Miltos Yerolemou – Interview

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Ok, we admit it, we got very excited with the guest list of this year’s London Film and Comic Con, Winter edition! Michael Trucco, Ross Mullan, Ryan Robbins, Alan Ruck, Billy Boyd, Liz White, Katee Sackhoff and the downright brilliant, Miltos Yerolemou.

He describes himself on his Twitter as “Greek, creative, lover of the sea, actor: Syrio Forel in Game Of Thrones. risk-taker, curly haired mischief-maker! Oh, and pretty tasty with a sword too..”

PLOT SPOILER WARNING – Game of Thrones

For Game of Thrones fans, this won’t really be a spoiler but there are people, as hard as it is to come to terms with the fact that, that haven’t read or seen Game of Thrones yet. I know, shocking yes? Just what is the world coming to? However, there is a theory that avid fans might want to stay clear of, so stop reading until you see the spoiler end marking.

Miltos plays Syrio Forel, a master sword fighter and instructor from Braavos, hired by Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) to teach his daughter Arya (Maisie Williams) how to fight and defend herself. During season 1 of the show, Syrio is “killed” by Ser Meryn Trant, and this is when the problems start. To their credit George RR Martin and Miltos have created a very well liked character, whose popularity has actually outshone Eddard Stark which takes some doing. So much so, a number of readers are hoping that not only is Syrio is still alive, but that Miltos comes back to play him. This is compounded by the fact that Arya then meets another person from Braavos, Jaqen H’ghar who reminds her of Syrio, and, you’re going to love this, wait for it, there are those from Braavos who are able to change their facial appearance.

It gets better. I have seen on a well known website a theory in a subgroup that puts forward that Syrio Forel and Jaqen H’ghar are not only the same person but, he is in fact, the basis for the Titan of Braavos. It’s tenuous but the argument is, the Titans statue, much like that of the Colossus of Rhodes, wields a broken sword, and when Syrio fought Ser Meryn Trant, his wooden sword was also broken. Now if this theory is correct, and let’s be honest, we are all hoping it is correct, and George Martin brings back Miltos as Syrio, not only will it display a bonkers level of writing genius and attention to detail, everyone may actually forgive him for killing off pretty much, EVERYONE (Martin is a serial killer of characters) and he’ll probably get so many hugs and thank you’s he’ll think he’s just been made Santa Claus.

END PLOT SPOILER WARNING

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Asides from creating an insanely popular character in Game of Thrones, he’s also appeared in Black Books (if you haven’t seen this, it is absolute comedy genius), and the TV Series Hubbub. He is also an accomplished sword fighter Forel, for real.. (aw come on, it’s all I’ve got!). Even on an early Sunday morning, Miltos was energetic and friendly, and spent far more time in front of his table chatting to everyone then sitting behind it, reminding me very much of Craig Parker from Lord of the Rings. He just seemed to be really enjoying himself with the whole spectacle of the London Film and Comic Con. You couldn’t hope to meet a better person then Miltos, he is simply put, a lovely guy.

Ok, you are a Greek Cypriot, but live in London, have you been back to Cyprus and whereabouts are your parents actually from?

Miltos – So, my parents live in a tiny little village half way between Larnaca (Λάρνακα) and Limassol (Λεμεσός) called Agios Theodoros (Άγιος Θεώδορος, a place which I seem to recall wasn’t too far from the main motorway referred to sometimes as the “M1”, I could be wrong though and I’m sure Miltos would put me right), and that’s where they were both born, where they grew up, and where they live now. They took retirement and erm, they’ve been there for just over 10 years, and they have Olives and make Olive Oil. That’s basically what they do, oh wait, just for the readers, we’re just being attacked by Greedo and Boba Fett (laughs). Brilliant! So yes, my connection with Cyprus is very strong, probably even stronger than ever because that’s where they live.

Have you seen how much it’s changed? It’s got motorways through it now, all over the place.

