‘Game of Thrones’ show runners on Jaime Lannister’s evolution

April 15, 2013 | 8:29 a.m.

Emilia Clarke plays Daenerys Targaryen, who embraced her role as the "Mother of Dragons" at the end of last season. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Lena Headey returns as Queen Regent Cersei Lannister, attempting to maintain control of the Seven Kingdoms with her psychotic son, Joffrey, and her controlling father. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays Jaime Lannister, last seen being escorted to King's Landing by Brienne of Tarth to be exchanged for Arya and Sansa Stark. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) managed to repel Stannis Baratheon's invading forces from King's Landing at the end of last season, but he was rewarded with the loss of his title (King's Hand) and a scar on his face. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Charles Dance plays Tywin Lannister, patriarch of the Lannister family, who returned to King's Landing to relieve his son, Tyrion, from his role as the King's Hand. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Michelle Fairley plays Catelyn Stark, who is attempting to keep her children safe. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Robb Stark (Richard Madden) ended last season by breaking his engagement to Lord Walder Frey's daughter and marrying Lady Talisa (Oona Chaplin) instead. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Sophie Turner plays Sansa Stark, who was promised to the psychotic King Joffrey, but managed to avoid marriage. However, so long as she remains in King's Landing, she's in danger. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Kit Harrington plays Jon Snow, the Night's Watch soldier who has been captured by the Wildlings north of the Wall. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Maisie Williams plays Arya Stark, who learned of a secret organization known as the Faceless Men at the end of last season. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Isaac Hempstead-Wright plays Bran Stark, who has begun a trek north to the Wall. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Thomas Brodie-Sangster plays Jojen Reed, brother of Meera Reed. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Ellie Kendrick plays Meera Reed, who will assist Bran Stark on his journey. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Rose Leslie plays the Wildling warrior Ygritte, who has her eye on Jon Snow. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Stephen Dillane plays Stannis Baratheon, who still lusts after the Iron Throne, even though his assault on King's Landing failed. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Carice van Houten plays the red priestess Melisandre, who continues to advise Stannis Baratheon, even though his attack on King's Landing failed. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Natalie Dormer plays Lady Margaery Tyrell, the new lady love of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Ciaran Hinds joins the cast as Mance Rayder, the "King Beyond the Wall" and leader of the Wildlings. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Diana Rigg joins the cast as Lady Olenna Redwyne, also known as the Queen of Thorns. She's the grandmother of Margaery and Loras Tyrell and a scheming force to be reckoned with. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Richard Dormer plays Beric Dondarrion, leader of the mysterious Brotherhood Without Banners, which is introduced in the third season. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Paul Kaye joins the cast as Thoros of Myr, a red priest who worships the same deity as Melisandre, who also serves as an adviser to Beric Dondarrion. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Gwendoline Christie plays Brienne of Tarth, the female knight tasked with escorting Jaime Lannister to King's Landing. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Clive Russell joins the cast as Brynden Tully, also known as the Blackfish, Catelyn Stark's uncle. (Helen Sloan / HBO)

Jaime Lannister’s fortunes changed forever in Sunday’s episode of “Game of Thrones.”

Readers familiar with the events in George R.R. Martin’s “A Storm of Swords,” the third novel in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” saga, thought it quite likely that Jaime would be, well, transformed, this season, but it was still shocking to see the act itself. (And, spoiler warning, if you missed the episode, this would be a good time to stop reading.)

But the moment in the narrative when the Kingslayer loses his sword hand is the moment where his evolution as a character truly begins, a fact that “Game of Thrones” show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss made sure to note even when they were casting Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau to play the role.

“One of the challenges was this was a character who in the first season was going to be radically different from the character we were going to see in the third season,” Benioff said. “We needed to cast an actor who was able to encompass both ends of that spectrum without ever knowing if we would get this far.

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“It was kind of an interesting conversation when we were first making the deal with Nikolaj,” Benioff continued. “We warned him, ‘It’s going to be a good first season, then you’re going to be mostly absent in the second season’ — we ended up writing him more scenes for the second season just because Nikolaj’s so good we didn’t want to be away from him for so long. ‘But I promise you, if we make it past the second season, where we’re taking this character is going to be fantastic.’”

“Game of Thrones,” of course, has done more than just “make it past” its second season.

An average of 10.4 million viewers tuned in last season, making “Game of Thrones” a marquee success for HBO. The show has enchanted critics too, earning a Hugo Award (given for achievement in science fiction or fantasy) and a Golden Globe for Peter Dinklage, who took a statuette for his supporting performance as the calculating Tyrion Lannister in 2012. Additionally, the show has won eight Emmy Awards (including one for Dinklage) and was nominated for 16 more.

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Benioff and Weiss credit the show’s cast with inhabiting the complicated characters to such believable effect, and Coster-Waldau is no exception. But finding the actor for Jaime was an interesting challenge, they said.

“What you realize when you’re looking for someone who can play the role of Jaime Lannister, is you need someone, he’s got to be really good looking, he’s got to be incredibly charismatic, he’s got to be smart, he’s got to be funny, he’s got to be athletic enough to do the stunts that you need him to do. Basically, what you need is a movie star and yet we can’t cast a famous movie star. When Nikolaj walked into the room, we were thinking, ‘God, I hope this guy’s good because he seems perfect,’ and he was.

“This season coming up, there’s no question, it’s his best one yet and the one he’s been waiting for and we’ve been waiting for for so long.”

– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), left, and Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark). (Kevin Winter / Getty Images

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