Gwendoline Christie on Brienne’s Game of Thrones heartbreak: ‘I was so upset’
Warning: This interview contains spoilers about Game of Thrones season 8, episode 4.
At first, Gwendoline Christie seemed highly amused.
The Game of Thrones star sat in her trailer on the set of the HBO drama in Belfast last spring talking about the top-secret season 8. Before we even reached the events in episode 4, the subject of Brienne having sex with Jaime was already bubbling up. When I asked Christie to tease Brienne’s final season storyline, the actress deadpanned, “I can say that we see more of Brienne than ever before,” and then burst out laughing at her double entendre. And when I asked her reaction to the season 8 scripts, she laughed again: “I had lots of questions. James, I know what you want me to get to!”
Eventually, we indeed got into It. As usual, Christie offered plenty of fascinating insight about playing Brienne of Tarth. The Star Wars and Hunger Games actress has long been protective of her character and expressed much love for the unconventional female role that Brienne represents. Below she details what it was like to find out that her character was going to get intimate with a man who across seven seasons very gradually transitioned from Brienne’s tormentor, to her protector, to her friend, to her battle ally and, now, to her lover … and then, after all of that, for Jaime to leave Winterfell to try to return to Cersei Lannister.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You said before you had questions for showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff about the season? What did you ask?
GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE: Yes. It was partially because I love this character and I read about this character [in George R.R. Martin’s novels] before I saw the show. So we all have our own ideas about how we think the character is going to develop. Sometimes your ideas become set in your mind and sometimes David and Dan write something you didn’t expect and find difficult to comprehend. This character has been very impactful in my life and in the way I think about women and in the way they’re portrayed in the media and the way they’re treated in society. [Playing Brienne] has challenged many of my beliefs and has been really resonate. So there were some things I didn’t expect. If there’s a character you care about and you feel like they go through some sort of hell you feel protective toward them. Also, because of the modern world you live in you’re aware of how other people react to the character. There’s a feeling of wanting to honor the character and also to bring her to life.
Before we get to episode 4, obviously Brienne and Jaime go through the Battle of Winterfell together first…
It was very important to me that we saw Jaime and Brienne’s relationship expressed throughout the battle. They’re in a rare situation where they can completely trust and depend on each other. You take a complicated and solid relationship into a brutal and mind-blowing apocalyptic war. Does it break them apart or force them closer together? You take that relationship and put it into the highest stakes possible and it gets stronger and they worked together completely.
I haven’t been certain of the relationship between Jaime and Brienne. It hasn’t been a love story. It’s been this strange relationship between a man and woman that’s never been able to find it’s true form. Brienne has also felt something of an obligation toward Jaime due to losing his hand to save her honor. It’s something he chooses to do, but she’s sensitive and aware of it. So there is something that seems tangible between them, but she’s never had a relationship before and he’s only had a relationship with his sister. So you’re dealing with two people who are not terribly functional in the emotional world. I think going through sharing the experience of surviving the war together and saving each others’ lives continuously proves to be a very heady combination. Physicality often releases emotion and I think that’s what happens — working together unlocked them.
What did you think that moment you hit that scene in the script?
What’s always important to me is the “how.” Not the “what,” it’s the “how.” It’s important to me how these things come about. I felt it was important to see a moment of choice from Brienne where she chooses to do this. Brienne is a virgin. As far as we know, Brienne hasn’t had a sexual or romantic encounter before. In the books, the character sleeps in her armor to protect herself. It’s important that she choose to explore life in that way and have that experience. I was pleased that if something happens between her and another character that she wants it. I like that she instigated it. As an unconventional woman that we’ve seen grown, I enjoy that she decided to grow in a different way.
How did the rest of the cast react?
I received a text from [Jaime actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau] just laughing. I sent back a being sick emoji. How modern.
Nikolaj said when you started filming you told him: “Don’t you f—king laugh!”
Did he tell you that?! [Laughs] Yeah, there had to be a few conversations: “Now you’re going to need to be very professional about this…” But I care for the character so deeply so it was important to me that it was taken care of well and I believe it was. [She pauses and leans forward]. What do you think of the fact that Brienne has sex with Jaime?
