Perhaps previously best known for roles in Eastern Promises and The Bill, Josef Altin has been playing Pypar on HBO’s hugely successful fantasy-drama Game of Thrones for the past three years and writer George R. R. Martin reportedly knew straight away that Altin was perfect for Pyp when he saw him. Sworn to a life of loyalty to a pack of thieves, bastards and rapists, he plays a character with a high-spirited and almost comical outlook surrounding bleak and dire circumstances – White Walkers, dragons and the ever-present political tension.
We spoke to Altin about Game of Thrones – what it’s like working with some of the actors on set, Pyp’s development in Season 4 and George R. R. Martin’s tendency to kill off characters – as well as his early aspirations to succeed in the world of acting.
HTF: We all know you as Pyp from Game of Thrones, but what was your entry into the acting world?
Josef Altin: I always wanted to be a actor from a young age. I had an audition for a show at my local library and was so happy I got the part. It was a one day show but we rehearsed for 3 weeks. After the show had finished I knew this is what I wanted to do instead of hang on the streets around my local neighbourhood which was North West London. Always had dreams and aspirations at a young age. My dad left us when I was three years old so my mum worked hard in three jobs just to put me into drama school. It was more like a dance school than anything but they had an acting agency connected where I started to go for auditions for background parts. When I left I got with an adult acting agency where my first ever meeting was for Alien vs. Predator. I didn’t get the part but it was the start of things to come.
HTF: So how did you get the part of Pyp?
JA: I got the part as Pyp through another audition. The day I had the audition the directors, producers and the casting director were in the room. I had a few lines to say and that was it. I think I went back for a recall and that was all. Heard I got the part a few weeks later.
HTF: How was filming for Season Four and do you have any funny stories from filming?
JA: Filming Season Four was the best yet! Had more stuff to do and I got to work with other actors this season I haven’t worked with before. It was epic I have to say. Loved being back at Castle Black with my brothers Jon, Grenn and Sam. Funny stories? Not really this season but I did slip a few times… Yeah it did hurt but no one saw me so don’t tell anyone.
HTF: How has it been working with Kit Harington, John Bradley, Mark Stanley and everyone else?
JA: It’s a joy to work with the boys again. I missed them so it’s good to have been back. As actors they are so talented and as real people they are nice people to know so it’s like one big family when we’re together again.
HTF: Speaking of Kit Harington, affairs have been shaken up with Jon Snow being back at Castle Black – does this mean the viewers are going to see more character development for Pyp?
JA: Can’t say a lot, but yes we will see a lot more of Pyp in Season Four.
HTF: Pyp is seen as the light-hearted joker of the group. How is it playing a character like that among gruff, more reserved characters such as Jon Snow and Grenn?
JA: I really like playing the light-hearted one out of the Night’s Watch . It breaks the tension up when everything is gloomy and moody at Castle Black. But Pyp only is like that because he’s scared and tries to cover it up by being the joker out of the pack.
HTF: So do you enjoy being in among the action and being able to swing a sword?
JA: Yes I love being involved in the action and swinging a sword. Never got to do that until I got the part in Game of Thrones.
HTF: Among all the battles and all that sword-swinging, George R. R. Martin kills characters for fun, it seems. Does that ever worry you?
JA: Yes it does worry me that anyone can die at any given moment but it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones [without it] would it? Haha. But yes I am worried. I do know I live this season, so that was a delight when I read the Season Four script.
HTF: Do you have any favourite characters from Game of Thrones?
JA: My favourite characters in Game Of Thrones are Tyrion and Joffrey. Amazing characters plus amazing actors.
HTF: And finally, what can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
JA: My up and coming projects, I play Matty, Maureen’s (Toni Collette) son in A Long Way Down. Got nice scenes with Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy in the new Russian soviet movie in which I play character called Alexander in Child 44. I play Weasel in British football hooligan spoof movie The Hooligan Factory (#UniversalUk). And at the moment I’m just about to film a bit in Atlantis in Wales/Morocco. And not this Tuesday but next Tuesday I pop up in New Worlds for Channel 4.
Catch Game of Thrones on Sky Atlantic every Monday at 9pm.