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‘Game of Thrones’ fans are surprisingly nice to the actor behind one of its vilest villains

Playing Joffrey Baratheon hasn’t meant real-life murder for star Jack Gleeson’s relationship with fans.

By Benjamin Bullard
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey in Game of Thrones

Let’s face it: Right up until the moment of his long-overdue Game of Thrones assassination, Joffrey Baratheon probably never demonstrated even a single redeeming quality. Forever in the conversation as one of the most evil characters on GoT (or anywhere else), the illicit, incestuous spawn of Cersei and Jaime Lannister came and went from the HBO series as the kind of villain fans can’t help but love to hate.

But for all our awed revulsion at watching Joffrey orchestrate one vile crime after another, the star behind the deliciously violent tyrant says he’s all but gotten a free pass from fans for having playing the role. Eight years after painfully, poisonously departing the show for good, Irish actor Jack Gleeson reportedly says he’s encountered remarkably little blowback for Joffrey’s wicked deeds — at least from the fans who recognize him in real life.

“Thankfully, I've never had any negative fan experiences or anything. ... There's still a chance, if anybody wants to throw a punch,” Gleeson joked at the recent Game of Thrones Official Fan Convention in Los Angeles, via Entertainment Weekly.

“A lot of people come up to me because I guess this rumor started that people were horrible to me on the street or I get attacked…whereas I've never had one negative experience,” he added, explaining fans seem extra-sympathetic with Gleeson as an actor for having embodied such a loathsome, creatively cruel baddie. “I feel like people are extra nice to me because they think people attack me, so maybe I should keep the rumor going.”

Now 30, Gleeson joined the GoT cast while a teen and left the series — via his infamous poisoning at the “Purple Wedding” — while still in his early 20s. Gleeson said he loved the celebrity that came with playing a polarizing young villain, but admits his younger self never anticipated the potential baggage that comes with playing an instantly recognizable high-fantasy villain.

As for whether the show’s controversial, series-ending 8th season lives up to the TV-quality standard set by Joffrey and his colleagues in Game of Thrones seasons past, well ... Gleeson says he can’t be dragged into that whole conversation.

Why? Because, as the actor confessed, he’s never even seen the show itself — so he’s hardly qualified to weigh in. “I never actually watched it and that's an honest thing,” he admitted. “Everyone's entitled to their opinion [about the much-criticized final season], but I don't have one personally. That’s not a political answer. I just didn't watch it.”

Looking for more fantasy? Check out the Harry Potter saga streaming on Peacock!