What if the genders in Beauty and the Beast were reversed?
That's the spin author George R.R. Martin put on handsome Jaime "The Kingslayer" Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) and lumbering female knight Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) in the books that inspired HBO's hit fantasy series Game of Thrones (airing Sundays at 9/8c). And like the classic tale, the journey taken by this unlikely duo is "about the inner beauty of someone and how that can translate across physical odds," Christie tells TVGuide.com.
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Yes, even on Game of Thrones, inner beauty counts, a trait that Jaime has yet to exhibit. As his notorious nickname might indicate, he is responsible for murdering the monarch he had sworn to protect. "Brienne thinks that Jaime is scum," Christie says. "I mean, from what she knows about him, he is the opposite of everything she stands for entirely. She's struggled and dedicated her life to being a knight and join the kingsguard. And then to see someone who has attained it so easily apparently throw it away with such ease, it's hard."
Their opposing world views clash this season as Brienne escorts Jaime across Westeros to trade him for Lady Catelyn Stark's (Michelle Fairley) two daughters in King's Landing. Check out more of Christie's thoughts on the two characters:
Brienne doesn't seem to trust easily. Why does she trust Lady Stark and agree to do this task?
Gwendoline Christie: No, she doesn't trust easily, but I don't think she's had much reason to trust. But in the tent scene with Renly (Gethin Anthony), they experience something out of the ordinary [when he's killed]. And Brienne has seen this woman exhibiting strength in an intellectual manner with Renly, and also exhibiting strength of love and motherhood that I think she sees as equal to her own physical strength. And perhaps it's the first time we see Brienne consider something beyond the strength of the physical in a woman as a means to be equal to a man. So there's this shared experience... that bonds them, but also I think [there is] this deep admiration of this woman. Brienne knows that this task is a pure task because it's the returning of a mother's daughters to her that had been taken away unjustly. And in a moral sense, that fits perfectly in her mindset.
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You had to cut your hair for the role. Does this affect how you feel or act in real life?
Christie: I struggled for a long time with my hair, but then I'm grateful for the opportunity to realize that femininity doesn't have to come from hair or any of those traditional female archetypes of appearance, So, that's been exciting actually. I can't speak with any kind of authority whatsoever because I'm just an actor and I only have my opinions, but I do think it's really refreshing to have a woman depicted on a mainstream TV show that doesn't obey typical aesthetics of females and the way they have been portrayed in the past. And I'm really excited to be portraying one of those women. And I hope that her popularity signals a greater expansion of people's views about men and women and that gender types can be more flexible.
How does Brienne feel about Jaime's digs about her unrequited love for Renly?
Christie: Well, it's disrespectful and childish and everything that a knight shouldn't be... or any decent person shouldn't be.
How much truth is there in her feelings for her former liege lord. Was it love?
Christie: It is featured in the books that she is in love with him, that he's the first man that shows her any respect and treats her like a woman and dances with her. She might be a colossal fighting machine, but she has fallen in love with him. Since she's not a conventional woman -- and doesn't want to be -- she feels that there's no way he's going to fall in love with her. She doesn't want children. In that episode, when she pledges her allegiance to Catelyn Stark, Catelyn says, "Knights die in battle," and Brienne says, "Women die in childbirth." She'd rather die in what she sees as a noble death rather than potentially die a conventional one that she feels is without much merit for her.
How would Brienne feel if she found out that Renly preferred men? Would it even matter to her?
Christie: I think that she just loved him. At this stage in her underdeveloped mindset, this is the first love that she's ever had for a man. She's willing to die for him, her feelings are so great. But I don't think it would actually matter because her intentions are not sexual. They are to protect him. I don't think it would matter if she knew that he was gay. Again, I think it's really heartening and refreshing. It's a very, very pure love.
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Was it annoying to Brienne that Jaime was right at the end of the last episode? That the old man could have recognized Jaime, and in fact that's what happened?
Christie: Well, yes, but she's still able to stand by her actions. She still did what was morally right. Killing the man because he may betray them is a selfish act, because at that stage he still had the potential of being an innocent man, and you can't kill an innocent man.
Brienne and Jaime finally got to face off with a sword fight. How arduous was that fight scene? Was it easier because he was in chains?
Christie: Nicolaj is actually absolutely brilliant at swordfighting. He has experience and is naturally brilliant at it. So he picks it up literally two hours in rehearsals, and I spend two weeks training every single day. Partially, I like to do all of those things myself and also because I wanted my execution to be better than I thought I could be. I wanted it to be the best that I possibly could do. And also because I don't want to let down my fellow actor. You want to be able to step up onto someone's level because then you can be really start to have some fun. It's really tough, but I'd just like to point out that he may have been in chain, but I am in armor.
How heavy is that armor?
Christie: It's so heavy and so painful. The production has done the absolute best that they can and take such great care of us, particularly me in that armor, to make sure it's as painless as possible. But it's tough because you can't move fluidly. You're moving around like a Tin Man and trying to inject any kind of modicrum of grace to it is almost impossible. But it's exciting because it's as it would have been in that situation. But there was a really, really good point, when Brienne is clearly winning and starts plowing in with the sword in the end. Throughout filming it, Nicolaj was on his knees and was really mewling like an injured kitten, saying, "Please, please, just take 10 percent off." I was going really easy on him but I was in armor. He couldn't take the strain.
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What can we look forward to with Jaime and Brienne? More ribbing?
Christie: All I can say is that their relationship evolves in ways that no one could predict and everyone's going to be very excited.
What do you think will happen with the unlikely pair? Check out this preview of Sunday's Game of Thrones episode "Walk of Punishment," airing at 9/8c on HBO: