I’m here to tell you all a beautiful tale—the story of a wonderful man.
It’s about a man we all know, a man we admire and respect. This one’s not so much about the legendary Kingslayer, Ser Jaime Lannister, as it is the man who inhabited him.
This one’s for Nik.
First and foremost: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau isn’t just a great actor, he’s a great human being. He is kind, generous, and patient to a fault, especially when dealing with overzealous fanbois (trust me). He uses his influence to champion a number of great causes, including being a goodwill ambassador for the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), spearheading action towards combating climate change, and is rigorously active in many other charities, particularly ones located in his native Denmark and his wife’s native Greenland, though recently he traveled to Rwanda, assisting the U.N. there, and lending a hand with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
He is a vocal and demonstrative supporter of that aforementioned wife, the gorgeous and talented Sascha Nukâka Motzfeldt, and is an encouraging and empowering father to two energetic and lovely teenage daughters.
He is the sort of person we should all aspire to be. And that comes first, before I even attempt to encompass what he means to the Game of Thrones fandom.
When Nikolaj’s casting news broke, a flurry of investigation ensued. Who was this Danish actor? Was he good with a sword? Could he play someone with an English accent? Our second “gate” (following the infamous “Chairgate”) was “Nosegate,” in which various dubious fans declared that Nikolaj’s nose was either “too big” or “too broken” to ever play the dashing Ser Jaime. It seems absolutely insane now, right?
We scoured the internet for clips of Nik in other roles. We needed to know! Some people knew about him following his short-lived role in Blackhawk Down, but we also found some early stuff, like his role as Martin in Nightwatch, and his role as Martin (always Martin!) in Shadow of the Sword (The Headsman). We were quickly impressed.
Here, enjoy a Hallelujah/Headsman fan video:
Once the show began, any doubting fans quickly came around. As Ser Jaime Lannister, Nikolaj was absolutely singular, arguably the best person cast in one of the show’s most pivotal and controversial roles. Nikolaj inhabited the Kingslayer like a second skin, often wearing Jaime on his sleeve in interviews. He cared about this character, and it was obvious. As a self-described “romantic,” Nikolaj was of course conflicted by Jaime’s end. He wanted Jaime to be with Brienne as much as any fan, if not more.
But… we’ll get to that later. First, let me tell you about the times I got to interview him.
You see, as part of the team that brought you the first Game of Thrones fansite, founded by Phil “Winter” Bicking (Oz and Sue begat this site once its predecessor was sold away), I remember back when this fandom were the only people who believed this thing could last longer than a season, so we were given access and interviews that, these days, are only really gifted to the likes of Entertainment Weekly or Hollywood Reporter.
One of the very first interviews I conducted was an e-mail interview with Nikolaj. He was engaging, witty, and enthusiastically answered follow-up questions. Then, just before season three, I got to do a large-scale interview with the cast, of which Nik was the stand-out. Paired with Gwendoline, his on-and-off screen foil, the interview became a saucy game of cat-and-mouse, where myself and other ASoIaF fan-journalists (ASoIaFanalists?) attempted to try and discern whether or not Jaime loses a hand, and whether or not Jaime and Brienne share their notorious bathing scene onscreen.
Nik and Gwen played us like fiddles, giving just enough to make us hopeful but always stopping short of actually confirming anything. I can still remember Nikolaj leaning back in his chair, that Jaime Lannister half-smile playing at the edge of his lips, eyes twinkling with barely-suppressed mirth, while Gwendoline roared her Gwendoline laugh. They enjoyed the questions as much as we enjoyed being in the same room with them. Myself and IGN’s Terri Schwartz (a dyed-in-the-wool Braime) were writhing in our seats in overt displays of nerd agony, so purposefully torturous were the hints.
Later, as most of the journalists filtered out and the cast were treated to a catered lunch, I hung around, quite unwilling to leave short of them dragging me out bodily. Nik came up to me, wholly unprovoked, and engaged me in further conversation. He wanted to know how the book fans were receiving the series in contrast to non-book fans. I told him the truth: Non-book fans loved Game of Thrones for its own merits; book fans, however, could have varied responses, depending on what they felt was important… but most still loved it. He seemed quietly enthused by the reaction of the “Braime” factions, and I reiterated to him that I loved Jaime and Brienne’s complicated relationship, and (lowkey) pressed him for any small hint as to how that might play out.
He just smiled that smile.
Of course, onscreen he gave us everything we wanted. From “The things we do for love” to “Nothing else matters, only us.” His wrenching speech to Brienne in that stone bath is now the stuff of legend. “By what right does the wolf judge the lion?” And many, and more. His knighting of Brienne might have been his crowning achievement; leaving her likely his greatest shame. Her heartbroken cry ripped my soul.
And then came Jaime’s end—as controversial as anything he’d ever done. Did returning to Cersei’s side lessen his story? Had Jaime been cheated of a redemptive arc that both character and actor had earned? If you believe so, I urge you to reconsider, as I did.
Watch it again, and understand: Jaime Lannister was already redeemed. He did what he did to Brienne to protect her, else she might have followed him to King’s Landing. And he still loved her, you can’t tell me he didn’t; Jaime embraced Cersei with his arms, but Brienne was the last woman he kissed. When he returned to Cersei’s side, there in her moment of need, he returned as her protector—her brother, her twin. Jaime and Cersei went out of this world as they came into it: together. He did it knowing how the rest of the world might view him, because even he knew how it would appear. I can live with that. Westeros won’t likely know Jaime’s heroism. But we will.
And we will never see his like again.
Jaime’s road was long; Nikolaj was involved in this project for nearly ten years, and it will likely impact his career (and complicate his ability to have privacy outside his home) for a long time to come.
But what a ride, eh? And that’s the best anyone can ask of a television show. Jaime’s end was as controversial as his sister-screwing or Bran-shoving beginning, but would we have it any other way? If you’re sad, don’t be! This was a legendary character arc. I think it ended well.
Here, enjoy Nikolaj teaching us Danish slang!
If you must cry, cry for Jaime, not for his actor. Nik will be fine. Wonderful man, wonderful family, wonderful life!
The Kingslayer’s days may be ended (at least in television form), but Nikolaj is still busy. He’ll be starring in Domino with (of all people!) Carice van Houten, Suicide Tourist with Robert Aramayo, the Danish film Notat, and The Silencing with Annabelle Wallis. Not only that, but he’ll be starring in that Scottish play here in Los Angeles over the summer. Busy guy. Hear Him Roar!
This man is fedt. Thank you for everything, Nik!
You have our thanks—and our love. And I can’t wait to see you again in July at Con of Thrones!
(Not to turn this into an ad at the last second, but tickets for that event are HERE! I recommend the Kingslayer Pass.)
Show the man your love, Watchers!