Miltos- I know, and the weird thing is that for a long time up until probably around the early nineties it was exactly the same, nothing changed, and then they just started building roads and then everything went through the roof.

It’s a shame though.

Miltos –It is a shame, but then everyone needs roads because everyone wants to find a way of making money, but, the point is that, well, it’s all kind of escalated too fast.

I think you’ve mentioned in the past about people being slaves to the banks?

Miltos – Oh yes, completely. Slaves to the banks. Exactly, and, it’s not their fault. The point is how does anyone have a, well, we’re all encouraged, every country is encouraged to grow faster and to, I don’t want to get onto a political soapbox here but it’s like a bank saying to you, “You really really want a house I’ll give you a hundred and twenty thousand pounds, no, I’ll give you a quarter of a million pounds, have it, here take it!”, but on a far grander scale.

And then they rake you over the coals for it!

Miltos – (Laughs) Exactly! But as I said, they do this with countries. You want to have amazing industries and amazing companies working in your country, and you want people investing in your banks, then do this, what we say, and then they’re effectively all owned by the banks now!

You’re not going to believe this, but I was chatting to my colleague Craig about you, and he straight away said “It’s the Schubert lover in Black Books”!

Miltos – (Laughs) Yes! It’s really funny you should mention that you know because he was watching that just the other day (points to the Showmasters volunteer sat next to him who has the biggest grin on his face!).

What was it like working with Dylan and Bill?

Miltos – So Dylan and Bill are brilliant and so is Tamsin. Basically we filmed that in front of a live audience, so we rehearsed it for a week, they have to so that they can shoot it as consistently as possible, but it was amazing watching them because they’ve written characters that are just a little bit of an exaggeration to what they’re actually really like.

Would you love to work with Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Graham Linehan and Tamsin Greig again?

Miltos – Oh, I’d love that. Really, I’d love that. I mean you know, Dylan does his own thing anyway. He’s very protective over what he does, and quite rightly so and that’s why Black Books was as short as it was and so good. He wasn’t going to keep writing just for the sake of it. It was great working with him. Oh, and I really enjoyed being kicked in the butt. I think he did that quite a few times!

Who was worse for giggling when they really shouldn’t have?

Miltos – I think I’m terrible for corpsing! I find it impossible not to laugh, because they’ve done it before! I was only there for a week doing that one episode so, I was just, I was watching Bill Bailey just improvising, pretending he was smoking a pipe when he didn’t have one. It literally came from nowhere. There’s a scene towards the end, you know, when they’re in the bar, they’re on holiday, and he says “The usual!” and of course he’s never been in that bar before, no one responds to him so he just mimes having a pipe. I mean, it’s so random!

I don’t think I can blame you for laughing! So, Game of Thrones, I was wondering, are there any actors who are very similar to the characters they play I’ve met Charles Dance and although he’s a lovely man, he can be quite intimidating!

Miltos – (Laughs) No, Charles is good like that because he’s so, I mean yes, I can easily see why you might think he’s like Tywin.

We asked him for an interview but he just didn’t have the time (totally understandable), but he was very polite about it. Jack was just phenomenal in portraying that immense piece of evil, Joffrey, and yet I think you’ve said he’s actually a very nice young man, who would even apologise to other actors for what he was about to do!

Miltos – Yes, Jack is nothing like Joffrey! I would say, oh, it’s such a tough question!

I was hoping you were going to say Kit Harrington was like Jon Snow!

Miltos – No, he’s not! I don’t think Kit’s anything like what he looks like on film. I mean he is, of course, but Kit is much more smiley. In person he has a much more happier smiling demeanour whereas in Game of Thrones really all he does is, he just seems either perplexed, or in deep thought, or worried, or anxious that something terrible is about to happen!

Like who’s going to shoot him in the back next!

