This is the third in our series of actor interviews leading up to the premiere of Game of Thrones on March 31st (April 1st in the UK, Scandinavia, and elsewhere).
And as it happens, this is also our third interview with Nikolaj to date, and he remains as charming and entertaining as always. The interview transcript below doesn’t really go very far to indicate just how engaging he can be to talk with, and how funny. Despite the provison from HBO that details for season 3 were not really permitted to be discussed, Nikolaj provided some small suggestions about how the story may go in the course of discussing the series, his character, and the fans.
So, what can you tell us about the new season?
“Well, this guy gets killed… what’s his name… I can’t tell you anything, really. But I’ll say this much, as it’s not giving anything away really, is that when I was first approached for this I talked to the guys and they told me about Jaime. And I always hoped we’d get to season three, based on that.”
How many books have you read now in the series?
“I’ve read the first three. I’ll carry on if we carry on to season four or five. Do I know if Jaime survives? No, I don’t. I’m sure the guys know. Am I the kind of guy who got the fifth book onto my kindle when it came out, and searched to see if Jaime was still alive? That’d be so sad if I did that!
“But I did.”
Last year, you were really looking forward to season 3. This is really his season in some way. Can you tell us a bit of the process? He started as a villain, but he’s going through something…
“He’s going through life! I’ve never seen him as a villain, you know. When we first met him just happened to be the day he pushed a kid out a window. It happens, we all have those moments—”
We sometimes wish to, but we don’t!
“Well, it’s the thought that matters. But I can’t really tell you what happens. That’d be boring for your readers and for yourself. But what’s important for Jaime is not how the world sees him, but how he defines himself. And it’s his love for Cersei that he really defined himself by. But he’s been forced to be away from her for a long time and… He’s still crazy in love with her.
“When I think about and when I watch the show, I think that everyone knows what it’s like to be crazy in love with someone… and you realize that maybe they don’t love you as much. That’s not a healthy situation to be in. What I would want from him is that he would deal with that at some point.”
Another way Jaime has defined himself, not just his love for Cersei, is as a knight, the greatest knight in the Seven Kingdoms—
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. But we’re getting into very dodgy territory now.”
I know. Let me see if I can recover this… well, we’ve seen from the trailer that he and Brienne fight. She’s trying to be this sort of knight figure herself. How does this affect him, seeing this woman trying to live that life?
“I love that relationship, and it’s such an interesting journey that started last season. At the end of season 2… it’s early days to talk about respect, but I think at least he’s so used to being able to read people. He’s a very good swordsman, but he’s even better with his words, he’s very quick to find people’s weaknesses. He torments Brienne and drives her crazy, but then he sees her in action. He’s impressed, but he’s also surprised. He might have thought she’d be good .... but not that good.”
“But also it was her reasoning for why she fought. She had moral reasons for it. And later on… I can’t talk about later on!”
How was it working with Gwendoline Christie?
“She was wonderful. We met a few days before filming, and for some reason I just decided to start treating her like Jaime would, and we’ve never stopped. It’s driving everyone crazy around us, as I’m just being really inappropriate and horrible.
“The funny thing is that I’ve taught her too well. She’s winning more and more of our little exchanges now.”
So, you’re employing method acting?
“Yes! It’s my first entry into method acting. That is actually true.”
What are fans like to you when you meet them?
“They’re really, really nice. I was just in Spain to promote a film called Mama. I didn’t know Game of Thrones was a big hit in Spain, but it is. So I was dreading this signing event at a department store, I thought it’d be empty. But no, it was packed. And they all want to kiss.
“Sometimes people ask me, since you play this guy, do people hate him. And no, people really seem to embrace Jaime.
“There was one weird encounter. It was this young kid, a waiter in a restaurant in Belfast. He came over and asked, very politely, if he could have my autograph. And I said sure, yeah. And he said, “You’re a real shit, aren’t you?” And I stopped and looked at him, and he said again, “You’re a real shit?” And I asked, “You mean… Jaime?” “Yeah.”
“And so I went and signed the autograph, and he told me, “I fucking hate you.” That was the only time someone’s ever said something nasty to me. My friend who was with me at the restaurant was freaked out by it.”
Game of Thrones has been a great springboard for you, and many actors. You’re in Mama, you’re going to be in the Tom Cruise film Oblivion. Is it hard to balance these other projects with Game of Thrones?
“It’s great. I’m certainly not complaining. But if I had to choose, I would do Game of Thrones year-round. It’s so fun. It’s an amazing job to have.”
What can you tell us about Oblivion?
“It’s funny you ask. I got a memo about this, which told me, “Say nothing about Sykes.” Sykes is my character.”
Have you ever considered moving to L.A. or New York, as so many other actors do?
“No. I have a family and we live in Denmark, so there’s school and family… We’ve talked about it, of course. But you know, I move to L.A. and then we’re separated anwyays. Last year I was working in Belfast, Croatia, New Orleans, Dublin… and this January, we shot a short sequence from this season in L.A.”
Do you enjoy the sword-fighting scenes?
“I’ve done it before, fight choreography. But it’s fun, it’s really like a dance and you need to learn your moves. There are always different obstacles in the fights, which makes them more interesting.”
What do you think people like about Game of Thrones?
“I think it’s that George R.R. Martin created some interesting, three-dimensional characters. At the core, it’s a very intimate study of these characters in the midst of this power struggle. And then it’s set in a vast, epic world. You think it’d be impossible to pull it off on screen, but they did. I’m not surprised they can make the scenes work, because the source material is so rich. But to create this world, that you believe it when you see the Wall, these huge castles that are seamlessly CGId…
“But at the same time, sometimes it’s mysterious why something just clicks.”
What’s the worst part about playing Jaime Lannister?
“I don’t see that there’s a worst part. I really enjoy it. It gets better all the time.”
Is there a concern about being typecast?
“No. It’s inevitable that people will remember you for certain roles, but I’ve been acting for twenty years now and I plan to continue acting after the show.”
The writers have mentioned that fantasy shows like this don’t really win Emmys and Golden Globes—not that that’s really true anymore—but does it take the pressure off to not set out with the aim of impressing the voters so you can win?
“To win an Emmy… it’s taste, really. Homeland won this year—it’s a great show—and my favorite show is Breaking Bad. So for us to even be included in that is huge.”