This interview contains spoilers for Season 3, Episode 5 of Hulu’s Harlots.
Harlots is often described as a mob drama set in the brothels of Georgian London, but it’s been a while since the show has gone full Goodfellas on one of its characters. Even the shocking death of main character Charlotte Wells was more of an accident than a hit. In Episode 5, however, Harlots followed the fallout from Charlotte’s death to its natural conclusion and had her vengeful squad straight up murk the man assumed to have killed her.
Of course, that man was Isaac Pincher, played by Alfie Allen, and Isaac didn’t actually kill his lover-slash-enemy Charlotte (Isaac’s brother, Hal, bears most of the fault for that particular crime). But Isaac, who was dramatically gunned down on the banks of the Thames after a money drop went haywire, was far from innocent. He was a pimp, an arsonist, a poet of bizarre intensity, and ultimately, a sympathetic character.
It’s hard not to notice the similarities between Isaac Pincher and Alfie Allen’s Emmy-nominated portrayal of Theon Greyjoy on Game of Thrones. Both men are kind of crappy and emotional in a way that leads to their downfall, they take the fall for murders they didn’t commit, they have big issues with their siblings and their place in the world, and they both end up dead. Mashable spoke with Allen about Isaac’s short-lived Harlots arc, what it was like to work with its all-female creative team, and who he hopes will on-screen murder him next.
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Mashable: There aren’t that many Georgian period dramas, much less ones where you can play a poet-slash-pimp who gets murked by a dominatrix. Was there anything you found difficult about playing Isaac on Harlots?
Allen: There’s kind of a human side to Isaac in the fact that he’s quite an emotional person, or at least he tries to elicit that image of himself. He has these moments of truth. I guess that’s what he’s really looking for in that world he places himself in, and that’s what leads him to have that relationship with Charlotte Wells. He’s searching for some kind of familiarity in that world. He finds it in her, and you never really know who’s playing who, or who’s using sex as a weapon.
So that was definitely something interesting that attracted me towards the character — the obvious humanity within him but also these terrible things that he does. I guess that leads into his emotional intensity and honesty, really, because he acts with his heart rather than his head.
That’s kind of what got him killed in the end.
It’s a dangerous, dangerous thing to flirt with, without a doubt. He had an honest ending as well. He wanted to do the right thing in giving Emily the money and making her leave, even though it’s not really his place to tell her to go anywhere. But he did have honest intentions until the end. Not to defend Isaac!
I was surprised to see Isaac actually had the money for Emily. He was trying to do a nice-ish thing there.
A selfish and nice thing.
Very few productions can boast the all-female creative team that Harlots has. The writers, the directors, and the majority of the main cast of characters are all women. Given your experience on projects like Game of Thrones, what feels different about working on something where women are in the driver’s seat?
I’ve got to be honest, I’m going to give a really boring answer. There really wasn’t a different feeling or a different atmosphere on set. It was business as usual. I did enjoy that me and Hal, who’s played by Ash Hunter, were kind of “Jack the lads” on set, but besides that everything felt normal, as it usually was.
But one of the things that attracted me towards the show, not so much the character creatively but Harlots itself, was it’s helmed exclusively by women, female writers, a female lead cast. It’s not something that happens that often. So to be a part of that is great. I think that’s what the show is about, those positions of power, and there not being such a gender bias in those positions of power.
What do you think the most unfortunate thing about Isaac’s death is?
I think his waistcoat was the most unfortunate thing. I’m kidding. I chose that waistcoat. I thought it was nice that Isaac appeared to be of a higher gentry than he was, so the elaborate waistcoat with the colors of the costumes…
He was a very fancy boy.
Thank you. I’d say his death was tragic in itself because he died, and like I said before, he had honest intentions, so that’s probably the most tragic thing about it. And also that it happens at the hands of Emily Lacey, who’s the person his brother is in love with, even though Emily and Isaac don’t agree on anything. I’d say this was fitting that it didn’t come from the hands of her, but that she was involved. Tragic at the same time, but fitting.
Going through your IMDB, your characters get murdered a lot. You’ve been killed by John Wick, you’ve been killed by the Night King, killed by the Predator, and killed by Nan on Harlots. As a two-part question, which actor would you most like to murder you next, and which fictional character in a movie, book, franchise, whatever, would you most like to kill you onscreen?
Which character would I like to murder me next? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe James Bond. That would be cool, to be killed by James Bond.
Any who else? I don’t really know. I haven’t had that thought process. I’d have to think about it a little bit more, in terms of what kind of actor — someone like Gene Hackman. That would be pretty cool.
You just got your first Emmy nomination for playing Theon Greyjoy in the final season of Game of Thrones — is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to at the Emmys this year?
I’m looking forward to [spending] it with the cast members that I’ve been working with for so long. I’m genuinely very excited about that. Just seeing who wins in all the different categories, and also having my whole family out there. It’s gonna be great.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.