News

Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on Cersei’s Pregnancy, Playing Gangster in Shot Caller

HBO series' Jaime Lannister offers insight on an emotional moment from last week, talks about the prison tattoos he sports in his new film, and answers some fan questions.

by | August 18, 2017 | Comments

(Photo by Courtesy HBO)

Game of Thrones stunned its Sunday night audience during its “Eastwatch” episode when Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) divulged to her twin that she was pregnant with their fourth child. The moment was remarkable not just for the twistiness of the revelation, but also for the volumes spoken by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in an affecting, but understated performance as Jaime Lannister.

“Who will you say is the father?” Jaime asks. “You,” she replies, and, with a few subtle changes of his face, his countenance transforms from initial disbelief to quiet euphoria to anxiety over the potential public reception of that news. After she reminds him of their father’s stance that “the lion does not concern itself with the opinions of the sheep,” she warns him never to betray her again — and, just like that, the connection between the two in this delicate moment snaps.

Coster-Waldau — who has appeared in such Certified Fresh fare as Black Hawk Down, Headhunters, and 1,000 Times Good Night — brings a similar measured emotion to his new role in the film Shot Caller, released Friday. In it, he appears as businessman, husband, and father Jacob Harlon, who lands in jail with violent offenders after a DUI. Jacob transforms into prison gangster “Money” in order to survive and loses every trace of his former self in the process.

Rotten Tomatoes spoke with Coster-Waldau on Thursday about Lannister family values and the politics of prison gangs.


Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Game of Thrones season 7 "Eastwatch" (Helen Sloan/HBO)

Debbie Day for Rotten Tomatoes: You’ve been doing such great work this entire season of Game of Thrones. You were before, of course, but there’s a subtlety that really presented itself in “Eastwatch” — for instance, when Cersei says she’ll name Jaime as the father. Can you tell me a little bit about how you approach those kinds of moments in the script — like, starting from when you read them.

Nicolaj Coster-Waldau: That moment was — I was very surprised. I kept asking the writers, “Are you sure about this?” I’ve been driving them crazy this season because there are so many questions — in that moment, also the moment with Tyrion, I was like, “What about the things they don’t say? Could I just say some of those things? Like the subtext?” And they were like, “No,” which when I see the scene, it totally makes sense. But it’s also lot to do with what’s not being said. When Cersei drops that bomb, there’s a moment of disbelief, but there’s also that — I think he sees, she seems happy for the first time in years, right?

So he kinda goes, “Holy sh–, this might be real!” And then, it’s been a dream of his for so long. I mean the dream that he had since they were very young teenagers that they could be — the two of them and to be open about it. Imagine that. Imagine you’ve been the father of three children that didn’t know it. Except for Myrcella at the very end, he had one brief second of understanding what it meant to be open about this and then for her to say, “Well, I’m happy that you’re my daddy.” That was one of the happiest moments in his life, and now she’s telling him, “This might happen again.” And obviously it’s a spontaneous response. His emotional response is “No.” It just happens, he doesn’t think about everything else. He just can’t suppress his little moment of joy.

Then she just destroys it by going all dark on him when they embrace and saying, “Don’t ever betray me again,” which kind of brings him back to reality — bit of a crash landing.

But I think it’s one of those things that I’ve always loved about this part and also about the relationship, is that it’s so impossible. But they do what they do, they’ve done what they’ve done, they have been apparently unable to stop. It’s insane. And for some reason on a very basic level, I get it. It’s so easy to be morally shocked about the brother and sister thing, and yes, it’s absolutely horrific — blah, blah, blah. But I mean I can’t use that as an actor. I have to use the idea that I fall for someone who I just should not be together with. This is just the last person I should ever fall in love with. And that I can use.

The irony, of course, is that we have a situation where I think 95 percent of all the audience are rooting for Daenerys and Jon Snow to get together, which is going to be the next incestuous relationship. That’s the beautiful irony, though.


The Violence, Politics, and Prison Tattoos of Shot Caller

Nicolaj Coster-Waldau in Shot Caller (Courtesy of Saban Films)
(Photo by Courtesy of Saban Films)

RT: You dirty it up in Shot Caller — it’s like your Monster role. Were you intentionally choosing a role that would distance you from this sort of golden knight that Jaime Lannister is in Game of Thrones?

Coster-Waldau: No, I mean I’ve been doing this for 25 years. And yes, the Lannister thing is a big thing of the last 10 years, but also the last 10 years, I’ve done one or two movies every year. Obviously something as successful as Game of Thrones will cast a long shadow — there’s no question about it. But no, I just read a script, I loved the script, and I loved the character, and I thought it was heartbreaking what happened to him, but I also thought it was really interesting. I could see it would be a great challenge to take on, but, no, I wasn’t looking for something where I could be ugly at all. Obviously the last 10 years I haven’t played any medieval knights — I could probably have done nothing but that if I wanted to, but no.

