Last week I attended a round-table interview with some of the cast and producers of HBO’s award winning new series Game of Thrones. They were in town for the press launch of the Season 1 DVD/Blu-ray which actually hits stores today and we reviewed it HERE. We are also giving away copies of the release HERE.
In the lead up to the Season 2 Premier on April 1st, we will be posting the series of interviews to wet your appetites for what will surely be another monumental season.
First up is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the charismatic Danish actor who plays Jaime Lannister, a controversial character because of his incestuous relationship with his twin sister Cersei (Lena Headey). Like all Lannisters’ he’s a bit of a villain, but he has no care for the politics of the realm – he’d much rather be soldiering.
Please note the interview was from a roundtable session and not all questions were asked by WhatCulture….
Q: Tell me, how did you get involved in this series?
Nikolaj: Well I was in Los Angeles, this was two years ago, and I had a meeting with Dan Weiss, David Benioff and Carolyn Strauss where they told me about this pilot. I didn’t know anything about George Martin’s books but they just described this character and this world and I just thought it was really interesting and then I read the pilot script of episode one and when it came to the last scene where you find Jaime with Cersei and Bran and he pushes the kid out the window and he says, “the things I do for love,” I thought wow, this is fantastic! It’s such a great place to start for a character; it’s so dark and twisted. And then I auditioned and that was it.
Q: And did you read the book afterwards?
Nikolaj: I read the book after yeah, which was great because it was great to have read the scripts before, so the book would inform what I knew from the scripts. I still do that today; I will read the scripts first, because that’s my focus. I mean the first season was very close, very loyal to the books but because of the nature of the books that follow, there are some tough choices they (Producers) will have to make because the books are so big, so I like to focus on the TV Jaime.
Q: Why do you think you were chosen for the part of Jaime? Can you relate to him?
Nikolaj: Well you’ll have to ask them (Producers) why I was chosen. I can relate to Jaime. For a lot of the characters I think that’s why they’ve been so well received because they are human and I think for Jaime if you say incest, you think, “Oh no that’s children being abused and it’s just wrong,” but then you think about someone who’s in love with a person who they really shouldn’t be in love with. I think a lot of people have had moments in their life where they’ve fancied someone that they shouldn’t and then you just build on that. Like a friends girlfriend or something like that, you don’t want to do that but you can build on it. Anyway I can relate to Jaime at the core what I think is having to deal with people’s pre-conceived opinions about you, like how you walk into a room and you meet someone and they already have a view of you. They know who you are. I don’t know about you but I find that so annoying. Of course for Jaime it’s extreme because for him because in a way his finest hour was when he killed the Mad King and became the Kingslayer and instead he’s been hated for that and he thinks, “hang on a second, what’s going on here.” As I said I can understand him, I don’t feel that I resemble him at all but I can understand and I think that’s interesting.
Q: What has been the public’s reaction to the incest theme? What feedback have you received?
Nikolaj: Well I think most people just go… “Eurrgggh, that’s weird! I don’t want to have sex with my sister aarrggh… unless they look like Lena Headey!” (chuckles) No it’s like again, most people find it pretty disgusting, as do I, just the idea, the thought of it. But its not that many years ago that it was kind of normal especially in royal families that you would marry cousins. The families would stay together and keep the blood within. We even have it in this show where the other family, the Targaryen’s, would marry brother and sister so… it’s a story… and I think within this world it makes sense.
Q: The show’s become enormously successful, are the fans quite obsessed with it, do they know every last detail?
Nikolaj: Some do I mean I think the vast majority of people watch the show as you watch any other show and you get excited about it but then there are fans that are very knowledgeable about the world and have read all the books. They recognize all the littlest, tiniest changes but that’s great. I went to the Comic Con in San Diego where we met a lot of the fans and it was great, they’re very passionate. Some people are passionate about bird watching and these people are passionate about television shows and comic books.
Q: During the first season there were a lot of villains, but if the books are anything to go by, this season the characters will become more complex. What can you tell us about that?
Nikolaj: Well what I think is interesting with show for example is that in Season 1 you had the Stark family being like the hero family, the victims of this brutal world but as you find out about how Robert Baratheon came to power, it was with the help of Ned Stark. Now the only way to get the throne is if you take it by force, and that meant there were families that we might not have met before but we might learn about in Season 2. Whole families that were killed by the Starks so I mean its not all black and white and basically I think at the end of the day its quite obvious that it’s a story about what power does to people and how unhealthy it is to have all the power in one person. Where we ended Season 1 we had the little boy devil Joffrey and you can imagine what kind of a world that is when you have someone like that on the throne. I just saw the first two episodes of Season 2 and its very good… but now we’re talking about Season 1 right?
