British actress Gwendoline Christie has spent Season 3 as one half of one of the most engaging storylines in this year’s installment of “Game of Thrones”— the journey of Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister.
Each week, Gwendoline and her on-screen partner, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, have kept fans entertained with well-slung insults and herculean sword fighting. And, as the season progressed (and they became prisoners of Locke and his men), viewers saw their two characters strip away their figurative armor and find out how similar they really are while sitting naked in a hot bath together.
“That relationship is so interesting and so complex,” Gwendoline tells AccessHollywood.com on the phone from London, still marveling at the fascinating pair-up.
Gwendoline herself has made Brienne interesting and complex, most especially in Season 3 as she was given more scenes in which to flex her acting chops as the earnest, honorable and conflicted-about-her-femininity lady knight opposite Nikolaj’s arrogant, witty, (secretly also honorable) and surprisingly chivalrous Jaime.
Fans have continued to respond to Gwendoline with big love, and she told Access some of the early support she received boosted her confidence while filming Season 3. Although serious about the role — and our questions about Brienne’s thoughts on Jaime’s heroic words and actions in recent episodes — Gwendoline shared her great sense of humor (and uproarious laugh) while fielding our other questions about her hot tub scene with Nikolaj, working with that bear and where a dress long enough to (somewhat) fit a 6’3” woman really came from.
AccessHollywood.com: It seems since last we talked, in Season 2, there’s a new confidence in you. With all the encouragement you’ve been getting from people and the great response, it seems like you’re even happier.
Gwendoline Christie: Yeah, I really, really, really love playing this part and I feel really lucky. You’re exactly right, it’s just — people encouraging you, people saying that they like what you’re doing is an enormous confidence booster. It also helps that Season 3 is an amazing storyline. And working with Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau] is brilliant. He’s so helpful and so supportive in a variety of conflicting ways. He’s great to work with and he just wants, like I do, just to do the very, very best. And, you know, it’s nothing more than just really loving the show and really loving this part.
Access: What an interesting word to use, he’s helpful in a variety of ‘conflicting’ ways.
Gwendoline: (Laughs uproariously) Yeah! The relationship on set has not been that different off set, in that Nikolaj is a very playful person and he loves to antagonize me. He loves it when he’s with Brienne and he loves to personally antagonize me. When you’ve got that kind of dynamic going on, then it makes it much easier to play, because you’ve got a relationship where outside of it as actors… you get along and you have fun, but then there’s all these different sorts of dimensions to it of antagonism that are brought into when you’re playing a scene. He’s driven me insane, but he’s also really helped.
Access: So, I’ve got to talk to you about the hot tub scene this season.
Gwendoline: The hot tub scene (laughs)!
Access: Why do you think Jaime chose Brienne’s hot tub to get into? There were a lot of pools he could have chosen, but he chose the one she was in.
Gwendoline: We did this discuss this… [There’s] a part of Jaime that likes to continue to slightly antagonize Brienne and this is the first time that we see her vulnerable in this way. She’s naked, she’s not been with a man before and so he gets to make her feel totally uncomfortable. There’s also the fact that those two have been travelling together in very close proximity for a long time and a lots [has] gone on, and perhaps he feels more comfortable being in there with her than he does being in a tub on his own. And maybe it’s totally unconscious. Or maybe he just wants to ravage her (laughs).
Access: Who was more of a diva on set that day, because you guys had to strip down and put on the little pasties? Was it Nikolaj?
Gwendoline: Nikolaj’s the diva every day. … He was quite well-behaved on that day — quite well-behaved, because I was very nervous. I think he’s done that sort of thing before. I hadn’t done that sort of thing on screen before, so I was pretty nervous. The main diva of the day was my modesty patch, which kept leaping from me due to water, so that is, I think, the main diva.
Access: Are you telling me they don’t make waterproof patches?
Gwendoline: No. They. Don’t. (Laughs)
Access: I feel this is an invention you should take to the ‘Dragon’s Den’ — we call it ‘Shark Tank’ over here.
Gwendoline: This is amazing! ‘Brienne’s Waterproof Modesty Patch.’ To be used in all tubs, battles and horse riding sessions.
Access: It’s been interesting to watch Jaime save Brienne not once, but twice this season. He saved her from getting raped, and in Episode 7, he jumped – without any weapons – into the bear pit. Do you think that made her feel more feminine when he did that or made her respect him more?
Gwendoline: That’s a very interesting question. I mean… from my point of view, it was always that she started to respect him as a man, but those two acts, I think more — you must realize Brienne would have felt grateful, but also slightly humiliated still because this is a woman that doesn’t have anything done for her. She is ‘all protector,’ she is the most powerful and I don’t think anyone’s ever done anything like that for Brienne before.
Access: That’s what I was thinking, and I was curious if you thought that touched something inside of her, in that sort of female sexuality part of her?
Gwendoline: Yeah, I think there is definitely that, but I think the entire journey is — I’ve always maintained from the beginning, from the minute she meets Catelyn Stark, she’s starting to question what femininity is and what it is to be a woman and what her own femininity is, because she’s eschewed femininity in favor of relying more heavily on her masculine traits and essentially, no matter how manly Brienne may be, she is a woman. … I think it does remain to be seen what happens to Brienne in terms of her femininity. But, I don’t think that’s ever anything she would want to think about or want to consider at this stage. It’s more that she’s starting to respect this man and maybe she’ll just start to take care of herself a bit more and value herself a bit more.
Access: Tell me about working with the bear – scenes which were filmed in California.
Gwendoline: That bear was an absolute diva. The bear was adorable! The bear had to have country music playing whenever he was on set… and he also had to have a round of applause every time he stepped on set, which I said to Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff], ‘Why don’t’ I get that?’ And when he’d done something particularly well, he had to be given a frying pan full of whip cream.
Gwendoline: Yeah… Bart The Bear was fantastic to work with. Absolutely brilliant and so, so good. The things that that bear could do to order! He was one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with.
Access: Finally, I’ve got to ask you – and this question is a little lighthearted — do you think there is a secret drag queen in Locke’s camp, because the dress they gave Brienne would really only fit a tall woman. There’s no women in Locke’s camp, and the women they come across are likely shorter, so it made me think one of the guys was a secret Westerosi drag queen.
Gwendoline: (Laughs uproariously) This is absolutely amazing. I would love it if that was the case. I would love it even more if it was actually Locke. Although Locke isn’t a tall man, but, I don’t know, there’s something in Locke’s eyes that says potential cross dresser to me, don’t you think?
Access: I’m a huge fan of RuPaul’s ‘Drag Race,’ and then I saw this dress. There’s only men around, so where did they get the long dress from?
Gwendoline: You’re absolutely right. I mean, we just thought it’d just been some old dress hanging around in a trunk somewhere, but in fact, you are absolutely right, it clearly belonged to one of the guys.
Access: I’m glad we solved that in this interview.
Gwendoline: Yeah, I am too.
“Game of Thrones” airs Sunday nights at 9 PM on HBO.
-- Jolie Lash