If you saw Harry Lloyd on the street, you probably would not immediately recognize him for his starring role in the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Not having actual long, flowing locks of platinum blond hair tends to do that. Yet, Lloyd continues to develop a following for his work on shows that include Manhattan, Wolf Hall, and the BBC’s Robin Hood, and is getting his name out in surprising ways—including via Kim Jong-un’s Twitter account…
At least that’s the premise of “Supreme Tweeter,” a surreal and bizarrely amusing web series that he co-created and wrote alongside Jayne Hong. In the currently three-episode series, Lloyd plays a fictional version of himself, as “Harry” grapples with casting directors demanding what kind of Twitter following he is bringing to a project, and his excessive narcissism for online gratification is only eclipsed by his disdain for the social media platform.
However, everything changes when Lloyd’s first belated Twitter follower becomes Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader that apparently lurks the Internet with the nifty handle “Supreme Tweeter.”
It’s an absurd and very self-aware slice of humor that seems considerably risky following the very real online dust storm kicked up by North Korean hackers last year due to the release of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s The Interview.
So, when we sat down with Lloyd for a phone interview last week following the release of the first episode, the Seth Rogen subject inevitably came up, as did “Supreme Tweeter’s” perspective on the performing arts landscape of the 21st century. Oh and of course, Game of Thrones, which is only fitting since “A Song of Ice and Fire” creator George R.R. Martin and fellow Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams cameo in the first episode of “Supreme Tweeter.” Lloyd even talks about Martin’s inclusion of the words “book 10” in the series.
So, have ever been to an audition where they actually demanded to know how many Twitter followers you have?
Harry Lloyd: No, but I have been met with a similar kind of indifference before.
Can you describe that experience?
I find there are two types of auditions. There are the ones where you know straight away that they have made up their mind, and then there are the ones where you have to work quite hard.
And the ones where they’ve made up their mind, it’s very tricky to tell if they know straight away that they want to see you again or if they know straight away that they don’t want to see you again. And often, it’s quite confusing. So you can walk out of an audition thinking, “That was terrible, that was rubbish.” Because they were so curt and short, and uninterested, and it was only because they knew straight away that they liked you. Other times, you’ll think, “That was wonderful. They were really excited and wanted to get moving fast,” and it was because they knew straight away that you just looked wrong. More often than not, it’s the other time where they’re curious, and they’re looking for something and trying to work out what that is, and those are the ones where you have to dance around a little bit.
Did you finally get on Twitter because it felt like a necessary aspect of being a modern actor?
I was always rather weary of Twitter; I was a bit self-conscious [because] I didn’t know what you were going to say—I didn’t know quite how to draw the line between being myself and being my own PR manager, which is why I was interested in this story when producer Jayne Hong came up with this concept.
So, I got on Twitter to experiment and to face that fear. Of course, it’s really not, like all these things; [it’s] not as scary when you actually involve yourself in it.
But in the web series, it’s a point of contention, which is brought about in the scene between your character of “Harry Lloyd” and Maisie Williams, where the two of you are discussing the necessity for social media to be an actor. Are you as disheartened by that development in the 21st century media landscape as your character?
I think “Harry Lloyd” in the show is a much more extreme version in many respects than I am. I don’t think I’m quite such a caveman as he is. [Laughs] No, I understand “Harry;” it’s a very interesting time to be an actor. And I’m not the most technologically savvy person, but I am interested in it and do follow how these things change, and how the world and the industry adapt. I think it’s a fascinating time to be an actor, not least because of all the different mediums that you can be an actor in now. It’s no longer that the biggest thing [to do] is movies. TV shows, in some ways, have even better scripts more often than not. There are short films, there are web series; I find it really interesting.
As an actor on series like Game of Thrones and Wolf Hall, you probably find more variety in what’s being offered on the small screen.
I’ve always been interested in variety. I’ve never quite decided what I love the most and what I think I’m best at. I think I’m still figuring out. Opportunities are allowing me to try my hand at writing and direct a little bit, and I still feel that I have a lot to learn in certain areas.
The other major aspect of the web series that’s the nuclear elephant in the room is the presence of Kim Jong-un. Where did that idea come from?
He was part of the original premise. I think the inclusion of North Korea has less to do with the politics of North Korea and more to do with the way it’s treated in the media. In some ways, North Korea is a metaphor for the insane and the dangerous getting involved in social media, and it just raises the stakes in a heightened surreal comedy, rather than just some social commentary on a guy looking at his phone.
There’s something about the strangeness and the amusement, but also the danger of North Korea that we thought was an astute parallel to that and the propaganda of their social media elite. And it was all made before The Interview happened. It was only through a small tweak in editing that we referenced it slightly. We didn’t really want it become about that. It was never intended to be hugely controversial or comment on North Korea in any way.
Are you worried at all about any international incidents or reprisals? A golden crown of mean tweets?
I don’t think there’s too much to worry about, as opposed to The Interview when these [characters] were trying to assassinate Kim Jong-un. The tone of the piece is very silly and light comedy, and very clearly about social media. I think the biggest target in the whole show is the character of “Harry” who is clearly lost and a very self-involved individual. So, he very much is the butt of the joke.
