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Five Questions With ‘Game of Thrones’ Star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Awards Daily TV asks five questions of Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. He talks about Jaime Lannister’s character arc and about preparing for some of those epic Season 7 sequences.

HBO’s epic, Emmy-winning Game of Thrones returned last summer with a season that seemed to top itself in pure shock value as each episode progressed. With its surprising deaths, elaborate battle sequences and poignant drama, it’s hard to imagine another drama series topping it as it marches headfirst into the 2018 Emmy season. Assuming it sticks the landing when it returns in 2019, Game of Thrones seems destined to emerge as one of the best television series of all time, cemented by its record hauls of Emmy nominations and wins.

Still, even with all of the sex, violence, and hardcore dragon action on top of those Emmy wins, one of the most interesting aspects of the series remains Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s portrayal of Kingslayer Jaime Lannister. Coster-Waldau’s Jaime started the series at the top of his game, but the series seemed perversely excited about handing (pun intended) him one defeat after the other. From losing battles to losing his hand to losing his most cherished relationship (that of his sister, Cersei (Lena Headey), Jaime Lannister sees the end of Season 7 a vastly changed man. He’s even stripped of his extravagant armor. He’s left a simple man riding into the coming storm.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Season 7 performance as Jaime Lannister remains one of its defining highlights. Here, he answers five questions about Season 7 while trying (very hard) not to give away anything about what comes next.

So, Season 8 premieres next year. By that time you will have almost spent 10 years on Game of Thrones. How has Game of Thrones changed you as an actor and as a person?

Wow, this season has been extreme on so many levels. Yes, we’re shooting six episodes, but it’s really taking more time than shooting two whole seasons before this. That’s showing the show changing over the years. It’s difficult right now to say how it’s changed me. Everything changes over the years, and it’s been nine years since we shot the pilot. Nine years, more or less, to the day I got the part of Jaime.

For other roles, I’ve always said nothing ever changes me. It’s just another job. But that’s not quite true with Game of Thrones. When you spend nine years with someone, it changes you on every level. These people have been part of my life for so long, and they’ve changed me. I’m going to miss them dearly. As an actor… it’s difficult to say. Obviously, the success of the show has opened doors when it comes to other jobs. Ask me in 10 years, and I’m sure I’ll be able to come up with some profound answer to that question. [Laughs]

Ask me again when I’ve had eight solid years touring the Comic Cons of the world… [Laughs] Then we can talk.

What is that experience like, going to Comic Cons?

You meet people that are just really excited and are very passionate about their hobby. I’ve been to four or so over the years, and I must say that meeting happy people who are passionate isn’t a bad thing. It’s strange, though, because they see you as something that you’re not, but I’ve never had a problem with it. It’s great to be surrounded by people who are passionate about your work.

Going back to Season 7, what’s it like to prepare for such a profound and profoundly quiet scene as your work with Dame Diana Rigg? 

There were a couple of things that were special about that scene. First, it was her last scene on the show. I just admire her as an actress, and the work she’s done on our show – as with other shows she’s been on – has been just stellar. I was just really excited to do this. I’d acted with her before, but those were largely in big groups. This scene was a two-hander, and it was really well written. I wasn’t nervous at all because, when you work with someone that good, you can really relax. She’s never going to drop the ball, and she’s always going to return your serve in an interesting way. It was just a great scene. It was one of those days where you think, “I have the best job in the world.”

Plus, it was a unique scene because you see Jaime actually being successful at something. You always hear what a great soldier he was, but in Game of Thrones, you never really see that. He’s been captured. He messes up all the time. Then, he loses his hand. He’s had a lot of misses.

Then, of course, the beauty of this scene is that she basically tells him, “Oh before I go, I’m going to hurt you really badly. I’m going to do that, so fuck you.” She does that in a really great way.

So the polar opposite is one of my personal favorites of the season — the scene where Daenerys and the Dothraki army attack the Lannister forces. Tell me about filming something on that scale.

I thoroughly enjoyed that. One of the things that’s so great about our show is that you shoot on location. I’ve done other things where you spend weeks in front of a blue or green screen, and that’s just exhausting because you have to imagine literally everything. With Game of Thrones, the horses are there, the burning bodies. It’s all there. The great thing about a long-running television show is that you have time to know the characters. We like all of these characters, and we don’t want them to die. We understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and as a viewer, you’re torn. Of course, it took a long time to shoot, but it was thrilling.

For me, seeing the skill of the stunt guys and stunt riders, what they pulled off in those six weeks, it was just mind-boggling. You see for the first time really what Daenerys and the dragon are capable of doing. There’s no fighting that. You’re literally toast. When you stand there and watch it, it gives you such an emotional reaction because it’s so disturbing to see a human being on fire. I was really blown away with the whole thing. It was amazing action, but it’s really the journey of the characters that keeps you invested.

So, without spoiling anything, what was your reaction to reading scripts for Season 8?

My first reaction was I didn’t think they could have done it any better. It was exciting. It was mind-blowing. How are we going to shoot this? How are we going to shoot that? And the answer is, of course, that we spent more time shooting this season than we did two whole seasons before.

For me, after Jaime leaves Cersei at the end of Season 7, it was so fascinating, and I was excited to see where it would go. My big thing was, “Was [their separation] real? What’s going to happen between them?” And… oh, you know, I feel like I’m about to spoil something, so I’d better stop before HBO takes me out. [Laughs]

For Your Consideration, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is in contention for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Game of Thrones Season 7. Game of Thrones Season 8 premieres in 2019.