As a stronghold warrior to the Stark family she’s pledged to protect, Gwendoline Christie’s character in Game of Thrones, Brienne of Tarth redefines the classic concept of femininity in so many ways. In a face-to-face interview with Gwendoline in London, she revealed why her character is so important in this day and age, and why Brienne is tied to Jaime Lannister, with equal parts of mutual respect and loathing.
With so much secrecy around the last season of Game of Thrones, Gwendoline remained tight-lipped, but revealed just a hint of the emotions surrounding the last day on set.
“I was an absolute mess,” was her response, drawing laughter from all of us at the table.
“I thought I would be completely fine, I really did. I thought in the morning and the night before, I was thinking that I rationalised it completely and accepted, you know, that it was a job and there had been other jobs before it. And hopefully, there will be other jobs after it (laughs). From the day, I was feeling quite shaky, and by the end, I think that I’ve taken the character so firmly to my heart. She’s been (pauses) so personal to me, not just in terms of loving that character, but of feeling like there was a character outside of the confines of society that spoke to me, and that would have spoken to the young me,” she explained.
Playing the androgynous warrior, with her statuesque frame of 6ft 3in (1.9m) and a heart of gold, she left viewers rooting for her, for a role that is still rare for women on screen.
Gwendoline understood that shift: “That’s exactly why I wanted to play the part in the first place; it felt that she was defying gender norms, the sort of female perceptions that we have on the depictions of women that we’ve seen on television so far. There’s also this idea of stripping away my own personal vanity in order to inhabit that character.”
Brienne is a swordswoman and a bodyguard all rolled into one. She’s fiercely loyal, vigilant and soulful. But Gwendoline never really saw her character as a hero; she was also quoted in the Evening Standard Magazine as saying that her friends couldn’t believe she’d want to audition for a character that was described as “ugly”.
“It took me a while to notice, oh, she’s sort of a hero, which is a very human one, because she fails, but she tries again, and she tries again. And it’s her resilience that we fall in love with, and her desire to do good, to be in service of something greater than herself. And that has (pauses) God… Christ knows that that has really meant a great deal to me to just have that opportunity.”
That opportunity has led her to return season after season, with Season 8 being her last appearance. “And so it’s incredibly painful to say goodbye to that character. But I have to trust that what I’ve learned is the greatest gift from it. And hopefully, I have something that I can always be proud of, that has really worked to change my life in a really positive way. You know, as an actor, you really want to be a part of a successful vehicle, to have a successful TV show, or successful play or film. But the dream is to be a part of something successful. To have that and for it to have had such a personal significance is something I’m just very grateful for,” Gwendoline smiled.
As a recap, in season 7 we saw her character Brienne reuniting with Jaime Lannister, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, where she advised him to speak to his sister Cersei to fight against the army of the dead. To her disbelief, Jamie brushed her off, but little does she know that he had actually made that argument to Cersei. So of course the viewers got to see the tension in their relationship, and the question on our mind was, “Could Brienne trust Jamie again?”
“I’ve always been very interested in that relationship since I read about it in the books; but I certainly think that George R. R. Martin wants to write about the concept of Beauty and the Beast, but with a role reversal. And interestingly, George R. R. Martin has always been asked, ‘How come you write such great parts for women? Are you a feminist writer?’ and his responses were, ‘I’ve always thought of women as people.’ And I think that’s the great difference. I have not really ever perceived the relationship in the way which I think you have, where the way in which I perceived it is that, there were these two characters thrown together, forced to make the best out of a situation with a mutual loathing of each other,” Gwendoline threw the concept of romantic love out of the window.
Fans were also quick to fan theories that the duo will fight alongside each other against the army of the dead using Ned Stark’s swords – Brienne owns the Oathkeeper sword and Jamie has Widow’s Wail – which means we might see more of them on-screen.
“They’re literally chained together, and they see something in each other that they grow to respect. And she sees beyond his arrogance, and his sort of superficial flamboyance and sees that there is a good man and a man who has dedicated his life to trying to do something good. And having to make up for it ever since. And I think in her, he respects her as a warrior, and someone that has an overriding sense of moral good,” she shared more on their complex relationship.
It’s a fascinating setup for her character to move forward in Season 8, and it makes plenty of sense for both to be fighting up North as they’ve been destined all this while.
“It’s like the transformative experience they go on as they go through the forest – it’s like an act by Shakespeare where people go into the forest and they come out a changed person, having undergone this vastly life-changing experience,” Gwendoline drew the similarity of her character to the opportunity she’s gained from Game of Thrones.
With a quick “I’m sorry”, as our interview ended, she left us wondering about the massive battle scene and their fates. We can only wait with bated breath.
The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones will debut in Asia same time as the US on Monday, 15 April at 9am, with a same day encore at 10pm, exclusively on HBO GO and HBO. The series will also be available on HBO On Demand. New episodes will premiere every Monday at the same time.
This story was the result of a trip paid for by HBO Asia.