RT: Is it an awkward time to be playing a white supremacist?

Coster-Waldau: I don’t think he’s a white supremacist. I think he joins a gang that used those symbols. But I hope that’s not what you take away that it’s a movie about white supremacists.

Nicolaj Coster-Waldau in Shot Caller (Courtesy of Saban Films)

(Photo by Courtesy of Saban Films)

RT: No, come to think of it. No, but I wouldn’t want to give away too much.

Coster-Waldau: I met a lot of people to do research for this movie, because I loved the script and I thought it was amazing. And then I kept saying, “But, listen!” — because, you know, I had never been to prison — and I said, “We want this to be authentic and how realistic is this story?” And then Ric [Roman Waugh], the director told me all about this. I met these guys, inmates, former inmates, correctional officers, and I visited a prison, and it became very clear to me that it was eerily close to reality.

And then I met a guy who was a former shot caller, and he told me his story, and it was — obviously it was different, but it was very close to home: He was 20 when he was put in prison and he was non-violent. He had done really stupid stuff — carjackings, and theft, and a lot of stupid stuff — but he was still a non-violent offender who was put in with hardened criminals, and he had to learn to become, he became very violent. And his journey was very similar to that of Jacob.

And then I asked, because when I met him he still had all his tattoos. All of them were covered up, but you could still see that these were, you know, a lot of the — the iron cross, the swastika, all that nasty sh–. And I asked him about it, I said, “Are you all white supremacists? What’s the story?” And he said, “No, you might find one or two guys who knows anything about the ideology, but this is just a gang. We’re gangsters. This is about money. It’s about control. It’s about power.” And I said, “Well, what about the tattoos?” He said, “The tattoos, that’s war paint. It’s just to make you afraid when you look at me.” And I said, “Well, it certainly works.” Because you just look at all the gangs, they’re all tatted up like crazy, and it’s all about making you fear them. And that absolutely works, right?

RT: Right, I think it works in the film, absolutely. Actually, I think the only time you really see any sort of “white pride” kind of talk is in the prison yard.

Coster-Waldau: It was a complete surprise to me that the gangs originated inside. The gangs in the streets are controlled from inside, even to this day. That’s scary. And of course it’s scary — because we put in non-violent offenders with very violent offenders. That’s a recipe for this to happen.

The fact that America has more people locked up per capita than any other Western country is pretty insane. They’re the most powerful, the wealthiest country in the world. That doesn’t make sense. And it’s just a waste of money. It’s a waste of human resources. There is, I think, a pretty strong bipartisan agreement that prison reform is needed.

RT: Interesting that your perspective is sort of activism for prison reform.

Coster-Waldau: I’m not saying its activism, I’m just saying it’s going to hopefully get some debate going. Let people think about it, because one of those themes shown in the movie is that until it happens to you, nobody really cares about what goes on in prison. I think a lot of people when they see the movie hopefully would be able to go, “You know that could happen to me. It could happen to someone I know: that you had a glass of wine too many, you got behind the wheel of a car, and then a tragedy happened.” It’s not that far-fetched.

Then you would hope that you didn’t end up in complete hell, even though you committed a crime. He committed a crime, and he’s owning it, and he’s willing to serve his time, but of course, he’s not just allowed to serve his time. It’s not like you’re allowed to go in and be locked up and contemplate — you are put in a shark tank. As a society it doesn’t make sense that we waste our resources like that. But again for me, it’s a debate. I’m not an activist here. We’re just storytellers.


Game of Thrones Fan Questions

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in season 7 of Game of Thrones. (Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO)

RT: We offered members of our Debate of Thrones Facebook group the chance to ask some questions — is that OK?

Coster-Waldau: OK.

RT: One: “Do you hope Jaime will be able to break away from Cersei and become free?”

Coster-Waldau: Pass on that. I can’t answer that: spoiler.

RT: I think that the second one’s a spoiler too: “Do you think Jaime will betray Cersei for his brother?”

Coster-Waldau: Spoiler. Pass.

RT: “What do you think are some of the best and worst traits your character has had from season 1 to season 7?”

Coster-Waldau: The best and worst traits: In the beginning he used arrogance as a shield, which was really annoying. It’s not a very nice trait. I think his pride is also this way sometimes. He acts before he thinks. That can be both good and bad. I would also say loyalty is also good and bad, because he’s insanely loyal. He’s so loyal, when you go, “How can you stand by this craziness?” But he is. He’s loyal to the family above all. The good things he will do — if you’re on a team, he’ll do anything for you, which is a great thing. And you can trust him 100 percent. That’s a good thing.

RT: One more question if you don’t mind: “Will Bronn get his castle?”

Coster-Waldau: A Lannister always pays his debts.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO; Shot Callers is now in theaters.


