Aside from the genuine fame and fortune being an actor on screen can grant you, the tradeoff is how fans can perceive you through your roles. It hurts those playing heroes and especially ones playing the villain and a series like HBO's Game of Thrones is no exception. Iwan Rheon played one of the cruelest characters on the long-running fantasy as Ramsey Bolton, who's primarily known as the tormentor of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). Rheon spoke to the UK's Metro about filming Sansa's rape scene in season five how he considered it the lowest point and "worst day of his career."
Iwan Rheon's Game of Thrones Regrets
Ramsey broke Theon down to the point where he even accepted a new name, Reek after systemically flaying and castrating him. Following the arranged marriage set up by once-trusted ally Littlefinger (Aiden Gillan), Sansa, who found herself in one bad situation after another since season one, went into her worst predicament as Ramsey's wife facing similar debauchery regularly subjected to rape. "That was horrible. Nobody wanted to be there. Nobody wants to do that, but if it's telling a story then you have to tell it truthfully," Rheon said. "They didn't sensationalize it or anything. It was very, very hard watching. It's a horrible thing that happens, unfortunately… It was the worst day of my career."
The actor went further into the psychological process. "Chopping someone's finger off you don't really see it, and when you're doing like a close-up, it's a piece of plastic. We're just acting, it's not real. Then something like that where you're in the actual reality of the situation is very difficult to deal with. It was a horrible, horrible day. This is something that we shouldn't even have to worry about because it's something that shouldn't exist in this world but unfortunately it does."
Rheon's comments echo similar sentiments of star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who played Jaime Lannister on the long-running series. He remarked in a previous interview the indignity his co-star Emilia Clarke had to endure feeling "degraded" in her wedding rape scene in season one, which he felt ultimately molded her character feeling terrible for her experience nonetheless. When it came to Sansa, Ramsey continuously mentally and physically abused her at her family home in Winterfell. She found a kindred spirit in Theon (who she knew since season one) who was far worse along than she was.
Sansa slowly chipped away Ramsey's psychological hold over him and helped regain his humanity until he was finally able to help free her from his clutches in a daring escape. The older Stark sister did enact her revenge on Ramsey feeding him to the very dogs he regularly starved and used to execute his victims following the Battle of Winterfell. Turner told Harper's Bazaar in 2019 how the experience of the series changed her life. "Initially, I didn't feel there was anything that stayed with me from all the things Sansa went through. But though I think it hasn't affected me emotionally, I did start thinking about the domestic abuse and rape, and it spurred this little part of me that might be an activist." Rheon can be seen in the TV series Riviera and The Snow Spider.