I told Jack Gleeson I sometimes listened to philosophy lectures in the car. “Who are you into?” he asked. “Well, I’m getting through the Greeks, the Stoics,” I replied. “Oh, the basics,” he said. : ) Here’s my interview with this very bright and thoroughly nice young man, as published in the Sunday Mail. Come visit the LUV Comics stand at Supanova! Where Jack will be, probably with a longer queue than us.
Being in TV show Game of Thrones is a bit like being a member of royalty: millions of loyal subjects and you get treated with reverence wherever you go.
Jack Gleeson would know. He plays the young king Joffrey in the popular HBO series.
“Definitely,” the 22-year-old says. “They really look after us on set. It’s funny to see the progression. Not like we were being abused in season one, we were very well treated, but as the show grew in popularity, in season two we got a few extra chocolate bars in the green room. In the last season we had very plush surroundings and everyone was very polite to us. So yeah, it did feel like people were being a bit deferent towards us, which is kind of uncomfortable, but, you know, it’s a comfortable job.”
Gleeson has played Joffrey – the sadistically minded young king who commands fear if not respect – since the beginning of the series until he took his final bow this year. The young theatre lover, who grew up in Ireland, has been acting since the age of eight. But recently he surprised fans by announcing that after his character’s timely demise he would be hanging up his crown and sceptre and retiring from acting – at least for a while.
Instead, he’ll remain on home turf in Dublin to finish his degree in philosophy with a view to potentially doing a Master’s.
“To call it academia would be a bit of a stretch. I’m studying philosophy at the moment. It’s not exactly a vocational study unless you do want to be an academic. I suppose I’m at that weird crossroads where everyone finds themselves at 21-22-23 where you’re kind of out of college and just excited to go with the flow.”
Is there a philosopher that resonates with him in terms of how to life a good life?
“It’s funny you should ask that. I could really go off on a ramble. I’d have to say yes and no, I enjoy (Austrian philosopher) Wittgenstein because there’s a certain Buddhist tendency to his first book that he wrote during World War I, which is kind of like a liberation from getting befuddled and transfixed by language and the ordinary banalities of life, where you really just live in the moment, that’s what I like.”
The other thing that will keep Gleeson busy is Collapsing Horse, the theatre company he co-founded with three friends in 2010.
“I kind of have a free-floating role, where I can be as hands on as I want to be and help with the writing, the directing, the publicity and the producing,” he says. “It’s nice to have the freedom, when one has the time, to devote yourself fully to something that’s a passion project.”
Many were surprised that he decided to step away from fame and fortune and walk a different path.
“They definitely do seem surprised and I’m not surprised that they’re surprised, because it’s obviously something that everyone dreams about, and it’s what I dreamt about. One of my big aspirations as a kid growing up, and even as an adolescent, was to be a famous actor, and that was always my goal.
“So it’s kind of one of those weird things where you get there and it’s not as fulfilling as you’d like it to be. I suppose for me it just didn’t fit in with how I was feeling. But I think for other people it’s a great life.”
For now it’s onwards and upwards for the young actor who is definitely playing against type. But his time on Game of Thrones will go down as an unforgettable experience. While their characters may always be at war, the clichés of the cast being one happy family are indeed true, says Gleeson.
“Even though we split up a lot and we film different scenes on our own or with one other character, whenever we get together for a big scene we always just hit it off. For me, it’s a matter of whoever I’m hanging out with. I have a lot of scenes with Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), Sophie Turner (Sansa), Lena Headey (Cersei), Natalie Dormer (Margaery), Conleth Hill (Varys). It’s just a blast and it sometimes doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s like hanging out with your friends.”
Conleth Hill and Peter Dinklage are the jokers in the family, he says.
“They are a little comedic duo. They bounce off each other very well. They do little impersonations and crack very funny jokes. They keep the morale high on set.”
Gleeson can be proud of taking the character of Joffrey to new levels. While he may the one that everyone loves to hate, surprisingly some fans come up to him who are pro Joffrey.
“Sometimes they do, actually, which is refreshing,” says Gleeson. “I don’t think they ever condone his actions. I think you have to have some kind of symptoms of psychopathy to do that, but some of them say, I find the scenes exciting, I find his motivations intriguing. That’s nice to hear because obviously as an egotistical actor I enjoy my scenes and I like my character, so yeah, it’s nice to have someone see past the superficial evilness of him and appreciate him as a well-written character.”