey impersonation—”Call me dumb, or something”—Gleeson gamely complied. One fan captured the moment on Twitter.
One might think that playing the viciousness and cruelty of Joffrey would have sent an actor to therapy, but Gleeson said that he didn’t really wrestle with Joffrey’s actions: “Thankfully I’m not a good enough actor to believe the things that my character believes,” he said. “When you go to a film set, you’ll realize that the very visceral reality you see in the TV show is a product of a huge amount of processing and editing and storytelling that really is almost not present at all on the day of the filming.”
Though he did joke that one of his favorite scenes to film was as a corpse, because “I just got to sleep for the whole day, which was pretty amazing.” That, and the screaming match with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) that led to the second Joffrey slap: “It was really cool to act with Peter in that scene; I kinda remember really going for it, really kinda screaming at him and really trying to get into the moment. And then we called ‘cut’ and were hanging out, and I remember Peter being like, ‘Nice.’ I feel like I got some fist bump kudos from Peter in that moment.”
And if he could have chosen to be any other inhabitant of Westeros? “Probably Hodor just because, who wouldn’t? He’s the best. He’s just so cool, and [from] an actor point of view, you just have to learn one line, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting your lines at all.”
When Joffrey died, so did Gleeson’s involvement with the show, on all levels. He stopped reading A Song of Ice and Fire after the first book (“I don’t have the attention span to read those sorts of books”), and he hasn’t kept up with the intervening seasons: “There’s too much to catch up on. I haven’t a clue what’s going on. In my mind, all of these characters are still alive and everyone’s in this place, but now everything’s screwed around so much [that] it’s such a different show.”
And yet, he still has a theory about who will sit on the Iron Throne. Or rather, he has a favorite fan theory. “This isn’t a spoiler because I know zero about the show,” he said, “but someone came up with this theory that they told me at a convention recently that someone’s gonna melt down the Iron Throne ’cause it has the Valyrian steel that would overcome the White Walkers. I think that’s a cool idea that the monarchy is literally dissolved; it’s a cool analogy.”
But fans just can’t quit Joffrey. One guy asked, “When you have your lady friends over for Netflix, do you ever pull the crossbow out of the closet?”
“Well buddy, who’s asking?” Gleeson teased to uproarious laughter. “Yeah, there’s certainly something phallic going on in that scene, if that’s what you’re alluding to.”
But did it ever work? “Well, maybe you can go and test it out for me,” Gleeson deadpanned. “You can be my hamster [meaning guinea pig], and we can exchange details. I think it’s a very specific type of person who would enjoy that. I think there are websites or apps for that that you can look up and find. I mean, doing that on someone who isn’t into it could seem like a threat, but doing it with someone who’s into it can be a real turn-on.”