I was surprised because I never thought it was going to happen. My second thought was there are a lot of fans who want them to have a romantic relationship so there’s a portion of the audience that will be very happy. I think there’s also some who feel like Brienne doesn’t need this, so I think there will be some debate when it happens. Personally, I don’t think having sex somehow lessens Brienne. Why shouldn’t she have that?
Yes. I went through a whole thought process looking at it from many different angles and thought the writing is very good here. This is what makes a character three dimensional, truly. It gives her the agency to explore all the different elements of her life. She’s not just a woman who can fight incredibly well and doesn’t have any need for anything else. She is a woman, she’s a human, she fights brilliantly, she also has some desire of companionship and sensual love.
My other thought was I could see the scene getting knocked because of Arya and Gendry, that the show had two strong and seemingly asexual warrior women of Winterfell hook up with someone.
I hear you. However, I believe they both elect to have a sexual liaison. Also, it’s about a coming together of two people. Both will enjoy this, so why not have that experience? And it’s dealt with in a manner the’s fairly elegant and isn’t incredibly detailed. I think if you’re facing and survived death you want to experience everything life has to offer and to not explore that it wouldn’t be as human. She’s a woman and that means she has a sex drive so why shouldn’t she explore it? Personally … I always wanted to see her get together with Dany.
That would be amazing.
That’s what I wanted, always! Exactly, yes? Wouldn’t that have been amazing? [Another pause] Do you know what happens next?
That he chooses to leave?
[Christie sadly nods].
I think fans are going to be heartbroken.
I was so upset for her. I know it’s just a character and I’m an actor who’s lucky to do her job. It’s so heartbreaking. But it’s life isn’t it? Life is heartbreaking. I never assumed they would be together. I didn’t think that would happen. And now I can feel a million hearts breaking.
It feels like it’s not a choice he needs to make, that whatever he did in the past is not who he is now. He could stay. He doesn’t have to return to a horrible person in King’s Landing.
I have no judgment of Cersei but their relationship is dysfunctional. That’s when I went very red. I was very upset and I had to go for a walk.
So Jaime leaving bothered you far more than the two of them getting together in the first place.
Yeah. And I know it’s silly. It’s just a character, not a living human being, but I feel for her so deeply. I love that she doesn’t crumble from it. She goes back to work. Because she always loves work — that feels refreshing, a woman can be happy without a companion. Woman don’t have to be defined by their partner and that’s good. But my god. That’s the Game of Thrones, isn’t it? Just when you think things are going to go well it punches you harder than ever in the guts…
What’s the Game of Thrones scene you’re most proud of?
I think the knighting scene [in season 8, episode 2]. What it means to me conceptually. I thought about it so much. It’s emotional for the character to get something she wants and is acknowledged. She was in Renly’s Kingsguard but has never been part of the establishment, really. She’s created herself and a role for herself. It was interesting to me that’s she’s offered to become a knight and she’s delighted by that — and that it comes from Jaime. What makes this season so exciting actually is not the threat of death, it’s the possibility of death every single moment and you start to see who these characters really are. I found it very moving. No matter how much you carve a place out for yourself outside of things there’s something about getting acceptance from people that you love. That’s what that moment represents. And there’s also the possibility of equality all this fighting and doing the honorable thing. In that moment, Brienne feels somehow it’s an acknowledgment of all of that and that the body she has doesn’t matter; it’s the acts she’s performed and how she’s behaved that’s been acknowledged in the highest form possible.
More Episode 4 coverage:
— Game of Thrones actress Nathalie Emmanuel discusses that shocking Missandei scene
— Game of Thrones recap in progress: Mistakes, tragedy, and fury
— Ser Jorah actor on what Daenerys whispered to him during that funeral scene
— Game of Thrones trailer for season 8, episode 5 teases a King’s Landing battle
More coverage of episode 4 to come, refresh for latest…
HBO’s epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin’s novel series “A Song of Fire and Ice.”