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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister.

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Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on Jaime Lannister’s Shocking Loss

If you have not watched last night's episode of Game of Thrones, read no further — spoilers are coming. Jaime Lannister, the golden lion of the Lannister family, has suffered plenty since being taken prisoner by the Starks and then by Locke. (As he reminded Brienne, "I've been sitting in a muddy pen wrapped in chains for the last year!") But somehow, Jaime managed to remain both intact and in good spirits — until last night, when Locke surprised him by chopping off his sword hand. For someone whose reputation rests on his swordsmanship, this was quite a blow. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who also has the movie Oblivion out this week, called up Vulture to chat about the Kingslayer losing his upper hand and what it will mean as the season progresses.

Some viewers will be shocked at this turn of events, although readers of the books have been anticipating this moment for a while. How did you prepare?
You try not to prepare too much for a scene like that, because you want to trick yourself into absolutely not seeing it coming, but there was a lot of thought going into it, what it means. It's not that uncommon — you see soldiers coming home from deployment who've left limbs behind on the battlefield — and I've been trying to read about people who've experienced this. But this is his sword hand. This is going to change his life. So there's the shock, and on top of that, he's lost a lot of blood, and there's the question of whether he can survive the loss of his hand, because it's probably going to get infected.    

Especially because, despite his wound, there is no reprieve from the mud for a while.
There's a scene with Locke [in episode four], and Noah Taylor plays all of this beautifully — he had to kick me. And I had this protective thing on, but he just missed it, and so he got the rib instead. I had a bruised rib for a while. I'm pretty sure that is the take they used, because there is a realism to my reaction that you can't fake. [Laughs.]

Usually Jaime reads people and situations better than this.
He completely misreads Locke. It's always been proven, until this point, that if you're a Lannister, you can pay to get out of a situation. There's always a price. And then he meets someone like Locke, who basically hates him and what the Lannisters stand for, the extreme upper class, the sense of entitlement, the assumption that anyone can be bought, that loyalty means nothing. Even though I play Jaime, I sympathize with Locke, because it must be an unfair world on so many levels, and for someone to assume it's just his birthright to get what he wants? "You think you can just call your daddy?" But then again, I don't think you have to chop off his hand. That's just pure cruelty.

Jaime in a sense defined himself by that hand. Now he's going to have to redefine himself.
I love all the scenes that come after this. It deals with those questions: Who is Jaime? Will this force him to take a good look at himself? This is a world driven by fear, and suddenly he's not dangerous anymore. Actually, I've always thought his biggest strength, until now, was reading people. He's very good at using people's weaknesses against him, like when he saves Brienne from being raped by mentioning the Sapphire Isle. That's just something he makes up, to play on their greed. He just didn't know that hatred trumps greed.

Why do you think he saves Brienne? He didn't have to. Up until their capture, he was her prisoner.
I'm not sure he really knows why, but there is something about her. She has dignity, she has pure morals, and she's someone you can trust. It's the first time he's been forced to have a relationship with another grown-up who he's not related to. And that has a deeper impact on him than he would have imagined possible. He didn't respect her at first, but he respects her now. And I think any relationship, whether romantic or friendship, the core value of that is respect. Their relationship isn't about an attraction, but about two people meeting and in many ways seeing themselves in the other person.

It's his first normal, healthy relationship.
Absolutely.

And you and Gwendoline Christie apparently tease each other in real life, à la Jaime and Brienne?
Yeah. [Laughs.] It kind of came from the relationship between Jaime and Brienne, because he's taunting her all the time, and I realized I was doing it off-camera too. We constantly say nasty, inappropriate things to each other, but we have fun doing it. We have to tell people we're just having fun. People go, "You must really hate each other, don't you? That's not a healthy relationship!" She's a good sport. For instance, I couldn't stop laughing about her costume, since she's been looking like a Tin Man all the time. At the end of season two, when we got in a canoe, I was seriously afraid she'd tip over and drown! She'd never been in a canoe before, and she wanted to sit down gracefully, but there's no way you can do that in armor. So instead of being noble and encouraging her, I was being funny at her expense. It sounds like I'm a horrible person, but I would only do it because I know that she's in on the joke.

If it happens again, you can offer to lend her a hand. You've got a spare one now, as a prop.
Exactly! That's true. It's horrible, isn't it? It's disgusting. I kept imagining the smell — ugh! It's my hand, a cast of my hand, and it even has the weight of a hand, and they add all this blood and grease, so it looks real, even up close. But it's not something I would want to have: "Hey, my hand!"