Jack Gleeson

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Jack Gleeson

When Jack Gleeson first hinted at leaving acting, it seemed to be the only thing everyone could talk about. For some, it seemed like he was turning his back on Hollywood. And so when the moment of his untimely demise as King Joffrey Baratheon in the fourth season of Game of Thrones came (where he died purple-faced and clung to by his mother) the media responded with questions of, “But what next?”

And when it came to the questions of why, Gleeson swept them aside attributing his exit from acting to his young start (his career began when he was eight years old in Reign of Fire) and that it was always something he saw as a hobby.

His real passion was in theatre, and having started a company of his own (Collapsing Horse Theatre Company) with childhood friends Dan Colley, Matt Smyth, Aaron Heffernan and Eoghan Quinn, stepping off the screen and away from his villainous Game of Thrones character meant Gleeson could let loose creatively.

“Anything that you do with your friends is fun,” he says of the theatre company, “but it’s also the fact that you’re able to engage more with the creative process. I’m not just a meat puppet, as Alfred Hitchcock once said about actors, but rather an invested part of the production, the writing, the directing and everything.”

“[Game of Thrones] was an incredible experience and I would do it over and over again a thousand times, but at the end of the day it was three or four weeks of my year for about four years, which isn’t a lot, but it’s a lot in the grand scheme of things. And I think leaving Game of Thrones gave me the chance to explore other avenues.”

In total, those few weeks for Gleeson each year added up to his appearance in 26 episodes across the series. And from the very first one, he had a rough idea of when Joffrey’s rule would end and the chance to redefine his career would present itself.

“The first thing I did was look up the summary of the plot on Wikipedia to know when my character left,” he says.

“When it’s your job, or say if you enter into your job as a journalist or a writer or whatever, you kind of want to know when your turn is up and when your contract is up. So I certainly wanted to know when my character kicked the dust,” he adds with a laugh.

Naturally, when one looks up a Wikipedia on their character, it’s only expected the words ‘Jack Gleeson’ would fall into the search engine alongside it.

“I have actually looked it up just out of interest, though I don’t think there’s anything really interesting on it. It just says the facts, so perhaps I could edit it and stick in some lies or false details to make things interesting?” he laughs at the idea.

“I had a friend from school, George Dockrell, who’s a cricket player and has a Wikipedia page and some of us from school used to edit it to say stupid things in the text. Maybe I could do that.”

It’s surprising with such a strong camaraderie with his friends that the occasional unexpected fetish or past faux pas hasn’t found its way onto his Wikipedia page, but as Gleeson tells me, his stardom from Game of Thrones and his friends are kept rather separate.

“We got together [and formed Collpasing Horse Theatre Company] before Game of Thrones was a big thing, so I think the original dynamic was just me as an original company member. As the show grew in popularity it became apparent that I could potentially be used as a publicity puppet or be used to sell our shows, you know, because we want people to see our shows,” he says.

“So it’s kind of an ongoing conflict where we want people to see the plays we put on but we want them to enjoy them on its own merit, rather than coming just to see me on stage or as I’m affiliated with it. It’s difficult to find that balance, but in general we try to not mention my involvement as much as possible.”

The boys went without relying on Gleeson’s star power and the result is you’ll be hard-pressed to find a mention connecting the two anywhere – aside from this article. As for their show ‘Bears In Space’, the reviews rolled in with astounding praise.

But for the next few weeks, Gleeson will be reliving the moments where he ruled King’s Landing much like a naughty boy tortures a family of ants with a magnifying glass. Luckily, fans aren’t too bitter about his on screen antics.

“Thankfully people are able to separate fiction from reality a little bit, so I haven’t had any lunatics yet,” he says. “But fingers crossed.”
Written by Amanda Sherring

When & Where: Supanova Pop Culture Expo, Melbourne – April 15-17