You may know Iwan Rheon from one of his many memorable turns as a societal menace, but there’s a lot more to the polymathic, Welsh-born artist. Having shined in two generation-defining shows, as Simon Bellamy in Misfits and Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones, it would be easy to pigeonhole Iwan Rheon as a go-to for playing the sickest character imaginable. By his own admission, Rheon told tmrw: “it’s like seeing a job description and it says: ‘can play fucked up people’ and I’m like ‘yeah, I can do that – no problem!’”.
However, you’d be a fool to typecast the malleable leading man. We caught up with Iwan Rheon to discuss his musical exploits away from acting and recent performance as a charming, totally-not-fucked-up, everyman in the heart-warming romcom: A Christmas Number One. Starring alongside Freida Pinto as a heartbroken and highly strung music manager heading back to London from NYC just in time for cuffing season, it follows Iwan on his quest to cheer up his terminally ill niece with the seasonal chart hit of her dreams. It’s cute, it’s Christmassy and it definitely lets the multifaceted Iwan Rheon break type, whilst also celebrating his unique sonic skills.
Growing up, trips to the cinema remain fondly in Rheon’s mind. He reminisced on his earliest memory of the silver screen: “The Little Mermaid! I remember being really scared of Ursula”. The actor also fondly recalled his father performing the ultimate dad joke at the cinema: “He’d always do the gag that when the projectionist switched reels, he’d act as if the movie had just finished”. Musically, Iwan was informed equally by his parents playing music throughout the house and his older brother. “He definitely influenced me. He listened to stuff I didn’t have access to which at the time would’ve been Parklife and OK Computer.”
Embracing the symbiotic worlds of music and film is a pattern throughout Iwan Rheon’s career. Having been in a band since 12 where he “started off on bass and quickly ran [his] way up to lead singer”. Jokingly adding: “I played with that band until like GCSEs or whatever and then everyone went off to revise which pissed me off”. He then continued playing at a different band whilst studying drama in London. The communal experience being the binding factor between the two arts: “I loved going round my mate’s house and rehearsing in his attic, and it would get so loud. I remember being there and bringing in a song and just loving playing together.”
As his acting career bloomed, Iwan found himself getting picked for, now notoriously, sinister roles. “Early on in your career, you just take what you can. It’s so difficult to earn a living being an actor, but it’s always about looking for those interesting characters. Luckily, I can be more selective now. But, for some reason I do seem to be really good at playing fucked up people! It’s kind of like seeing a job description and it says: ‘can play fucked people’ and I’m like: ‘yeah, I can do that no problem!’. I don’t know what that’s all about, maybe I should speak to my therapist about that.”
Now Iwan can be more selective, opportunities to flex his multi-faceted talents as a musician and actor keep occurring. “To play guitar as Mick Mars [in The Dirt] was fun and a completely different type of music to what I’ve done before. I think with A Christmas Number One, it was again a completely different vibe and I enjoyed bring the two worlds together in the writing process.” Breaking type as a nasty piece of work for A Christmas Number One felt logical for Iwan: “It was so nice to play a normal bloke! Speaking to my agent, it became a bit of a joke with us being like ‘we need to do a romcom, we really need to do a romcom!’”.
For someone whose own personal mantra is to “be as malleable as possible”, it is unsurprising Iwan has meandered from some of the twisted, gritty fantasy worlds of his previous work to a more wholesome environment. In describing his own relationship to heart-warming films, he believes “There is something really comforting about embarking on that journey with characters again and knowing how it’s all going to turn out.”
On creating music, such as his 2015 album Dinard and now writing the songs for A Christmas Number One, Rheon rarely overthinks it. “I never put pressure on creating, it’s always: ‘let it happen, maaan’”. Quickly adding: “Wait, in print that won’t sound ironic!”.
After the perils of lockdown, Iwan Rheon reflected on a rollercoaster couple of years which has resulted in a variety of type-breaking projects: “To do a romcom, and then [an upcoming Channel 4 series] in the Welsh language, I feel very lucky. After the horrors of 2020, I feel very blessed in 2021”.
A Christmas Number One is out now on Sky Cinema and NOW.