Many of “Game of Thrones’ ” main characters go on transformative journeys, sometimes completely changing viewers’ perception of them. Exhibit A: Onetime golden boy and invincible kingslayer Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who loses everything but gains his humanity. Coster-Waldau, one of the show’s four acting nominees this Emmy season, chatted with The Envelope about that long-playing arc and facing the reality of “Game” over.
What are some of the key inflection points in Jaime’s arc?
That he would lose his hand and meet this woman warrior, Brienne of Tarth. What happened on that journey was very human. He was raised in an extreme family — no mother, a very dominant father; he’s been primed for a very specific life. Suddenly, he’s with this woman, and that does change him profoundly.
He was a soldier. He was always the best at what he did. Suddenly that was taken away. He had to navigate this new world, where he couldn’t use strength, brute force, to get his way; he had to learn more from his brother how to deal with other people.
Your response brings to mind the importance of empathy, how people behave if they can’t understand how others feel. Is Jaime a case for that?
Yes. I also think we all have it. Very few people are not empathetic to their family. It’s so easy to demonize people you don’t know. You put on the news and you hear about refugees, all those stories … It’s sad, but it’s also human that it doesn’t affect you directly, you don’t get that emotional response. Then suddenly, you sit down and talk to someone who is in a situation, you meet someone, and you realize, “This is important.”
The show is in this parallel universe, so it’s easy for us to enjoy it. But it’s also very obvious how it portrays our world today in so many ways. And one of them, of course, is how we like to take enemies — usually people we don’t know. We have no idea about their culture, but clearly because they’re different from us, or we believe they are, then they must be wrong, because we’re right. Jaime has a couple of moments when he understands this woman before him, Brienne of Tarth, who on the surface is so different, he realizes, “She’s so like me.” Which is why he tries to help her.
Was it mind-blowing for the cast, having been in separate fiefdoms for years, to come together at the end of last season? Did you all get stinking drunk after?
Yes. That did happen [laughs].
We were shooting that in Seville, a beautiful city in Spain. A lot of us had only met at premieres or press junkets or the read-throughs. So to actually get to work together and hang out …
This season we got a lot of time together. The whole shoot was more or less in Belfast, so there were a lot of comings and goings. For all of us, it has been such an amazing experience. I guess it’s the same for any workplace; if you spend nine years together, you’re gonna get to know each other and care for each other.
But, yes, we had a lot of fun in Spain, shooting that sequence, and also after shooting hours.
Do you have any sense of how the show has changed you?
To be fair, that’s a question maybe easier answered in 10 years’ time. But you make friends and you have relationships; that’s a long-term thing. I’ve never done a show that ran for this long. The longest I’d ever worked on anything was like seven months. I’m going to be in touch with a lot of these guys for a long, long time. It crept up on me. We’ve grown together; some people have raised kids.
Even though we’ve had like 400 wrap parties and farewells, it still doesn’t really feel like it’s over. We’ve still got to go through the post-work, and then we’ve got to go to the premiere. Next fall, I think, is when the penny drops and you think, “Oh, I’m not going to Belfast this year.”
After your movie with Brian De Palma, “Domino,” what are you looking for next?
I have a couple of scripts that me and my writing partner want to turn into something for others, other than ourselves. I also haven’t done theater for a very long time, and I miss that, the connection with an audience.
A couple of years ago, I did this little YouTube video together with Google Maps and UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] in Greenland; it was about climate change. The Danish network called, saying, “You want to do something long form, traveling around Greenland?” … [Eventually] I said, “If I can just do it on my terms, then, yeah. I’ll make it into a personal story.” I’m going to go out for a month I’m going to start out in the very north of Greenland at the Thule military base, an American base where my father worked when I was a kid. We’re going to travel all the way through Greenland.