Tag Cloud

Spring TV social media Crackle comiccon disaster tv talk aliens south america Awards Tour boxoffice Song of Ice and Fire Disney The Walking Dead romance crime thriller cults Acorn TV war Disney+ Disney Plus robots DC Universe BBC One WarnerMedia Cannes festivals Cartoon Network APB Mystery comedies Britbox 2020 Martial Arts Kids & Family E! Polls and Games Sneak Peek History dragons Nat Geo revenge Video Games CBS All Access indie Horror Nickelodeon Year in Review AMC 2016 toy story Hallmark Apple TV+ cancelled TV shows MTV USA Network richard e. Grant Premiere Dates CBS true crime Tubi President SXSW FXX NBC series Photos Pixar docudrama critics Peacock Marvel Trivia casting scary movies thriller Interview HBO Max VICE Superheroe X-Men USA breaking bad Nominations 45 hispanic Character Guide sag awards medical drama Hulu blockbuster Trophy Talk rotten movies we love Watching Series unscripted Warner Bros. New York Comic Con Pop TV GLAAD spinoff TIFF witnail criterion Amazon Prime Video LGBT joker Comedy Apple theme song San Diego Comic-Con sitcom game show 2018 a nightmare on elm street Crunchyroll Marvel Studios canceled TV shows Freeform based on movie Film Festival quibi facebook cancelled television Hear Us Out Women's History Month DGA DC Comics zombie video on demand zero dark thirty Country versus independent Fantasy SDCC strong female leads ratings Spike TNT television Pirates Quiz Esquire Avengers discovery Rocketman Amazon Prime Hallmark Christmas movies Infographic Academy Awards golden globes space Mary Tyler Moore transformers 4/20 TV renewals kids Masterpiece Syfy Bravo Extras ABC spanish language Best and Worst ghosts Emmy Nominations Ovation stand-up comedy PaleyFest 71st Emmy Awards American Society of Cinematographers miniseries psycho political drama Epix Grammys 21st Century Fox diversity Action Tumblr dogs Trailer TCA Winter 2020 Reality police drama Adult Swim DC streaming service biography 2017 FX BBC America elevated horror 007 Pop canceled technology universal monsters Teen crime drama teaser Schedule National Geographic Amazon Fall TV chucky CMT SundanceTV christmas movies Endgame concert streaming 20th Century Fox ABC Family OWN BET WGN Paramount 2015 book Chilling Adventures of Sabrina halloween Stephen King Shudder documentary See It Skip It reviews die hard Starz dc Holidays Classic Film Funimation slashers IFC child's play Musical binge LGBTQ doctor who sequel The Witch Disney Channel best Holiday cooking YA A24 MSNBC Marathons cancelled GIFs Ellie Kemper Dark Horse Comics satire Brie Larson movie Toys Pride Month screenings Animation FX on Hulu Lifetime Universal Certified Fresh movies HBO First Look Ghostbusters Creative Arts Emmys Disney Plus cats E3 OneApp Writers Guild of America First Reviews HBO Go TV reboot Television Academy Showtime Netflix Christmas movies award winner anthology Turner Classic Movies YouTube Black Mirror Drama Disney streaming service TCA 2017 nature what to watch Sundance Now TLC singing competition Anna Paquin Calendar mockumentary crime Binge Guide supernatural Travel Channel science fiction Mary poppins Columbia Pictures Marvel Television justice league Shondaland VOD Opinion TCA dark game of thrones Apple TV Plus TCM Star Trek Sundance TV Amazon Studios NYCC Tomatazos Star Wars Superheroes name the review green book finale Walt Disney Pictures CNN parents Rocky RT History Sundance Mary Poppins Returns cinemax Set visit documentaries Super Bowl franchise travel Family talk show VH1 mutant Valentine's Day Turner news latino comics films Winter TV serial killer Lifetime Christmas movies Rock Food Network TruTV Lionsgate natural history Summer The CW dramedy werewolf politics Mudbound composers Heroines crossover Reality Competition Emmys A&E YouTube Premium 2019 sports Christmas PBS blaxploitation zombies ITV period drama children's TV Sony Pictures YouTube Red BBC vampires BAFTA video Rom-Com Lucasfilm foreign historical drama Arrowverse renewed TV shows Comic Book PlayStation The Arrangement BET Awards Musicals Netflix all-time dceu cars psychological thriller cancelled TV series spider-man Comedy Central GoT directors Paramount Network Sci-Fi Western romantic comedy animated harry potter Fox News Red Carpet batman Elton John FOX Oscars cartoon Countdown indiana jones Pet Sematary spy thriller hist Tarantino Vudu Awards comic Spectrum Originals anime Cosplay IFC Films Discovery Channel free movies CW Seed El Rey mission: impossible Baby Yoda The Purge Music Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 24 frames Box Office adaptation Winners DirecTV Podcast Captain marvel cops Thanksgiving Chernobyl screen actors guild TBS Mindy Kaling twilight Election Black History Month TV Land ESPN Film MCU RT21 spain Comics on TV asian-american Logo Biopics jamie lee curtis adventure stoner