Emmy Contender Lena Headey on Cersei’s ‘F— You Moment’ on ‘Game of Thrones’

“When she was in the depths of her losing streak, I had no idea where she was going,” actress tells TheWrap

A version of this story on Lena Headey first appeared in the print edition of  of TheWrap Magazine’s Down to the Wire Emmy Issue.

Season 6 of “Game of Thrones” saw Cersei Lannister, the stone-faced sadist who has clung to power with a burning claw and a jug of wine since the HBO series began, take her seat on the Iron Throne as the rightful Queen of Westeros.

But she had to lose three children, empower and then be usurped by a religious zealot (Jonathan Price) looking to unite church and state, then literally incinerate half of King’s Landing to salvage what was left of her ancient house’s rule.

The savage but satisfying return to glory landed Lena Headey an Emmy nomination alongside castmates Emilia Clarke and Maisie Williams for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

It was a long losing streak for Cersei. Were you comforted knowing she would eventually wind up in such a powerful place?
When she was in the depths of her losing streak, I had no idea where she was going. To say it was a pleasant surprise is an understatement. David and Dan [showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss] never fail to write the unexpected. I don’t feel comfort, I’m pondering where she can go from here. I don’t think it will end well. Who knows?

When she learns of her son Tommen’s death, she has a sad but interesting response. The prophecy that her children would all die had finally come to pass. Do you think she was relieved that the waiting was over? Does she have anything left to lose?
She’s so tired at this point. So tired of losing, of her heart aching, that she’s just going through the motions. The point with Cersei is her utter will to survive, to achieve validation that she is something. That she has nothing left to lose is not something she considers.

How would  you describe her mental state when we last see her, taking her seat on the Iron Throne and having that troubling exchange of looks with Jaime?
The thing that gave her humanity was her kids. They’re gone now. Her father is gone. [Her brother] Tyrion is gone. There’s no one to tell her she can’t, she’s stupid, she’s just a woman. I think when Jaime looks anything other than happy, she has a “f— you” moment. This will be such an interesting season for them. Where do they go? It’s so toxic now.

Blogs spend a lot of time speculating about Cersei as a feminist. Where do you stand on the matter?
Obviously that’s not her motivation, but yes. It’s sad she never got to raise her daughter, we would’ve seen a great parent. Feminist, yes — early stages.

No matter what you think of Cersei, watching her exact revenge on Septa Unella was incredibly gratifying. How was it to play? Do you think Cersei’s brutal confessions mean she’s come closer to accepting herself?
Getting it right was the tricky bit. I think we did it right eventually, after I stopped laughing at myself. She would never stand in public and confess her stuff. I think it was more gloating over Septa Unella, knowing she never told her when she wanted it, and now she’s strapped to a table and Cersei is in charge. She’s enjoying telling her in gory detail.

War has come on “Game of Thrones,” and in America election is rapidly approaching. Our presidential candidates pick pop music for campaign intros — what song would Cersei enter to?
Ha! Fleetwood Mac, “The Chain.”

How did you discover the International Rescue Committee, and what was the most important takeaway from your recent trip to Greece?
I got involved via HBO. We did the PSA and I wanted to go and meet the people we were speaking for. I wanted to see the work the IRC do. My takeaway was that I’ll go back and I’ll always be an advocate for those who need it.

The work seems to speak to you as a humanitarian, but I wonder how it affects you as an artist? The refugees all have their stories, it must be very compelling to take in.
It’s a very odd feeling, walking into a camp. It’s very humbling. You’re surrounded by people who have deep emotional scars. There is an initial awkwardness until you find your place. I was so moved. I’ve traveled to India many times because there is an pure intimate exchange, which we don’t know how to do in the west, we seem to deal in ego and nonsense.

So on that level it’s a truly human experience. There is a shared need to be heard. For them it’s to be heard as human beings, for us it’s to be heard as the people who haven’t just washed their hands of a global crisis.

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