Miltos – (Laughs) Exactly! So I don’t think he gets to smile a lot! Actually, wait, I tell you who is really like their character, Jerome. Yes, it’s Jerome. I think Jerome is exactly like his character. I remember sharing a car with him, it was the only time I ever saw him, we had a flight together, he hadn’t shot anything yet I don’t think, it was early days, and he got in the back of car, and I was like “oh my god, it’s Jerome Flynn, that guy from Soldier Soldier”, but look at him now. He’s completely reinvented himself as a badass! But I think he’s very like Bronn. That kind of wisecracking, down to earth sort, that’s him.

That’s actually really good to hear! So, fencing, you’ve done that before Game of Thrones

Miltos – Yes, I’m a highly experienced sword fighter.

Maybe you should represent us at the Olympics, send them a video of you in action at Game of Thrones to intimidate the opposition!

Miltos – (Laughs) No, I couldn’t do that (laughs). They would never let me in! I would be disqualified in an instant! Because I don’t fight in the traditional way of fighting. Like if we were doing fencing yes? Impossible. Have you seen them do fencing?

I have yes!

Miltos – It’s like a stupid sport. It’s like tag, it’s like “ooh” (at this point I should point out that Miltos has just changed into Syrio, and has just poked me with his finger so fast I didn’t even know what was coming, scary!).”Got you!” If they introduced a new sport, then maybe.

When you first got the role, were they fully aware of your background with fencing?

Miltos – Yes, they asked me specifically. And I can assure you it was the only time in my acting career that I haven’t lied (laughs). They always ask you how tall you are, and you think “Can’t you see how tall I am!? I’m standing in front of you!” And they always need to know like specifically just in case you’re working with someone like Ben Stiller or Tom Cruise, where they go, “He’s shorter than me, excellent, brilliant! He can definitely be in my film”. Sometimes they ask for those reasons. (laughs) No, I’m making it up! But most of the time it’s like “Can you ride a horse?”, to which I answer “Yes! I can ride a horse! I’ve been riding horses all my life”

And then there’s a panic phone call “Hello, I’d like to book some horse riding lessons, tomorrow please, yes, all day”

Miltos – (laughs) Always! It always happens! But for the first time when they asked “can you fight with a sword”, it was “Yes!” because I can. That’s years of working, doing the RSC, Shakespeare.

What was it that really pulled you into acting?

Miltos – Shall I tell you what it was?

Go on

Miltos – Special effects make up. When I was a child I was obsessed with horror films, and I still am. And I watched American Werewolf in London, and I fell in love with special effects makeup. It was a time when Tom Savini and Rich Baker, these guys were like kings in artistry of basically making, I mean they were winning Oscar’s for special effects, but now it’s for CGI. So I used to spend my pocket money, I used to go to London and spend my money on liquid latex, and prosthetics. So I’d paint onto generic masks, liquid latex, and I’d let it dry and then I’d layer it with bits of Rice Krispies and string, and I’d layer it up, so I’d basically make a skin on the mask, then I’d paint it, then I’d cut it up and stick it on my friends faces, then paint it like Freddie Krueger. Then they’d go and win fancy dress competitions. Before I was an actor I wanted to do special effects.

Ok last question, I know you have photoshoots that you’ve got to do in a minute, but swords, which type is your favourite, Scottish Claymore, Sabre, Japanese Katana, Cutlass..

Miltos – Oh! Japanese Katana every time! Listen, what can I say, I just recently went to Japan, and all things Japanese are the way forward for me. As far as a sword to fight with, always. I’d always go for that one, even over the Scottish Claymore, completely. But I do have a lot of swords, I get given them all the time!

I’m actually looking at getting a Katana prop back in Leicester..

Miltos – I used to study in Leicester you know, De Montfort University.

Really!? When were you there?

Miltos – 1989 to 1992. It was a long time ago!

The interview had to end there unfortunately but we’d like to thank Miltos very much for not only his time, but for making the interview relaxed and so much fun to do!

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