For two seasons, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has brought a confidence, arrogance and a delicious wit to the role of Kingslayer Jaime Lannister on “Game of Thrones,” but Sunday’s episode – “Walk of Punishment” — saw his sass turn into tragedy.
(SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading if you haven’t seen Episode 303.)
To preserve the shock of Jaime losing his hand to Locke’s blade, at the Season 3 premiere and in recent interviews, Nikolaj had to use his own clever sense of humor to deftly avoid giving away details about how dark things were going to get (something he’s had to do a lot lately with his movie roles too, like in this weekend’s “Oblivion”).
With the cat now finally out of the bag, Nikolaj had quite a bit to say about one of the most shocking moments in “GOT” history, one that charted in the same list as Season 1’s jaw-droppers like Ned Stark’s execution and Daenerys Targaryen emerging from Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre with dragons (moments which rocked book readers, who first discovered them in the print version too).
But first, AccessHollywood.com had to ask about his thoughts on the fade to black music – a punk rock rendition of “The Bear and Maiden Fair,” performed by Brooklyn indie rockers The Hold Steady.
Access: Did you actually get to watch the episode yet?
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: No, I haven’t seen it yet.
Access: Do you know how the credits rolled – have you heard about this?
Nikolaj: The guys told me they put on this – like a punk rock song. It fades to black for a second and then the credits roll. I can’t wait to see it.
Access: Some of the fans were like, ‘What’s with this crazy music. We’ve never heard this before.’ What did you think when you heard they were going to add a punk rock twist at the end of that scene?
Nikolaj: I thought it sounded like a great idea, because the moment is so… it kind of goes against what you expect because it’s just a dramatic, horrible thing. I wonder what the fans would like, the ones who were unhappy. Would they want something like ‘Wooohhhhrrrr’ (Editor’s note: the sound Nikolaj makes sounds like a Didgeridoo)? Because that would make sense. You just (whispers), ‘Wahhhh. This was Game of Thrones.’ The whole episode has some pretty horrific things happen, so I kind of like the tongue-in-cheek [music], and also, again, with this show, I think all bets are off in many ways, so I think it makes sense.
Access: Speaking of Sunday’s big twist – did you ever think you would, character-wise, join the ranks of Captain Hook, Luke Skywalker and Merle Dixon from ‘The Walking Dead’? All who have lost hands.
Nikolaj: I got that, I got that (laughs). I haven’t seen ‘Walking Dead.’ But no, I never thought that would happen, but it’s wonderful company to be in, I’m thrilled.
Access: You’ll have to watch ‘The Walking Dead’ because Merle actually has something called ‘Little Merle,’ which is an attachment he puts on his [stump] with a sword on the top of it.
Nikolaj: Maybe I should. We could use that! I should have props call props on ‘Walking Dead.’ Maybe we could save some money for ‘Game of Thrones.’
Access: When you found out that Jaime was going to lose his hand, what went through your head?
Nikolaj: I thought that was like – just amazing. It’s such a horrible thing to happen… If he had to pick a limb to lose, this would be the last one, I’m sure. This is his sword hand, this is what defines him, this is the one thing that he is incredible at… I think he sees himself as a soldier and it‘s very important for him and his identity to be the very best. And it has nothing to do with him being a Lannister and the family money and all the wealth and all that. It’s all about his skill and suddenly that one thing is gone and that’s just so interesting. For me as an actor, I know this is huge because, before this, he has this wonderful, annoying arrogance and wit and fearlessness with people and it’s just interesting what will happen next. And of course, I know what will happen next, but I think that to have a guy who starts in this one extreme and you go to the other, you couldn’t ask for more as an actor, really.
Access: It’s interesting that all the bad things that happen to him, happen to him after he tries to help women out. He pushes Bran out of a window, it ends up [sparking events that] lead to a war where he gets captured. He saves Brienne from getting raped and he ends up losing his hand…
Nikolaj: But I have to say, thank you, by the way, because you’re the first person who points that out. Everyone has this — they keep saying, ‘Well, like, he’s a psychopath who just wants to kill innocent children!’ But you’re absolutely right. He did it because he wants to save not only the woman he loves, but all her children. So that’s a very good point and I think we should have that in capital letters.
Access: Underlined? Bold face?
Nikolaj: But it’s true. That goes through the whole story… You want the world to be just and fair. When we do a good deed, we want to be rewarded, but here, it’s definitely not like that. You never know…
Access: Actors defend their characters… You have to be able to see things from their perspective, so Jaime’s not a bad guy to you, right?
Nikolaj: No, not at all… We’ve seen him in some pretty horrible situations, but it’s like, I think whether you want to or not, most people can recognize parts of Jaime in themselves and sometimes — I mean, I wish I could be more like him. I love the fact that he doesn’t apologize for who he is. I think that’s brilliant. I mean, wow, that’s a very cool thing to do – to be able to hold your head up high even in the most [dangerous situations] where… you’re a person of war, you’re with all your enemies and you’re not going to give them satisfaction of [bending to their wishes]. And I love that thing with the guy. What I like about this show is you get around these characters. You see all of them. And usually, in a movie, you don’t get to see the scenes where the main character — our hero — is being a d**k because we don’t want see that because we don’t want people not to like him. But [people act like] idiots sometimes.
Access: On a bit of a serious note, it was quite hard to listen to Gwen scream as Brienne in the episode. How hard was that to film? It was horrible to listen to.
Nikolaj: No, it’s horrible. But also ‘cause there’s something so – I think that’s also one of the reasons that Jaime does what he does, because she doesn’t do what he says. He says, ‘Just let them do it, just close your eyes, think of Renly.’ But, of course, she can’t. She’s too proud and she…
Access: She’s so earnest as well.
Nikolaj: So earnest, exactly. So when she fights back, it’s almost heartbreaking and then to hear screams — she’s still a woman, although she’s hiding behind the armor and she is this fierce warrior, she’s still a woman and this is just one of the fundamentals in the book of wrong things to happen to a woman. So, I’m just so happy that he does what he does. But yeah, it was a tough thing to do and, Gwen [Christie] did an amazing job, but it was a tough thing for everyone, I think.
Access: When Jaime and Brienne are fighting on the bridge before they are captured, was that the turning point for him – when he started to care about this woman? Before, he was intrigued by her…
Nikolaj: He was intrigued, but I think the fact that, in the beginning of the fight, he says, ‘Well, this is interesting, ‘cause if you’re not gonna kill me, I’m gonna kill you.’ He’s so confident and the fact that he can’t beat her, he tries, he can’t and then she decides not to kill him. There’s something about this woman or this human being that he doesn’t get and it intrigues him. To be honest, I think Jaime is a very honorable man inside and I think he actually recognizes something in himself in Brienne, and it’s kind of reawakened. But, I think the years spent in King’s Landing, in that horrible place, has made him a very cynical human being and meeting someone who is almost naïve, but also, just as you said – earnest – is, even though he’s not aware of it – and he’s not, [and if he did], he would never admit it — but it does touch something inside of him.
Access: What do you want to hint at about what’s ahead? He’s lost his hand…
Nikolaj: Well, now he has to deal with that. It’s interesting (laughs). And I love the fact that… I mean, their relationship continues — him and Brienne — but the dynamics change quite a lot. And who knows? Maybe she can help him too.
“Game of Thrones” continues Sunday nights at 9 PM on HBO.
-- Jolie Lash