Eye on Emmy: Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on Brienne, That Bath and the Bear
Not long into Game of Thrones‘ freshman season, viewers of HBO’s fantasy drama knew who they should root for… and it sure wasn’t Jaime Lannister.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau‘s knight was pretty, witty and conscience-free — as he proved by casually pushing a defenseless boy out a window for seeing something he shouldn’t. And then there was Ser Jaime’s not-OK relationship with his twin sister, Cersei, which seemed to cement the Lannister lad’s depraved nature.
But two seasons later, a heap of misfortune and a long journey have hammered Jaime into an underdog — and a compelling one at that. Accordingly, Coster-Waldau’s deft handling of his alter ego’s reality check is the kind of feat that could nab him a Supporting Actor in a Drama Series nod when Emmy nominations are announced in July. Here, the Danish actor shares some thoughts about the about-to-wrap third season, including bonding with Brienne, sighing over Cersei and bucking up that bloody bear.
TVLine | Jaime has had quite the season so far….
Yeah. It’s been great. It was one of those things, when we started, I knew and we all knew that this character was – as many of the characters are – very interesting…. Of course Jaime is a little extreme in that way because he carries all these secrets around. As an actor, you want as many secrets as possible. It gives you a good little thing going on inside.
TVLine | “Kissed by Fire” was a big episode for your character. Did you and Gwendoline Christie discuss the bath scene at length before shooting it?
We talked a lot about it. We also rehearsed it, and we ran the lines a lot. Her work in that scene is so brilliant because her response to what he says helps navigate the audience, I think, in many ways.
TVLine | It struck me that poor Jaime can’t even fully relax because he has to keep his stump above the water – it’s yet another indignity.
It is. People ask me about it, “It must be terrible you lost the hand.” [Laughs] I just look at it that it’s the greatest thing that could have happened. As an actor, for a character to lose the thing that defines him – it’s just very interesting. Obstacles are the best.
TVLine | One of my coworkers wanted to ask how you felt when Jaime finally got to bathe — because that didn’t happen for a long time.
I know. I was disgusting.
TVLine | Kudos to the make-up team. You were pretty gross.
You should see when I came back to the hotel room at night. You should see the floor in the shower after. Disgusting! It’s amazing how many places you can find mud.
TVLine | What’s your read on the evolution of Jaime’s relationship with Brienne?
There might be an attraction, but it’s a different kind of.… So many things in that relationship, so many things have happened between these two people that neither one of them are really aware of what that is, other than a profound respect for each other. And I think in Jaime’s case, there’s also a gratitude to Brienne. I’m not sure he’d be able to put it into words, but he puts it into action.
It’s sort of a stupid thing to do when he jumps into the bear pit. But he does it. And he does it because the first thing, more or less, we saw of Jaime in this show is when he pushes Bran out the window — and it’s such a horrible thing to do, but he does it to protect the woman he loves and her children. That action, it’s instinct, more or less. And the same here: He sees Brienne and, in a weird way, he acts as he would if he’d seen Cersei down there. It’s very interesting. I don’t think he’s that aware of it himself.
TVLine | You mention Cersei. How much are you playing it that he’s on her mind?
I think she’s very much on his mind. There’s no question that he wants to get back to her. Who knows what happens when he gets back and what that will be like? She has been at the forefront of his universe since they were kids. This is the first time that he’s been away from her for that long.
TVLine | I’d be remiss if we ended without at least mentioning Bart the bear, who was down there with you in the pit.
That bear is the biggest diva. I’m not even kidding…. To come out of his cage to come out on stage, the whole crew had to stand up and applaud and go, “Yay!” He would come out and get his treat, and after each take we had to do the same thing. Such a diva. But a great performer, you know?
TVLine | Did he smell bad?
He smelled like a filthy animal. That’s what Bart smelled like — like a filthy animal.
TVLine | Did you get close to him?
I got close enough.