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Why Euron Greyjoy Changed So Drastically On Game Of Thrones

Euron Greyjoy may have been one of the most controversial characters throughout Game of Thrones' entire history. However, as it turns out, the actor who played the role shaped the character in a way most fans would never expect.

In James Hibberd's sprawling new history of Game of Thrones, Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, the Entertainment Weekly editor at large details pretty much every previously unknown detail of Thrones throughout its filming process. As Hibberd notes, Euron, who usurps the throne of the Iron Islands and wages war against his niece Yara (Gemma Whelan) and nephew Theon (Alfie Allen), almost fell under the radar within Game of Thrones' enormous cast. However, in the end, Pilou Asbæk, who played Euron beginning in season six, changed the character's trajectory in a huge way. 

After some of his material ended up on the cutting room floor, Asbæk presented a new direction for Euron's character, and showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss ran with it. Here's why Euron Greyjoy changed so drastically on Game of Thrones between the show's sixth and seventh seasons.

Pilou Asbæk had some strong ideas for Euron's future as a character

As Hibberd notes, Asbæk — who, strangely enough, once worked as a nanny for Jaime Lannister himself, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau — "didn't make much of an initial impression, and producers cut some of Euron's early material. For a while, it seemed that Euron [...] was destined to become another latecomer struggling to stand out amid a sprawling cast of fan favorites." As a result, Asbæk pushed hard for a huge character makeover.

"When I did season six, I had some great lines at the [Iron Islands' leader-selecting ceremony, the kingsmoot] that they took away," Asbæk recalled. "[Euron] was talking to Yara and had twenty more lines where he was being ruthless. He was doing a comedy show for the Iron Islands. Dan and David said, 'this is too much.'"

However, as Asbæk told Hibberd, he came up with a shift for season seven: "I said, 'What if we made him a bit more like a rock star, where you don't know if he's going to kill you or f*** you?' The costume designer was totally into that and made his outfit more rock star-ish."

Just like that, a new version of Euron was born. As Hibberd put it, "And that's how Euron Greyjoy went from looking like just another grumpy, scraggly ironborn brute to a darkly charming leather-and-guyliner-wearing buccaneer."

Euron Greyjoy's new look — and attitude — totally worked on set

Euron's character arc may not have translated with audiences, but on set, it was a huge success. "Pilou had strong ideas about Euron being really dangerous but also having this kind of sexy-funny veneer," said frequent Thrones director Jeremy Podeswa. "The script suggested that, but Pilou brought a lot more. It was a great example of how characters are never just one thing on the show."

Fellow director Mark Mylod agreed with Podeswa, saying Euron also filled a narrative blank spot for the show. "I was worried about losing Ramsay [Bolton, played by Iwan Rheon] because he was such a great baddie, just like people were worried about losing Joffrey [Baratheon, played by Jack Gleeson] in season four. With Euron, we got a great new baddie, but in a totally different way. It was "big," but it worked. Pilou managed to make it real, which is difficult to do."

According to Asbæk, he felt free to really push boundaries during filming: "When I was talking to Cersei [Lannister, played by Lena Headey] in the throne room, I said, 'So here I am with a thousand ships and two good hands.' Dan and David came up and said, 'Take away 'two good hands,' it's too much.' Because I had more confidence in season seven and felt like I belonged more, I went, 'Guys, don't take it. I know exactly how to be this. He's gotta be charming, he's gotta be arrogant, he's gotta look Jaime right in the eye and say it with the biggest f***ing smile — because he's an idiot and a pr***, and that's what I like about the character.' They said, 'Let's try it out.' We did it, and then they said, 'We're so f***ing happy you insisted on that.'"

In the end, Weiss realized Asbæk's instincts were right. "We really haven't had somebody in the show who has kind of a rock-star swagger, who just doesn't give sh*t," the showrunner said. "Everyone else in this world cares very deeply, whether they're awful, wonderful, or like most of them, somewhere in between. To have somebody traipse onto the stage with the swagger and attitude that Euron had was a lot of fun because it lets air into the room. There aren't that many people who could do that convincingly."

All of Game of Thrones, including Asbæk's performance, is streaming on HBO Max now.