Like any self-respecting narcissist, Game of Thrones' Viserys Targaryen has a colorful and overinflated way of speaking about himself, uttering lines like, "You don't want to wake the dragon!"
On Sunday's episode (9/8c on HBO), Viserys once again seizes every opportunity to promote himself — or better yet — slap someone down as he does to one "pretty little idiot." It's dialogue like this that had Robin Hood actor Harry Lloyd relishing each script and wondering what his megalomaniacal character would say next. "It's brilliant," he tells TVGuide.com. "I get this slow, goofy smile as I turn the pages."
In the grim world of Game of Thrones, Viserys offers both melodrama and comic relief as the displaced Targaryen heir, whose father Mad King Aerys ordered the deaths of many before he was killed and then had his throne taken by King Robert the Usurper (Mark Addy). One mark of a Targaryen — besides a heightened sense of drama — is their eye-catching platinum blond hair, which the naturally dark-haired Lloyd found essential to getting inside Viserys' mind.
"The hair was a wig. Once it was on, it felt much easier to do and say all the stuff I had to do," he says. "My friends and family are just seeing it all now [on the show] and though they do their best to convince me that the hair does work and looks very real, they of course find it pretty hilarious."
Lloyd and Emilia Clarke, who plays his onscreen sibling Daenerys, both had to endure donning the trademark locks, which the Game of Thrones team tried to differentiate from another iconic, blond fantasy character: the elf Legolas from the Lord of the Rings films.
"I think Emilia and I had the longest wig process because of the color," Lloyd says. "In pre-production, we went through lots of designs to get the look just right, whilst trying to stay clear of Legolas, et al. And on set it was 1-2 hours every morning as hair was gelled and clipped, then a bald cap pinned and glued and the edges melted before the wig could be put on. I always liked watching the wig go on. It was always comfortable, but always felt very good at the end of the day when all the blood rushed back into my head."
If only Viserys had poor circulation to blame for his lousy treatment of Daenerys, whom he's abused physically and emotionally and sold into marriage. According to tradition, a Targaryen king marries his sister, so it's only his right as the true heir to the Iron Throne for Viserys to treat her as he deems fit, right?
"She, to him, is his daughter, his sister and his wife," Lloyd explains. "She belongs to him as he is solely responsible for her upbringing. I think he gets frustrated by her inability to understand the weight of the task before them. Their duty as Targaryens. And he finds it very difficult when she begins to lead a life of her own."
Despite his nasty behavior — which at one point earned him a choking from one Dothraki's whip — Lloyd doesn't really see Viserys as a bad guy, just one who's a little single-minded.
"For him it's not about morality," he says. "It's all very simple and down to one thing: get the throne back. How he sees himself is in direct proportion to how confident he feels in his task. On a good day, when Daenerys' marriage is taking place, and people are calling him Your Grace, he feels on top of the world. His dad would be smiling at him, and he thinks he's a hero. On days when he struggles to earn any respect from the people around him, or worse, when they treat him with contempt, I'm sure he feels like a useless little impotent boy and is furious at himself as much as anyone else for not being better."
As wrongheaded as Viserys may be, Lloyd sees at least one redeeming quality about his character. "I love him, I really do," he says. "In the books he's only ever seen from his sister's point of view, but in the HBO show we get to see him away from her and hopefully some other sides to him. And it is always fun playing someone who doesn't back down from drama. So every scene has an edge to it because he will refuse with everything he's got to be beaten, even when he's clearly outnumbered."
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.
Do you love Viserys or just love to hate him?