'Game of Thrones' Exclusive: Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau reflects on Jaime Lannister's redemptive journey
Man on a mission
In the days leading up to the conclusion of the eighth and final season of HBO's Game of Thrones on 19 May, we will be taking a look back at some of the show's most fascinating supporting characters. Along with brief highlights that include their backstory, an iconic mic-drop moment and speculations on where they might be headed (read: dead), we'll be reminiscing with the outstanding actors who play them, in a Singapore-exclusive interview courtesy of HBO. Up next: the dashing Jaime Lannister played by Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
Jaime Lannister's topsy-turvy story arc is anchored by two main plot developments: his incestous relationship with his twin sister Cersei that has resulted in the birth of Joffrey and Tommen (both deceased) as well as one on the way if Cersei is telling the truth about her pregnancy, alongside his murder of King Aerys Targaeryan on the Iron Throne that earned him "the Kingslayer" reputation.
In the show's season premiere, a young Bran Stark stumbles upon his tower twincest with Cersei through a window and Jaime shoves him to the ground (don't worry Bran survives). The point here being that Jaime was willing to go far to protect this secret, which would otherwise derail both his and Cersei's highfalutin status at the top of Westeros.
Things are a little more complicated now. His relationship with Cersei is on the rocks at a time when she has consolidated all power on the Iron Throne.
Jaime's redemptive journey begins, of all places, in a hot tub with Brienne of Tarth in episode five of season three. After losing one of his hands, he breaks down his "Kingslayer" past and tells Brienne the truth; he had no other choice. Nude and emotionally vulnerable like he has never been before — he collapses into Brienne's arms by the end of the heart-to-heart convo.
Iconic mic-drop moment
In last season's final episode, Jaime realises that Cersei doesn't intend on living up to her promise of fighting alongside Daenerys and Jon Snow against the Night King's undead army. A heated exchange ensues. Both of them throw some low blows. Cersei accuses Jaime of treason and conspiring with the enemy while Jaime argues that they'll never be able to win the war against whomever that comes out victorious in the battle in the north. Being a man of his word, Jaime doesn't back down and dares Cersei to give "The Mountain" the orders to strike him down. Cersei knods and "The Mountain" draws his sword, but Jaime calls her bluff and marches out of Cersei's grasp and King's Landing.
We are three episodes into this final season now. By now, if you're all caught up, you would know (spoiler ahead) that Bran has come face-to-face with Jamie at his trial before the epic Battle of Winterfell against the Night King's undead army in episode three. Yet, no one knows if it was forgiveness or foresight on Bran's part because the only words he spoke was the last thing Jamie said before he pushed Bran off that tower ("The things we do for love"). In one of the preview images of the upcoming episode four, we do see Jamie at the Weirwood Tree so there's a possibility of some kind of resolution with Bran.
What's left lingering has to be his relationship with Cersei. Now that the Battle of Winterfell is over, we're guessing that Jamie will end up dealing that difficult final blow on Cersei's tyrannic reign. After all, he's the only one who could actually get up close to her without getting his head chopped off by her towering guard Ser Gregor Clegane "The Mountain".
Yet, we don't see him coming out alive after Cersei's fall. Whether it's "The Mountain" or the Golden Company that takes him down, our only wish is that he passes away in Brienne's loving arms. What an emotional send-off that would be!
Here's what Danish stud Nikolaj Coster-Waldau had to say about his career-defining turn as Jaime Lannister.
His relationship with Cersei is at a low point by the end of season seven. What do you make of it?
Well, she was threatening to kill him. I've been in situations like that in relationships. It's never good to pull that card. Again, let me clarify. Someone called The Mountain was about to chop off my head. I didn't really have much time to make calls.
Is there anything, no matter how cryptic, you can say about where things are heading?
Well, I think that it is the final season, so you would imagine we would move towards some resolution when it comes to the major questions.
We've got six episodes that have taken more than a year to make. What can fans expect for their patience?
The fact is it took twice as long to shoot these six episodes than a normal season. That's to do with the scale of what we did. It was I think unprecedented for television and even for most movies, the amount of people involved in the shoots and the amount of characters involved. We've shot this whole series where we've had all these characters in different parts of this world Westeros. Now a lot of these characters, as we've seen in season 7, have come together. Just shooting scenes with that many people take a lot of time.
Was it tough?
It was tough but it was tougher for the crew than for us actors. We will moan and whine a lot, but the truth is we would have say three really hard days, then a couple of days off, then we'll go again. At one point the crew had 50-plus nights in one go and they were still smiling. It was a crazy final season.
Everyone in front or behind the camera loved working on the show. Everyone was so determined just to finish it the right way. If it hadn't been the last season, if we'd just been ordered for another four years, then the enthusiasm might not have been quite as high when they came to night number 43. This is the hardest thing we've ever done, but the end is in sight and we really want to deliver.
Having worked on this show for many years, are there still moments where you look back and think, "Wow"?
Yes, especially these sets that they built and the set pieces that we were part of. The likelihood of us being involved with something like this again is not going to happen. There were really quite a few of those in this final season. It just took your breath away.
What particular skills do you have that you did not have before the show?
I'm better on a horse for sure, yes. Better with my left hand, too. Technically, you get better at acting. For example, we did the big "Loot Train attack" sequence in Spain last season, and you learn a lot from doing something that's so massive in scale action-wise. It takes a long time to shoot. It's about keeping your focus for those few beats that you have and understanding the technical aspect of doing action pieces. You know that if you have to go again, it's going to be at least another hour before you could do take number two. It's that whole thing about not letting that pressure get in the way of the performance.
How much secrecy has there been around this final season?
A lot. In the past when you needed to remember what had happened you could go back and find the scripts. Now, literally, the script has vanished. It no longer exists. I'm not very good at keeping secrets. With this show it's always been easy because you know you can't say anything about storylines.
What was your final scene like to film?
It was the perfect way. I can't talk about the scenes, but it was just the perfect ending to my whole experience of being on this show. It was a beautiful day in Northern Ireland. It was a great crew and great scenes. I'd seen quite a few of these farewell speeches by this point. I remember I was like, "Why are people getting so emotional? It's ridiculous. I'm way too hard for that." Then, they give you this beautiful bit of a little framed bit of storyboard. Mine was when my hand was chopped off. On the back, they write some nice words to you and then suddenly I felt some wet stuff on my face. I was like, "God. I must be coming down with a cold."
Stream the eighth and final season on HBO GO (available on the App Store, Google Play, SingTel, StarHub, and Toggle), watch it on HBO (Starhub TV Ch 601/Singtel TV Ch 420) or catch it at your convenience anytime on HBO On Demand.