As Maximus, the member of the Inhuman Royal Family residing in their hidden, moon-based kingdom of Attilan whose terrigenesis transformation left him devoid of special abilities and utterly human, Rheon is taking on a decidedly more sympathetic role, but an adversarial one nonetheless: Maximus has begun to challenge the reign of the Inhumans monarch, his brother Black Bolt, and sown the seeds of revolution.
It's another pot-stirring turn for the Welsh actor after his stint as the "Game of Thrones" baddie fans loved to despise, and one that Rheon told Moviefone and a small gathering of press at the ABC's press tour for Television Critics Association felt dramatically different enough to lure him into a new series in a television universe where viewer passions run similarly high.
What's been the best part, for you, of joining the Marvel Universe?
Iwan Rheon: I think every young boy wants to be in the superhero show, so it's lovely to join it. Even though I don't actually have a superpower in the show, it's cool just to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe -- they make such amazing stuff and it's great just to be a part of it.
You're going from one rabid TV fan base to another. What's it like to work on shows when people are that invested?
I approach every character as an individual. I don't really think about what it is, or what it's in. It's more about who's the person I'm supposed to be portraying, so to me it's the same and I'm just trying to do the best job I can in playing a character. That's it for me?
What was it that hooked you about Maximus?
Initially, I was a bit unsure whether I wanted to do it, because it seemed like maybe I was going to do the same thing again -- which I'm not interested in at all. But [executive producers] Jeph Loeb and Scott Buck spoke to me, they said, "Listen, this guy is different. He's not vicious. He's not a psychopath. He wants to change things. He's a revolutionary. He is a politician who has a really strong idea of how to change the world." I guess those were the right things to say to me.
And it looks like he's one corner of a bit of an emotional triangle between Black Bolt and Medusa. What was fun about seeing that side of him?
He is vulnerable. He has empathy for people. Ramsay doesn't -- or didn't, I should say. I think it's quite a touching story, the fact that Maximus and Medusa were best friends and then as soon as Genesis happened and it rendered him a human without anything, she kind of ditched him and went off with his brother. Which is kind of harsh, really. I think everyone could empathize with that.
And that's why he's saying that to her in the scene, "Don't you remember how much fun we had? And how is your life now, where everything has to be so serious?" And I guess if you ask Kate Middleton the same question she might have a similar answer. It's quite a touching side to him and it shows his humanity -- not "inhumanity."
Was there anything you saw in the comic book source material you wanted to bring to your performance?
For me, creating the character, the source material wasn't very useful because he's, like, "Maximus the Mad." There were certain elements of it and things I read that I was like, "Oh, okay," but the source material gave me more of an idea of who these Inhumans are: what it means to be in this society; how they view everything; how they've just tried to ostracize themselves away from society -- from the world, really -- from humanity. So I think that's what it gave me, the idea. And it was quite difficult to comprehend and to believe, but that's kind of what it was.
How would you describe his story arc over the first eight episodes?
Wonderful. I think he has to make some very big decisions and he starts to feel the weight of those decisions. And that affects him.
How long were you unemployed before you got this job? A minute?
More than a minute! Between finishing "Game of Thrones" and starting [this] I did another job, I did a series called "Riviera" in between, and a film, but it wasn't that long. It's like a bit of time. I'm at a stage in my career where I have to be a bit more careful as to what I take because I don't want to be typecast -- it sounds odd now. But that's why I took Maximus, because I didn't think it was anywhere near the same character. But it wasn't that long.
I'm sure you got offered a series of bad dudes after playing Ramsay so well. But what was the fun with that first bad dude you played?
I think the fun thing about Ramsay was that he was so happy doing what he was doing. He enjoyed himself. Not every villain is like that. In the audition, that was the note that David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] gave me, which was, "Find the joy. He loves this." And that was like, "Oh right!" And that was the key for me.
Obviously, there were certain scenes which I dreaded and I never wanted to do, as a human being with real morals, but Ramsay couldn't give a f*ck and he just does what he wants.
By way of career experiences, where does "Game of Thrones" fall?
It changed my life, I think. I wouldn't' be here right now, talking to you. It's really changed my life. It's such a huge show. And the character seemed to strike such an important chord, in that people really f*cking hate him -- and it's great! And they enjoy hating him, which is even better. So I feel really privileged to have been a part of such an amazing show, and it is probably the greatest show of all time.
Do people come up to you and express those feelings?
Yeah! They come up and go, "Ooohhh -- you're horrible," and it takes them about five seconds to realize I'm nothing like the character. But that's how it is. And the fact that people have responded so well is humbling because it really means I did my job well and that's what I aimed to do.
That's what every actor should be trying to do, is to play their character truthfully. It doesn't matter when he's ugly, you have to play it truthfully and that, I think, is what people respond to, because they see the lack of vanity and people are insecure about stuff, and I think that shows in that character -- he doesn't care. And I went there and I did it.