Hollywood Confidential columnist Philip Berk talks to Lena Headey on her Game Of Thrones experiences.
Lena Headey may play the all powerful Cersei Lannister in Game Of Thrones – Monday at 9am on HBO (Astro Ch 411) – but in real life she doesn’t want to rule the world.
“I’ve been doing this for 23 years. I started at 17 and did lots of little movies. I’ve had an up and down sort of path; so to land here at the age I am, when it starts to become tricky for a woman in this industry, to have this job on HBO – one of the best jobs in the world and to get to play this character – I feel very lucky.”
Over the course of those 23 years, she’s appeared in over 40 movies and a number of TV series but it is her role as Cersei in Game Of Thrones that lifts her to the pantheon of great actresses.
At her press conference in Beverly Hills, California, she’s a publicist’s nightmare – her very words.
Hair pitch black, unruly and misshapen. There’s nothing regal about her.
But in front of the camera, she’s a powerhouse, a ruthless, beautiful woman. You can’t take your eyes off her.
The 41-year-old who is pregnant with her second child is not comfortable doing press, and she’s vocal about it. “I like to be private and I like to do my work, do the best I can, but it’s not about that anymore, it’s about doing photo shoots, going on talk shows and being a part of that which I understand but is never the easiest thing for me to do. So I dig my heels in until they say I’m going to get fired. It’s that inane press, a celebration of nothing, that bothers me. I think it’s out of control, and I don’t want to be a part of it. Besides I’m honest, too, which is troublesome because I’m not good at lying.”
Headey’s character in the hit series is also fiercely independent.
“Obviously, there are certain people who see her as just a crazy b*tch, but she’s in this man’s world; she doesn’t make apologies for being female; she plays the way she can play to keep her safety and her position.”
How much do you identify with her?
I don’t have a clue how to manipulate any situation. But I’m in this crazy world and I have opinions and I like to express them. Strong women raise children, it’s just part of the journey.
How much has becoming a mother informed you?
Well, it’s a journey that unless you’ve taken it, you don’t know. I would have had no idea of what love was like. I look at the love I felt as an adult in relationships, and now I think, “I don’t think I’ve ever loved anybody in my life,” because the love you have for a child is just incomparable to anything else. I don’t sleep very much because you worry that something’s going to happen all the time. It’s just loving another human being beyond words, beyond yourself. It’s kind of extraordinary.
Are you looking forward to getting up in the middle of the night, breastfeeding, all that again?
My son is five years old and I’m six months pregnant; so I’m loving elasticised waists and someone bringing out grapes for Cersei. But it’s great. I don’t feel sick anymore. It’s slightly different with number two because you still have one running around. My son has no idea what’s coming. He keeps saying, “It’s my baby.” And soon, you’ll be like, “Take her away.” I’m excited. I think he’s excited it’s a girl.
So it’s a girl?
Yeah. And I think he’ll be protective-ish until the crying escalates, and then, he’ll just be like ... “Can we get a dog?”
Were you pregnant while you were shooting Season Five?
I found out towards the end of this season.
Do you have any special cravings?
No, just the usual, although I don’t think that’s true. I’ve always liked cheese.
You live in Los Angeles. Will your daughter be born here?
Well my first son is an American citizen. He was born here; so this one will be born here, and then one day, I may get citizenship, so we’ll all be legal.
How has this pregnancy been different?
When you have your first kid you have that romantic vision. I used to think, “Oh, I’ll just be walking down the beach, she’ll be wearing a dress – and it’s a boy – and life’s going to be just perfect.” And then, you have a child and you’re like, “What the **** just happened?” Right? Nobody tells you of the madness. So now, I’m aware of the madness, I feel less anxious about it. But having another kid, it’s a little crazier.
I keep thinking about that. And I think, “No, I’m going to be strict this time around.” But childhood is really short, and I understand that. Me and my son, we share a bed. Some people think that’s ... whatever. But there’s such simple joy in that. When you wake up with your kid, do you know what I mean? And you’re the recipient of their first thought at five, that’s kind of the most joyous thing in the world. So probably, yeah, I’m going to have two of them in my bed until they’re 15.
So you’re thrilled at the prospect of having a little girl?
Actually, I’m quite terrified.
Because boys are really easy. They just want to fight you, and then love you, and then eat some food, and then do a bit of fighting and knock down some Lego. And I see girls already at this age and they’re already kind of, “You can’t play with us.” It’s interesting. It’s going to be an interesting journey raising a woman and raising a gentleman.
Are you close to your parents?
They spend three months a year with me. They’re amazing parents. When I decided to become an actress, my dad said, “Oh that’s a very stupid decision not to go to college.” He’s still shocked that I’m employed.
And your mother?
My mother just laughed and said, “Oh, prepare for some karma.” And she’s right.
Did you learn anything from her about being a mother?
Only when I had my son did my relationship begin with my mum. You take it for granted.
You’ve always loved tattoos.
If I could, I would be covered in them.
When did it start?
When I was about 15. I’ve always enjoyed the process of it. If it didn’t mean I had to get on set much earlier for makeup coverage, I’d have more. But I just enjoy them. It’s an expression. My dad wouldn’t agree.
Did you meet the Queen when she visited the Game Of Thrones set?
Yes. It was so funny. We were all giggling because we were all in a line and going “Oh, it’s just the queen” and then she came in and we were all like children. Honestly, all of us in a line going, “Oh, she’s here!” She was very cool. She runs the show.
When you’re at home, do you like cooking?
I love cooking. But I spend a lot of my time wresting with my five-year-old and then at the chiropractor.
Cersei is such a monumentally strong character. In playing her, where does that strength come from?
I think it’s a curiosity and an intelligence. It comes from that more than anything and not from her vanity. I don’t really think about that at all. I’m delivering this woman, this person, and this is who she is. So I get lost in that and whatever comes out, comes out.
In the new season there is a flashback to your childhood. Have there been other flashbacks before?
That’s not something they’re keen on using but it was intended to understand a bit more of her paranoia. At an early age, she was told that she would suffer great loss; one has already happened. And because she lives in a land where there’s no Twitter, there’s no news, this is her Twitter, and she’s buying into this situation which has haunted her since she was a child. There’s this immense guilt she feels about her children being Jaime’s and the punishment that’s going to come from somewhere; so that’s why they put that in to somewhat explain that side of Cersei.