'Game of Thrones' Star: Final Season Emmy Nominations "Validate the Writing"

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is one of 10 castmembers nominated for the HBO epic's final season.
Helen Sloan/HBO

As Jaime Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was one of the many Game of Thrones heroes who stood against the White Walkers in "The Long Night." As himself, he's one of the HBO fantasy drama's many actors who now faces a new battle: winning an Emmy Award.

Coster-Waldau is one of the 10 Game of Thrones castmembers nominated for Emmys, along with Kit Harington ("Jon Snow") and Emilia Clarke ("Daenerys Targaryen") in the lead actor categories, and Peter Dinklage ("Tyrion Lannister"), Alfie Allen ("Theon Greyjoy"), Maisie Williams ("Arya Stark"), Lena Headey ("Cersei Lannister"), Sophie Turner ("Sansa Stark"), Carice van Houten ("Melisandre") and Gwendoline Christie ("Brienne of Tarth") in supporting categories. 

"I was just on the phone with Gwendoline, who is also very excited," Coster-Waldau tells The Hollywood Reporter, speaking moments after the nominations were revealed. "It's unreal. We're all just so thrilled, all of us. To have Kit, Emilia, myself, Peter, Alfie, Gwendoline, Maisie, Sophie, Lena, Carice … 10 of us? It's insane! None of us expected this."

Coster-Waldau and his colleagues' nomination contributes to Game of Thrones' overall staggering 32 nominations, which includes recognition to all four of the final season's directors: series creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss, nominated together for the series finale, "The Iron Throne," as well as Miguel Sapochnik and David Nutter for "The Long Night" and "The Last of the Starks," respectively. Nutter was also at the helm of the season's first two installments, including "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms," the emotional hour in which Coster-Waldau's Jaime Lannister anointed his fellow warrior Brienne an official knight of Westeros.

"Navigating the storyline between Brienne and Jaime was tricky," he says, speaking to the turbulent love story shared between the two soldiers. "A lot happened between them [in a short period of time]. I think that together with Gwendoline and the help from the directors and the beautiful writing, we did find a path. Look at the knighting scene. It was such a fine balance. It could have easily become too sentimental. I'm so proud of that scene, and I'm so proud of David Nutter, who did such a wonderful job directing us through that. The tricky part this season was working through that storyline. They really do go through a whole lot in just a few scenes."

Beyond the final season's scope, Jaime's arc across Game of Thrones was a complicated one, starting with his final scene in the very first episode: pushing a young boy out a tall window after being caught having sex with his sister — not exactly the most sympathetic introduction to the arrogant Lannister knight. Several episodes and seasons later, Jaime emerged in fuller form, revealed as a tortured man who sacrificed so much of himself in order to save the realm, reputation be damned.

"I don't know how many times I have had people come up to me and say, 'Wow, I hated you for the first couple of seasons,'" says Coster-Waldau, who was previously nominated in 2018 for the role of Jaime Lannister. "He changed, of course, as a character, but so did the information we had about him, and how much more that helped us inform our view of him. I think it's important to keep that in mind. We need to be better at not jumping to conclusions about people. In the end, very basically, he was beautifully written as a character, first by George R.R. Martin, then by David and Dan."

With that said, through its copious nominations, Game of Thrones' divisive final season received only one writing nomination: Benioff and Weiss' series finale, "The Iron Throne," ironically enough. For his part, Coster-Waldau believes the drama's historic string of acting nominations more than speaks to the quality of the final season — the writing, especially.

"There's been a lot of talk about that," he says about the final season's reception. "I think it was a mix of many things. For one, it's the basic idea of not wanting the show to end, and any ending would have been very upsetting. But the only thing I can say is you don't get this many actors nominated with bad writing. It just does not happen. This validates the writing on Game of Thrones, for sure."

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