Do you think it says something about the profession of acting that this character is gratefully using Twitter and the democratization of social media to inflate [his and Kim Jong-un’s] egos?
Well there’s an interesting quote, and I think it’s from Kim Jong-un’s father, which is the fact that if you’re being talked about in anyway, then you’re obviously doing something right. There is that aspect today, both politically and socially, that once you are in the news or online, it does give you a moment in the spotlight where you can harness that to do something else. As soon as you are being talked about, people will listen to you. And you say at this moment, “Okay, I have been arrested, so I actually have a book coming out.” That book is more likely to be launched when the two have nothing to do with each other.
So, it’s an interesting exploration of the difference between success and fame. One used to have to come before the other, but now it’s often reversed.
Do you see any similarities between at least the media portrayal of Kim Jong-un and Viserys Targaryen?
I feel that is something we wanted the audience to draw those kind parallels for themselves [Laughs]. They’re, as you say, is the media portrayal of Kim Jong-un. He’s still a man that we know very little about. I think he is much more in charge and much more self-aware than we realize.
Well, what kind of ruler do you think Viserys might have been if he ever had his own army or even had social media?
I think if Viserys had social media, he would not have a lot of followers if I have to be honest [Laughs]. And if he ever did get his army, I don’t think he would have lasted very long.
You became a fan of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series [after being cast in the Game of Thrones pilot]. Has your opinion of Viserys changed at all from playing the character to reading the book? How did one inform the other?
When you read the books, you see him through is sister’s eyes, so you see him as this simple, spoiled, frustrated brat who’s cruel and belligerent, and obnoxious, and very unlikable. In terms of playing him, I had to move away from that to find that even though he’s done terrible things, what’s his point of view? Where did he come from?
As soon as I looked into more of the history of the Targaryen family and actually read the other books, I found out more and pieced together his backstory, and he became sympathetic. I understood more what motivated him, and the fear he had, and the responsibility he had, and his childishness. I mean, he never really had a parent. That changed a lot my view from reading it to playing it.
Knowing more now what you do of the family, do you find yourself when either watching the show or reading the books more invested in Daenerys Targaryen? Are you rooting for your onscreen sister?
Sure. I’ll always be a Targaryen. But watching it now, more and more, I do get lost in all the different plotlines. Even with Daenerys, I feel at times where I’m completely behind her and times where I’m frustrated by her, which is I think quite good writing, because it’s difficult to stay completely loyal to one character when everyone is forced to compromise.
In “Supreme Tweeter,” you appear to keep in touch with George R.R. Martin (or your character does). Do you really chat with Martin or cast members?
Yes, I’m in touch with certain members of the show. I’ve always been good friends with Gethin Anthony, who played Renly Baratheon. And George is someone who I was in email contact with. But I got to know him a bit better last summer when I was filming in Santa Fe where he lives.
Well whose idea was it in “Supreme Tweeter” to have George tell you that he’s about to reveal the ending of “book 10?”
That was I think was George—it was actually Jayne Hong’s idea that I would cut him off when he’s about to reveal the end of the book.
So, it was George’s idea then to say “book 10?” Or has he really talked to you about possibly expanding the series from seven books to 10?
[Laughs] I think that’s the kind of speculation he wants to inspire. I have no idea about his writing schedule or his plans. He’s a playful man.
One interesting thing about George is that while obviously subverting high fantasy, he pulls from a wealth of history and literature. As someone who also gets to explore such things, as with your appearance in Wolf Hall, have you had conversations with George about these historical parallels?
When I was filming Wolf Hall last summer, I talked to George about it, and he was obviously very familiar with all the stories of Henry VIII and his wives, and the character that I play, [Harry] Percy. He was very well steeped in the English history, much more than I was.
I’ve always imagined Daenerys Targaryen to be a bit loosely based on Henry VII. Have you heard George say anything about that?
No, I haven’t, actually…but I will [bring it up].
As you’ve moved away from Game of Thrones in recent years, have you found yourself as recognized or pigeonholed as “Harry Lloyd” in “Supreme Tweeter?” Such as does it come up from fans on the street?
I have to be honest, no they don’t. I don’t think anyone’s ever quoted Game of Thrones at me. Although, having said that I should be careful, because maybe they will now.
What do you have planned for future installments of “Supreme Tweeter?”
To be honest, we’re discussing moving forward now. We’re very interested in hearing what people have to say as that was always the plan: to release something online about the online experience. We’re really curious to hear people’s reactions and what aspects of the show that they’re interested in. I think there are so many different ways you can go from here, so I think we’re really interested in hearing what people have to say.
What’s the feedback been like so far?
We’re gathering it all now. We’ve had a lot of really positive reactions, which we didn’t expect so many numbers so quickly. We thought it would take a long time for people to watch it. So, we’re still very much enjoying the fact that people are seeing it. We’ll begin to start looking at statistics from now on, really.
What else do you have coming up beyond “Supreme Tweeter?”
I’m about to do a second season of WGN America’s Manhattan. I did it last year, and [it’s] back to Santa Fe this year.
Harry Lloyd, thanks for talking to me today.
Thank you, I appreciate it.
You can watch the first three episodes of “Supreme Tweeter” right here.