Actor Gwendoline Christie overcame her “Don’t talk about anything related to Game of Thrones” training to discuss playing the uniquely devoted knight, the moment she thought she died in “The Long Night,” and Brienne’s ever-changing relationship with Jaime Lannister.
HBO: This has been such a wonderful season for Brienne fans – what were your first impressions when you read the scripts?
Gwendoline Christie: It was really a lot of information to take in. At one point my partner said, “Are you OK?” and I said, “I think I’ve just died off screen…” I took a break and had to walk around and just process. When you read the final season of Game of Thrones you are so intensely sensitized to the fact that you might die at any second and during the Episode 3 battle I thought I’d died. And I thought, “Well, just breathe. if that’s the case, then that’s what it is, and you’ve been lucky enough to come this far, and everything that happened in the first two episodes has been marvelous.” And then I carried on and saw actually I hadn’t died, and I thought, “Oh, thank God.”
HBO: We were all so happy to see Brienne knighted. Could you speak to what that meant for Brienne but also for you as the person portraying her?
Gwendoline Christie: It was a very powerful moment. It’s very rare in GoT that a character is given something good, something they want. And for that character – Brienne has existed outside of the patriarchal structure of the show. She’s behaved as a knight on her own terms. My reading of when she said, “I’m no lady,” has never been that that’s about shame. Yes, for the character there is shame, but there’s also a rejection of traditional confines which has served her – and many women – no purpose. So the knighting of Brienne officiates something she has been doing with her entire life; it gives approval and, more than that, acceptance.
What’s so vital is she has lived life on her own terms and without that title she has behaved entirely without vanity, and purely in the service of others. And she’s been accepted by her peers. And that’s what many of us want. For me, it was representative of the struggle women have in our world, where they’re still not given equal opportunities to men. I’ve been open about the difficulties I’ve experienced, and many other people have experienced far worse and harder in trying to overcome the homogenized norm that society has dictated, particularly in terms of the arts, and it felt wonderful to be given a scene with so much depth. It was like a small triumph.
HBO: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” was the quiet before the storm and led us into “The Long Night.” What was shooting that battle like for you?
Gwendoline Christie: There was something fabulous about so many characters being together, and there was something distinctly unfabulous about the number of night shoots. But it means a lot to me to give everything I have to make it as good as it possible because people love it. What was spectacular about Battle of the Bastards, also directed by Miguel [Sapochnik], was it gave a real feeling of what it might be like to be involved in a war zone. They multiplied that by about a million for this. It was messy, and panic driven and testing, but there was something wonderfully realistic about the claustrophobia and harshness and darkness.
There’s something about night shoots that makes people a little bit mad, it’s not natural for the human body to be awake relentlessly during those hours and performing extreme physical work, and going through the motions of screaming through war, but it was a spectacular, the likes of which I’ve never seen, or possibly will ever again. In all of those circumstances, it was never about being generalized. It was always about being specific to the story you were telling, and that’s what was amazingly detailed. It was just so brutal on every single level and everybody was completely committed.
HBO: Jaime and Brienne’s relationship has been one we’ve watched change and grow over seven seasons. In Episode 4 we see that relationship change again – was this inevitable for their characters?
Gwendoline Christie: I don’t feel it was inevitable, because they’ve had a very mercurial relationship; it never seemed set on any particular terms. What I liked about it was that it is ultimately Brienne’s choice. Although Jaime [played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau] comes to her and is the one leading things, she chooses it. It was extremely important to me that even though Brienne is sexually inexperienced, and a virgin at this stage, that it be her choice, in the way that everything else has been her choice. After the colossal trauma and causality of war she takes charge of her own desires and decides to consider her own wants and needs and physical pleasures. It was important to the development of the character for her to choose that: for her to transcend being selfless and living almost like a saint, and become a fully realized human being, a woman, and to have this kind of experience.
HBO: Did she foresee Jaime returning to Cersei?
Gwendoline Christie: When she walks into the scene and says, “Are you going back to Cersei?” she knows before she’s got there. She knows when she wakes up, he’s gone. She’s under no illusions of what the situation is, I don’t think she believes he will stay with her forever. She might hope that – she rides on hope and she decides to try it. When they say goodbye there’s a part of her that knew it was always a possibility.
HBO: Overall, what has it been like working on the final season?
Gwendoline Christie: There were many things I genuinely did not expect. I was very taken aback by the knighting scene because I did not expect that to happen to Brienne. I thought it was a possibility, but I didn’t expect Jaime Lannister to present himself as being reformed in that way, and then, of course, I got a sense of how sprawling and epic the battle was. But Episode 4 just ripped me up inside, actually. I was very touched and very moved by the journey they decided to take the character on. And I felt privileged to be playing that part and to have that storyline because it felt as though they’d taken care with the character and that’s all I ever really wanted because I feel she’s such a unique character in mainstream television.
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