Game of Thrones's Jaime Lannister may have carried on an incestuous affair with his twin sister Cersei, but it comes from a noble, if misguided, place.
"He's in love with this woman. Yeah, she happens to be his sister, which really complicates things," Nicolaj Coster-Waldau tells TVGuide.com. "I'm sure if there was anything in the world he could do to change how he feels about it, he would. But it's just one of those things. He really loves her. It is beautiful to dedicate yourself to one person."
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Last season, Jaime (Coster-Waldau) even went so far as to push young Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) out of a tower window because he stumbled upon their relationship. "When Jaime says,'The things I do for love,' it's very true. He tries to kill an innocent child. He clearly wouldn't do this for anyone else."
On Sunday's episode (9/8c, HBO), Jaime isn't in any position to kill anyone, much less make love. The so-called Kingslayer is still the prisoner of Robb Stark (Richard Madden). "When we meet him again, he's been tied up, he's been dragged around," Coster-Waldau says. "At one point he says, 'I've been covered in my own sh-- for so long now.' I think there is a desperation. He needs to get out of this situation. He would rather die than have to live one more day like that. It's just horrible.
"There's also a great scene where he meets a very distant cousin and it's basically like a fan meeting his idol," he continues. "Those scenes were so much fun because they're so well written. They're so brilliant because they capture the essence of him."
Coster-Waldau also shares his thoughts on Jaime's complex character, his sibling relationships and his contempt for the Stark family:
You've mentioned this before, but it is strange that Jaime does look a lot like Prince Charming in Shrek. Do friends or fans comment on that to you?
Nicolaj Coster-Waldau: There's been a couple comments or jokes behind my back, which makes it more fun. The first time I had the full armor on and I looked at myself in the mirror, I was like, "That's Prince Charming from Shrek! I wonder how long it will take before I read the first comment on that?" It didn't take long. But it makes sense. In a way, that's where we want to start him out because he is a bit of an arrogant guy. He's full of himself.
Jaime is also known as the Kingslayer for killing Mad King Aerys. How do you define him?
Coster-Waldau: Well, he did slay the king, the man he was hired to protect. But Jaime says that he sees that as his finest hour because he had information that no one else had — that the Mad King was going to burn the whole city down. He was going to kill thousands of innocent people so he killed him [first] to save those people... The way I see it is it's the same as if one of Hitler's bodyguards [took him out]. We would have looked at him as a hero today, but Westeros is a different world. To Jaime it's mindboggling. I think it's in Season 1 where there's a scene between Ned Stark (Sean Bean) and Jaime ... and you get the sense that Jaime just wants a little [acknowledgement] from Ned Stark that he too wanted the Mad King dead. But there's nothing there because he's an honorable man, and honorable men don't break their oath. And that pisses Jaime off. Deep down he finds it terribly unfair that he's become this outcast because of that.
Would you say then that he's misunderstood?
Coster-Waldau: All these people in this world are misunderstood. But the fact is that actions speak loudly, and the fact is, he did push the kid out of the window. There's no way you can excuse that. You can understand it, and I do understand him and I really like him, but people don't know the whole truth. It's a game, that's what it is. But I don't feel sorry for him.
What's been the response to your character? Do you get a lot of flak for his incestuous ways and seeming disloyalty?
Coster-Waldau: At the beginning in Season 1, I got a lot, but then that little devil child Prince Joffrey took over and he became the focus of all the anger. Jack Gleeson is just amazing as Joffrey. I am so in awe of his talent because he goes to a really dark place almost all the time. I think to a certain degree that people are appalled by the idea of incest, but I think that most people can recognize that you would do anything for the people you love. And I think you sense an intelligence and sense of morals behind Jaime, behind his facade. You don't see that with Joffrey. You just this horrible kid with way too much power.
I just got back from Louisiana — Baton Rouge and New Orleans — and people are just really happy. They love the show and there's nothing but good and respectful approaches. Nothing crazy. Game of Thrones fans are very smart people.
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What's the best and worst thing about playing Jaime?
Coster-Waldau: This season being sat on the bench for so long was the worst. But I really like him as a character. I don't really see any bad things about him. He is just an interesting guy. I'm in a life that I find very interesting, that everyone despises him is a great obstacle to overcome.
Robb Stark is his captor this season. Jaime and the Starks do not seem to get on well...
Coster-Waldau: I think Robb reminds him of Ned Stark and he doesn't like that. He finds them so self-righteous even though they're also at war and killing a lot of people. But in their world they make it sound like an honorable thing and that they're fighting the just cause. Jaime is very much of the mind that killing is killing. It doesn't really matter whatever you call it; you're taking someone's life. Also, Robb is the enemy and wants to kill him. They're fighting a war and they're killing a lot of my people and my men. There's no love lost there.
Despite all these conflicts, Jaime seems to get along with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) though. How would you describe his feelings for his brother?
Coster-Waldau: Tyrion is probably the only one Jaime really trusts. I don't even think he has that level of trust with his sister unfortunately. But I think with Tyrion, they understand each other like no one else. He would do anything for Tyrion. They also share a sense of humor that no one else seems to have. They have a shorthand, which they really enjoy. They enjoy playing with words, they enjoy seeing what words can do to people, especially speaking the truth. In his scenes with Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), Jaime actually says some very truthful things and sometimes that really hurts. And Tyrion in every scene more or less is so sharp. So yeah, Jaime loves his brother.
It's interesting you mention not trusting Cersei (Lena Headey). We've discovered that she's been "cheating" on him with their dear cousin Lancel. If Jaime were to find out, how would he react?
Coster-Waldau: It's interesting that you say that because in the episode on Sunday, there's a scene with Catelyn where she questions his honor... But in his way, he has been faithful. He would do anything for love. He gave up his life to join the kingsguard so he could be close to Cersei. That was when he was very young. Now of course time has passed and it may not seem like the best of ideas. Who knows what happens later on? But I think if he finds out, it would be a wake-up call for him.
Check out this preview of Sunday's episode "A Man Without Honor":
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.
How do you feel about Jaime Lannister? Is he misunderstood?