The evilest man in Westeros is dead.
Ramsay Bolton, the bastard whose unhinged depravity made him the most reviled character on TV, was devoured by his own dogs after losing the battle of Winterfell—the same dogs he used to kill his own stepmother and infant half-brother just a few weeks before.
He made the littlest Stark, Rickon, run for his life across the battlefield before shooting the boy down in cold blood. He killed the North’s last living giant, Wun Wun. He raped Sansa Stark, murdered his own father, and castrated Theon Greyjoy, traumatizing the prince so deeply he nearly forgot his own identity.
As actor Iwan Rheon says, it was time for Ramsay to die.
The 31-year-old Welsh actor who brought countless little smirks to “scumbag” Ramsay’s repertoire of cruelty says keeping him alive past the Battle of the Bastards would have been absurd. (Most audiences likely agree.)
“You can’t really push it any further without him becoming just ridiculous,” Rheon says on the phone from London. “I think he’d kind of reached a peak with all the horrible things he did. He killed like four, five named characters in this season alone, including the last of the giants. It’s all a bit depressing, really. What a scumbag.”
Rheon laughs self-deprecatingly when describing his turn as Ramsay (“ugh, not again,” he says he groaned at each script’s description of a new Ramsay atrocity) and sighs wearily at the thought of audiences associating his face with the Bolton bastard in other projects—like his burgeoning music career. “I just hope that that’s not the rest of my life,” he says. “That’s all I can say.”
The Daily Beast talked to Rheon about who he’s rooting for now that Ramsay is dead, what his last words to Sansa meant (he wasn’t talking about pregnancy), and his ideal vision for the end of Game of Thrones.
Are you satisfied with the ending Ramsay got? Did it come sooner or later than you thought it would?
I think the guys have got it bang-on, they really nailed the timing of Ramsay. I’m satisfied with how he went, I think it came at the right time for the show in terms of moving forward, definitely. So I think in general it was pretty spot-on, yeah.
I’ve always figured you must be very proud of having elevated the character to the status of most hated man on TV. What have been some of the moments on the show you were most proud of?
I dunno, it’s really flattering actually, that people have responded so well to Ramsay—or badly, depends how you look at it. But yeah, it’s a real honor that people consider him in such high regard in a show that’s so full of villains. It’s really great. “Proud” is quite an odd question, but you know, there are some scenes that I thought were great scenes on paper. I thought the shaving scene was fantastically written and the dinner party scene, with the Boltons torturing Sansa, and Reek’s scenes were brilliantly written. I’m just really pleased to have been part of the show, I feel really lucky and I’m really grateful and proud to have been part of something that’s so great.
How did you read those last few moments of shifting dynamics between Sansa and Ramsay in the last scene? For the first time, she held the power of life or death between the two of them. And he really didn’t seem to expect her to be the one to carry out his death sentence.
Yeah, it’s great for Sansa’s character and her development. All the horror that she’s been through has, on one side, really broken something inside her, but then also made her stronger as a result. Which I think is great; she’s a real contender now. It’s great that the show has another strong female character to add to the list. It’s fantastic, I’m really looking forward to seeing how she continues to develop in seasons to come.
A few of Ramsay’s last words to Sansa, “I’m a part of you now,” echoed what she told Littlefinger about how she can still feel what Ramsay did to her. How did you read those lines?
What he’s saying is that no matter what happens, what he’s done to her, very much like what he did to Reek—to Theon. Theon will never be able to shake off the horror that he’s been through and the mental and physical torture. So in the same way, he’s saying to Sansa, “I’ve put my mark on you now. For the rest of your life, you will always remember the horror of the time you’ve spent with me.” It’s a very arrogant thing to say, but it’s probably quite true. ’Cause how would somebody forget that? It’s just him having one last little stab at being powerful when he’s in a position where he’s sort of low-status.
A few people have mistakenly interpreted Ramsay’s line very literally, as if the only thing he could have meant was that she’s pregnant.
How the hell would he know that? (Laughs.)
I have no idea.
That’d be quite a tricky thing for him to tell, I think. Yeah, no, I think that’s people reading into it too much.
What was it like filming that last scene opposite Sophie Turner?
It was quite uncomfortable for me more than anything, on a technical level, having all the makeup and all that stuff, all the dirt and the blood. But it was great. I’m really glad that last scene was with Sansa. If only Reek could have popped in, but he was busy in other parts of the world. He could have sent a little video message or something at least, couldn’t he? No, but it was really great. And that was the actual last scene I shot, so it was kind of fitting.
What was your reaction every time you got a new script that called for Ramsay to do something as horrible as what he did to Theon, Sansa, or Walda?
“Ugh, not again!” (Laughs.) It gets to the point where you’re reading it and you’re like, of course he’s just fed his stepmother and new baby stepbrother to the dogs. Of course he has, what else was he gonna do? And I think that’s another good point as to why I think Ramsay’s death now [came at] a good time because where else is he gonna go now? You can’t really push it any further without him becoming just ridiculous. I think he’d kind of reached a peak with all the horrible things he did. Even just in that last episode, he really did reach a peak. He killed like four, five named characters in this season alone, including the last of the giants. It’s all a bit depressing, really. What a scumbag.
That’s right, you got to kill a giant before your big exit.
Well the giant wasn’t exactly fighting fit, was he at that point? (Laughs.) “Kick while he’s down!”
People recently re-discovered the music video for your band’s song “Bang Bang” and I think the online consensus was that people couldn’t help but still see you as Ramsay the unhinged sadist. Is it hard trying to shake off that perception?
Yeah, I mean it is worrying. And it’s a bit embarrassing really, that people have got that lack of an imagination that they can’t—but anyway, whatever. It’s just like, ugh, I just hope that that’s not the rest of my life. That’s all I can say.
Who are you rooting for now that Ramsay’s gone and we’re so close to the end?
Oh, yeah it’s a tricky one. I kind of think Jon Snow needs to be there at the end because he’s probably the only one who is actually honorable. And there’s a couple of other contenders. You know, Daenerys, obviously, she’s probably the most powerful and if you put your money on anyone, I’d put it on her. But she can be a bit mad sometimes and do some crazy stuff. I think Jon’s a great leader of people and he’s got the credentials to certainly emulate his father and at least be Hand of the King or something really important. Maybe to Sansa, who knows.
And what’s next for you, career-wise?
I’ll do some more music now, I think. Hopefully I’ll do some more writing and recording, maybe do some live shows—we’ll see what happens. There’s a few other projects in the pipeline that I’m trying to sort of fit and organize at the moment. But yeah, hopefully there’ll be stuff happening and I won’t always play a vicious man and people will find it within themselves to have the imagination to possibly see me as something other than Ramsay Bolton.