Actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau opens up about Jaime’s secrets, his relationship with Brienne of Tarth, and what's so scary about Dany.
HBO: What attracts Jaime to Brienne? Why does he trust her?
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU: She has proven herself from the first scene they had together in the end of Season 2 when she kills the Stark men. He did not expect that. She's demonstrated that she's a very capable fighter and she's clearly a woman of her word. She lives by a code that Jaime also believes, but he's become a very cynical person. He's learned that all these beautiful words like "honor" and "dignity" don't mean anything in this world. Then he meets someone who says, "Well, I don't care because that's how I am. I have to stand up for what I believe is right." Which is what Brienne does, she reaffirms there's a place for dignity... I think it reawakens something inside of him. He just knows she can be trusted, it's instinctual.
HBO: Is that why he tells her the truth about killing the Mad King?
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU: I think he's been dying to get it out, but he's never met anyone where he's felt that it would make sense. I'm sure he would want to tell Tyrion, but his brother is very cynical. For someone to open up, there has to be room for it. In a weird way, Brienne gives him that space that no one else does.
HBO: What compels Jaime to jump into the pit with the bear?
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU: I think it's pure instinct, and it's really stupid because the odds are they're both going to get killed. But there are so many layers why it's wrong, he acts. He just can't stand that a woman that has so much dignity should be degraded that way—given a wooden sword while everyone's just standing there watching.
HBO: What was it like filming that scene?
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU: Oh, it took a long time. We shot it twice. In October last year we shot in Belfast with the crowd and the wire work involved with getting out of the pit. Then in January we went to California and we shot it with Bart the Bear II. What you see in the scene is a real bear—it's not a CGI thing, it's a live bear, an actor, kind of a diva I have to say... They built half the pit on a soundstage, and we shot Bart's close-ups, if you will.
HBO: Jaime's had moments of pure evil and also powerful redemption; can you pick one that's been your favorite to play?
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU: I think the bath scene would be the favorite, it was the hardest by far, but also it was a special day in many ways. Bryan Cogman, who wrote the script, together with Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff], did an amazing job. Alex Graves, the director, shot it beautifully and I really liked working with him. And of course, the most important element is Gwendolyn Christie's work as Brienne, which is what sells the scene because she gives it a beautiful, subtle reaction and guides the audience through the emotional depth of the story.
HBO: Tywin Lannister values legacy above all else, while Cersei puts her family first. What does Jaime value?
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU: Even though Tywin is such a tyrant, he is Jaime's dad and Jaime loves him. In the bath scene, he reveals that the Mad King demanded Jaime bring him his father's head and he was horrified. You could say, he's a member of the Kingsguard, that should mean more than anything, but I do believe that blood runs thick in the Lannisters.
Of course, he's been away from King's Landing for a while and I can't wait until he gets back because so much has changed. Tywin says to him at the end of Season 1, "I want you to become the man you were always meant to be." But I'm not sure Jaime shares Tywin's vision of his future. What happened with his sword hand and the experience of meeting Brienne of Tarth definitely had a huge impact on him. He's been defined by his family name, being the Kingslayer and his impossible love for Cersei. Now he's at a point in his life where he's revaluating who he is. I don't think Jaime's too worried about legacy—honor and being true to himself are what's important to him now.
HBO: How has the fan reaction been?
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU: The funny thing is that even when people tell me, "He's horrible! What an evil man!" they still say it with a big smile, because they enjoy watching Jaime, which I'm so grateful for. That's a testament to the great writing because he still funny and entertaining—he shares his brother's wit. It's also in part because the whole writing and storytelling that's based on George [R.R. Martin]'s books is never just black and white. Even when Jaime was at his most horrible, there are open doors that you can sneak into. You get a sense that there's more to him.
HBO: Which character do you admire the most?
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU: Brienne of Tarth. I'm biased, but she keeps it together.
HBO: Do you have a favorite prop?
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU: I don't have a favorite prop. I'm going to miss my sword, that's for sure. I still have my hand, which I get to wear as a necklace.
HBO: Which character or being scares you the most?
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU: Melisandre the Red priestess—she's a scary woman. There's also something about that type of power that Daenerys has. Most people believe she's doing the right thing, but she's burning people alive. She's got a chip on her shoulder. I don't want her to come across the Narrow Sea. She's going to burn thousands and thousands and thousands of people and have that self-righteous smirk on her face the whole time.
HBO: The night is dark and full of _________.
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU: Bart the Bear II.