Losing one's hair isn't the fate of every man, but it could have been Jaime Lannister's on Game of Thrones.
In the novels upon which the HBO fantasy drama is based, the notorious knight shaves his head so he won't be recognized as he travels across the country. On the series, however, he remains unshorn. Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, who portrays Jaime, thinks he knows why. "In a way, it didn't work in the book," he tells TVGuide.com. "He does such a great job when he cuts off his hair so that he's completely bald. But then on the next page, a guy goes, 'That's Jaime Lannister!' [Laughs] He's so well-known. The shape of his head is known all over the world!"
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Maybe it's enough that Jaime underwent another, more brutal physical transformation though. Bannermen for House Bolton captured him as he journeyed with the knight Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), threw him down across a tree stump and cut off his sword hand. As we head into Sunday's episode (9/8c), Coster-Waldau reveals the TV magic required for his one-handed scenes, Jaime's latent heroism and more.
Can you walk us through having Jaime's hand cut off for that scene?
Nicolaj Coster-Waldau: We shot it over two nights and almost didn't finish it because the second night I got really sick. I had a really high fever. So, when I look sick on that stump, it kind of worked out perfectly. It was a very brutal because there's the stuff when [Locke] puts the knife point into my eye. I held that knife myself when I did the close-up, so I could feel how far I could take it. I wanted it to be as nasty as it could possibly get without stabbing out my eye. I think that worked pretty well. It was disturbing enough that you actually think it's over when he gets free from that. So when the whole hand chop happens, it's like, "Holy sh--!"
Was this season much more "freeing" after Jaime spent Season 2 in prison?
Coster-Waldau: Yes, the whole physicality was good but also the whole question of his identity. When he loses his hand he says it himself in Episode 4, "I was that hand." Since he was a kid, it has all been about mastering the skill, becoming a great soldier and swordsman and being known for that — both as the greatest but also the most feared and of course the Kingslayer. It's so many layers that go so deep into him that it's interesting to explore.
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Are you naturally right- or left-handed? Did you have difficulty using only your left hand on the set once Jaime lost his right one?
Coster-Waldau: I am right-handed. It came naturally, but of course I'm not as good with my left as I am with my right. There's a scene in the fourth episode where they fight me, and it was great because I just couldn't do it. My head knew how to do it, but you can't get it into your body. My arm wouldn't do what it was supposed to do.
Can you discuss the prosthetic hand you had to wear around your neck?
Coster-Waldau: It was quite amazing. There were so many different arms and hands that they made. Every scene I had a new kind of device. Later on we'll see the stump because there's a bath scene. It's been very complicated with this arm because you still had to hide my real arm. Some scenes I had my real arm down my a--. [Laughs] It was complicated.
On the show, Jaime shows his first sign of sympathy when he tells Brienne, "You don't choose who you love."
Coster-Waldau: He's doing what he does best. He's looking for those little signs of weakness to get rid of her. He finds the places that really hurt. He spots instantly that she had feelings for Renly (Gethin Anthony). So of course he's going to explore that. But I also like the fact that he has an honesty. He's saying, "I'm not judging you. I'm just pointing out the ridiculousness that you even thought you could have a relationship with him. You are so stupid!" That makes it even more painful for her, of course. It's true, and she knows it's true, which is so annoying. There's nothing worse than someone being an a--hole and then on top of that actually being truthful.
Much like his brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Jaime uses jokes and bravado. Why do you think he feels this need to put on a front?
Coster-Waldau: Exactly. I don't think he feels a need to defend or excuse himself, but just because you say it's so and think it's so, he's not going to just accept that. I really like that about him. He stands up for himself all the time. "Why, just because everyone else thinks the same, I should just accept that I'm a bad person? Or I'm dishonorable? No, I'm not. I might not share your definition, but don't point a finger." I like during last season with Catelyn when he says, "It's interesting when you call me a dishonorable man. I'm a lot more honorable in my mind than your late husband who was cheating on you."
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How does Jaime view Brienne now that they're sharing misery by being captured by the Bolton men?
Coster-Waldau: I think he's gained a lot of respect for her and I think in a way, he sees an honesty with her and also an innocence that I think he wishes he still had. I think he recognizes himself in her. He knows that she's not playing a game. She walks the walk. She is a woman of her word, and that's extremely rare in that world.
There's a scene in which Brienne asks Jaime why he saved her from being raped by lying. He initially struggled with that decision. Does he even know why he decided to step in?
Coster-Waldau: If you remember that scene [last season] with his cousin that he killed ... as soon as they put the cousin in prison with him, he was going to die no matter what. That's the way I saw it. So why not make good use of him? But with Brienne, he suddenly goes, "This is not right. She doesn't deserve this." I'm pretty sure he doesn't understand it himself, because it kind of goes against his intinct. That's the thing. He should just let them get on with it, and he would have kept his hand and he would have been freed soon.
But following that logic, it's surprising Jaime doesn't blame Brienne for the loss of his hand.
Coster-Waldau: No he doesn't. That's what I like about him. He does take responsibility for what he does. He wouldn't blame anyone else for pushing Bran out of the window. He knows why he did it. And that's why he's never spoken about the whole thing about him being the Kingslayer. He has a different opinion about what happened then, and we might find out more about that later in the season. But he doesn't use that to defend himself.
Does Jaime even think about Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) as his own child? Or more like a nephew?
Coster-Waldau: I think he knows that it's his son. He also knows that he'll never be able to talk to him. I don't think he likes Joffrey. He's never been part of his life. He's been a very distant uncle. He hasn't been back to King's Landing in a long time, so he has no idea how the wonderful boy uses his powers. I would hope that Jaime makes it back to King's Landing just for that meeting. I'd like to have a scene between him and Joffrey. But who knows?
Do you like Jaime better after he lost his hand? Check out this preview of Sunday's Game of Thrones, which airs at 9/8c on HBO: