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April 24, 2015

‘Game of Thrones’: Gwendoline Christie talks Brienne’s journey in Season 5

Posted in: TV

In its fifth season, “Game of Thrones” has shown that Westeros is not a kind place for kindhearted people.

In this hostile environment, Brienne of Tarth journeys on, her sole focus to fulfill the oath she swore to Catelyn Stark to safely return the Stark girls to Winterfell.

Portrayed by actress Gwendoline Christie in HBO’s epic fantasy series, Brienne was first introduced in Season 2, winning her place among Renly Baratheon’s personal guard despite her gender. Since then Brienne has spent much of her time traveling through the Seven Kingdoms after swearing fealty to Lady Stark following Renly’s murder.

Actress Gwendoline Christie, who plays the loyal Brienne of Tarth on "Game of Thrones." (Alastair Grant / Associated Press)

Actress Gwendoline Christie, who plays the loyal Brienne of Tarth on “Game of Thrones.” (Alastair Grant / Associated Press)

Lady Stark tasks Brienne with escorting the captive Jaime Lannister back to King’s Landing in exchange for the safe return of Sansa and Arya Stark, and it is this promise that Brienne is struggling to fulfill with Arya and Sansa rejecting her attempts to offer them her loyalty and protection.

Brienne has been a breakout role for Christie, whose previous TV credits include a role in the British sci-fi series “Wizards vs Aliens.” Fans can catch Christie on the big screen later this year in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Christie spoke on the phone with Hero Complex to discuss Brienne’s journey this season, surviving both a bear and the Hound, and her dream “Game of Thrones” alliance.

Where is Brienne at the beginning of Season 5?

Well when we saw Brienne at the end of Season 4, she had just engaged in combat with the Hound and had overcome the Hound. In episode one of Season 5 we see Brienne [and] her spirit seems to be broken. When I read the script I personally found that quite dispiriting and almost upsetting because we’re not used to ever seeing in that way. She’s so resilient, she’s so unbreakable, then to have lost her faith in everything.

There are a lot of troughs in the journey of Brienne this season. We will see her triumphant but we may also see her fail again perhaps at those which are most unlikely.

Brienne survived a bear pit in Season 3 and a battle with the Hound in Season 4. Which was more difficult?

The bear was a dream. The bear was so easy. The bear was the biggest diva I’ve ever worked with: it needed to have applause every time it stepped out of its trailer, it needed to be fed whipped cream in a frying pan and it had to have country and western music playing at all times.

The bear was fantastic and a true pro and just absolute sensational to deal with. It was just so exciting and cool to work with a live animal that had been so well trained. It had the ability to kill you but wouldn’t due to its relationship with its trainer, so that was a remarkable experience.

Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), left, battles Sandor "the Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann) in "Game of Thrones." (HBO)

Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) battles Sandor “the Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann) in “Game of Thrones.” (Helen Sloan / HBO)

I have to say I think the fight with the Hound was harder.

We trained intensely for it. We trained over two months, three or four days a week for around six hours a day – and we’d also do horse riding training on those days so it was six straight hours all inclusive – and the brilliant C.C. Smiff choreographed the scene which evolved throughout the training process.

Rory McCann [who plays the Hound] is a brilliant actor and I would go so far to say an athlete. He’s incredibly strong. I had to work very hard to even move somewhere towards matching him, let alone giving the impression of exceeding him, which of course Brienne manages to do.

So I would say from the sheer physical aspect it would be the fight with the Hound, which we filmed over three days on top of a mountain in Iceland in freak weather conditions. It was blisteringly hot and Rory and I had quite a time of it. But it was so thrilling, and something I’m incredibly proud of.

I just feel rather lucky to have done two extraordinary scenes in the same television program. I don’t think many people can say that they fought a bear and Rory McCann.

How do you top defeating the Hound? What physical triumphs can we expect from Brienne this season?

What I think is so fantastic about “Game of Thrones,” why it’s so extraordinary in the current world of television, is that it has incredibly unconventional narratives. So structurally we can never expect what’s going to happen and sometimes the most shocking things are those we expect least, and that’s all I‘m going to say.

But fans won’t be disappointed. There’s plenty of activity to get them going.

A lot of terrible things happen to good people in “Game of Thrones,” but Brienne’s honesty and ideals have so far remained intact. Are they challenged even more this season?

Yes. The characters in “Game of Thrones” are so wonderfully complex. What makes them human is their flaws and their complexity. We are never entirely sure with the characters we love most, whether we love them because we hate them or we love them because we love them entirely.

The writing continues to be challenging and thrilling and sophisticated, and as we have done throughout the seasons of “Game of Thrones” since Season 2, we see the evolution of this woman discovering herself and developing before our eyes in some ways that fill our hearts full of cheer and other ways which we recognize ourselves.

Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in "Game of Thrones." (Macall B. Polay / HBO)

Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in “Game of Thrones.” (Macall B. Polay / HBO)

Part of what make Brienne compelling is her duality. How she’s physically strong but at the same time a little timid with her emotions. Do we see more of this explored this season?

What I think is so beautiful about the character that George R.R. Martin has created, is we have this woman that seems to be a Joan of Arc type archetype – beyond that even in her strength. Her physical strength is exemplary. She has greater strength than most men. She’s the most accomplished swords-person in the whole of Westeros is the legend of the books.

It’s wonderful because she is incredibly vulnerable in the world and while her strength is developed, and her spirit is fearless, she is, as you say, timid, and she is sensitive, and she is inexperienced in the ways of love. She has the softness of a ripe peach, and it doesn’t take a lot to prick her vulnerabilities and she will react extremely.

Throughout Season 5 we see many different facets of Brienne and we possibly even get to have a look at her darker recesses too.

Are there any characters or actors you would like to have more scenes with?

I’m really desperate for Brienne to meet up with Arya. I think they would be the most fantastic duo and double act. I would really love Arya, Brienne and Daenerys [Targaryen] to come together in a sort of power triangle. I think that would be very exciting.

Personally I would love to have more scenes with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau [who plays Jaime Lannister]. He is a brilliant actor and was very developmental with me for which I’m very grateful.

Also there’s something about the dynamic of Brienne and Jaime that is really exciting to watch and it’s a lot of fun to play. It’s a lot of fun to have two characters that are so different of each other, sort of aggravating each other, rubbing up against each other, but having a possibly begrudging respect for each other.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, left, and Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in "Game of Thrones." (HBO)

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, left, and Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in “Game of Thrones.” (Helen Sloan / HBO)

With the books and the TV series diverging, do you ever pick up scripts and wonder if that’s the one where your character meets her demise?

Every time we get the scripts. I’ve even started now. You prepare yourself before every season saying “will I watch my character die?”

I think you have to prepare yourself because being in “Game of Thrones” is such a wonderful experience. The cast is like a family and so are all the creators on it, and I think it’s safe to say that everybody is so dedicated to making it as fantastic as it possibly can be that when it’s people’s time to go, as inevitably will be, I think that will be something very, very painful.

Are any new facets of Brienne revealed with her new dynamic traveling with Podrick Payne?

What I love so much about the way in which David Benioff and Dan Weiss create and continue the evolution of the character of Brienne of Tarth is that that is what we see.

From season to season, with the development of this woman who is discovering herself as much as we as an audience are discovering the character she is discovering herself and we never fail to see new and interesting sides of her come to the fore, and certainly this season we see whole new sides of Brienne that we’ve never seen before. We uncover things about her we’ve never known. And she uncovers things about herself that she never thought possible, for good or for bad.

So it’s a very exciting season for Brienne. The world of self discovery continues.

The fifth season of "Game of Thrones" sees Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) traveling with Podrick (Daniel Portman). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

The fifth season of “Game of Thrones” sees Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) traveling with Podrick (Daniel Portman). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

What is the status of Brienne and her oath to Lady Stark?

Brienne actually continues [on her quest to keep her promise]. She swore an oath to Renly who was killed in front of her and Catelyn Stark was there and witnessed the murder, and they are very much united from that moment.

Then she’s with Catelyn Stark who she swears the oath to return the Stark girls and Brienne never wavers from that. So do not be afraid. She stays true to the oath that she pledges, but what’s so wonderful about “Game of Thrones” is that these characters are thrown around and placed in circumstances where it becomes harder and harder to upkeep their words.

Who do you think belongs on the Iron Throne?

I would like to see Hodor on the Iron Throne because I think that would be as good a person as any of the characters in order to rule. Brienne doesn’t want it because she doesn’t function in that way, which I rather like.

What is the biggest internal hurdle Brienne has to face this season?

I think the biggest hurdles for characters in “Game of Thrones” to overcome is themselves, and I would say that continues this season for Brienne.

– Tracy Brown | @tracycbrown |@LATHeroComplex

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