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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: A Very Unmelancholy Dane

nikolaj coster-waldau-jaime-lannister

The actor behind Game of Thrones’ Jaime Lannister followed a long and winding road to the fictional continent of Westeros.

...the actor himself is basically called a “big goof” by GoT co-star Lena Headey...

Danish-born Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jamie “Kingslayer” Lannister in the dazzling, jaw-dropping, medieval juggernaut that is Game of Thrones, spoke with Movie Entertainment as he passed through Los Angeles after filming Season 5 in Europe. He was on his way to spending some quality vacation time with his wife and two daughters, away from the family home north of Copenhagen.

While his character was the victim of shenanigans for his philandering behaviour in last year’s raunchy comedy The Other Woman, the actor himself is basically called a “big goof” by GoT co-star Lena Headey. And sure enough, when he tells us Season 5 of GoT, Coster-Waldau can’t help being mischievous.

So, what should fans expect? “More of the same light-hearted comedy we’ve all come to know and love...”

So, what should fans expect? “More of the same light-hearted comedy we’ve all come to know and love,” he says with a wink, adding, “Hey, it’s going to be pretty intense, you’ll just have to watch.” And, how would you describe your murderous, incestuous but charismatic Lannister clan? “A little dysfunctional is one way to describe them!” he offers, tongue-in-cheek, and then explains, “It’s a ruling family in very extreme circumstances, because of the power they wield. And that dysfunction may attract viewers, because we all have some element of that in our family lives.”

Coster-Waldau, 44, who makes fans swoon with his Scandinavian good looks, is a happily married man and a veteran, hard-working actor with more than 40 movie and television roles to his credit. He’s comfortable doing projects in Europe (Blekingegade) or in Hollywood, alternating between comedy and drama, television and movies (Kingdom of Heaven, Mama, Oblivion). Explaining how he chooses projects, he says: “It’s a combination of things, starting with the script. The last few years, I’ve done some very different and diverse stuff. But, at the end of the day, whether it’s a big or small part, you want to contribute something. You also have to believe that whoever is behind the camera has a vision and a desire to get it right.”

While GoT has brought him international recognition, his winding career has taught him that you just never know how things will go. “The funny thing, I learned a long time ago, is that you can’t be basing it all on whether a project becomes successful or not. Often the most fun I’ve had, or maybe things that have shown my best work, may be on movies that maybe didn’t reach the audience we’d hoped for. But you can’t allow that to take away from the joy of the work. It really is more about the journey, and, like life, that’s the key.”

Brought up in a village in Denmark, Coster-Waldau still maintains its small-town values. He has to pinch himself when thinking about his life and career: “Acting exposes you to so many different facets of life. I get to do riding, sailing, travelling to far-flung places, playing different characters. As a kid coming from a small village, I had this immense curiosity to see the rest of the world. I wanted to be an actor, and in the dream scenario I would travel for my job. So, I’ve been very lucky to see the world, while working with great people who are also passionate about what they do.”

They’re very good at not giving you what you might expect, and that’s kind of addictive.

Described as having an on-set “twisted sense of humour” by Gwendoline Christie, who portrays fabulous warrior Brienne of Tarth, Coster-Waldau says the GoT producers have their finger on a high-octane entertainment trigger. “There’s a combination of things, and it’s amazing that people all over enjoy the show. The fact it’s set in a parallel world to ours without a specific location, that helps the show in travelling. It’s also about interesting characters, and then it’s a show that’s difficult to guess what’s going to happen next. They’re very good at not giving you what you might expect, and that’s kind of addictive. And the new season will continue serving up more dramatic twists and turns.”

"...he’s not a psychopath who enjoys killing for the sake of it."

As for playing Jaime, whom he calls a “great character who’s just not black and white,” Coster-Waldau says: “He sometimes comes across as horrific, but when you’re defending the throne or family, you have to do terrible things. For me, he’s not a psychopath who enjoys killing for the sake of it. He’s doing it because he feels he’s protecting something. He may also come across as arrogant, but that’s just him being honest, saying what he feels.”

Coster-Waldau loves the arc Jaime has followed: “He begins as one thing, but turns out being someone different. That’s not only a great character, that’s great writing, and it’s what makes being an actor such a treat.”

Next up for Coster-Waldau will be what’s expected to be a 2016 blockbuster, Gods of Egypt, which he’s totally jazzed about. Meanwhile, the glorious battle to rule Westeros continues with fiery dragons aloft.

Ashley Jude Collie is a Canadian entertainment writer based in Los Angeles.