Q: You don’t live in the US. Is it hard for a European actor to get parts in US productions?
Nikolaj: Yes, well yes and no. I have a family, I have kids, and we have talked about if it makes sense to move to Los Angeles but it’s never been a real choice because first of all, most American movies they don’t shoot in L.A. so the idea of having a family just to sit there while I go to Toronto makes no sense. But also I’m a European, and there is a difference. I love going to America but I also love to come home and for us I think it’s important to have a base that we can kind of recognize. But you question was, is it harder? Maybe? I don’t know but it’s also hard for my friends that live in L.A. It’s a very hard place to be if you’re not working because you’re reminded constantly about your inability to get a job.
Q: What are the biggest difference between working on a European production and an American one?
Nikolaj: Well I don’t think there is that much difference. Not in the work, that’s the same. The difference is always more the scale of things whether you do something with a low, low budget and minimal crew or whether you go and do something like Game of Thrones, which is just massive in scale, but the actual work, it’s really the same. I think on some American productions I’ve worked on there were a lot of people, I mean there’s a lot of people working there, the crews are bigger than in Europe but still at the end of the day you have a camera and you have someone in front of it and you shoot that.
Q: Would you say Game of Thrones is the biggest production you’ve worked on then?
Nikolaj: Actually the biggest difference I’ve ever had was on a French movie, it was called 24 Hours in the Life of a Woman with a director called Laurent Bouhnik. We shot that and at lunch they would have like an hour lunch, and it would be beautifully set up, silverware and the whole thing and wine at all the tables. You would have a proper set up it was very cool. When you did night shoots half the crew was a little drunk! (laughter) No they weren’t, they weren’t, they weren’t I’m kidding! It was an amazing experience but yeah also almost ten years ago I did a movie called Black Hawk Down that was also really big but this (Game of Thrones) I think is bigger because this Season there was two full sized crews working at the same time in different countries. It’s vast. I don’t know how they do it to be honest because as you know there’s so many characters and they all have to be dressed, every extra has to be dressed I mean just the costumes alone, it’s insane! So yes, this is the biggest.
Q: What projects have you been working on since Game of Thrones?
Nikolaj: I’ve just shot a film before Christmas called Mama, an American film it was kind of a ghost story with an Argentinean director called Andres Muschietti and the actress Jessica Chastain and now I have a part in a movie called Oblivion with um, it’s a new up-and-coming actor what’s his name… Tom Cruise! (chuckles) and Morgan Freeman, which is a small part but I can’t wait because that’s going to be a big sci-fi/action!
Q: When you sign up for a show like Game of Thrones do you have to sign up for six years? Is that true?
Nikolaj: Ahh, you’ve really scared me now! Yeah I think so, yeah I’m sure. I hope it goes for six years it would be great. The thing about it, unlike these network shows where you work 9 months a year, on Game of Thrones these first two seasons I’ve been able to do other work. Even if you are working everyday it’s only for four or five months. But at the core of it I really, really enjoy doing Game of Thrones, it’s a great bunch of people so I’ll take six years anytime!
Q: Is it hard for you then to switch to other roles whilst you’re still working on Game of Thrones?
Nikolaj: No I don’t think so no. I can’t speak for other actors but for me it’s not really a problem. I think I have all my mental capacity… I don’t stay in character; I can let go of them. It’s a great, great job but I don’t carry Jaime Lannister around with me… at all.
Q: Would you like to act in another fantasy series like Game of Thrones?
Nikolaj: I’d like to act in anything that is well written because it’s so much easier. People would ask, “what’s the hardest thing to do?” But I don’t think it’s hard when the scripts and the characters are so well developed as they are on Game of Thrones. It’s only hard when you do something that is not clear or if the director asks you to do something that’s not on the page. That’s when you see bad acting. It happens to all of us, that’s when you go “oh I thought that actor was supposed to be really good, why is he so terrible there,” well it’s because it doesn’t make sense, what he does. So yes, if it’s well written. Absolutely.
Q: So you haven’t had any of those issues on Game of Thrones?
Nikolaj: (looks over shoulder) NO! (laughter) no, no it’s been really good. It’s been really good.
Keep your eyes peeled as we post more of the interviews in the days leading up to the Season 2 Premier on April 1st. For our top 10 reasons to watch Season 2, read here:
On March 5th (6th in US) you can also pick up the Season 1 DVD/Blu-ray set, which I highly recommend. For our full review of that, read here: