The actress nabbed her first Emmy nomination for the role on the HBO series

By Simon Perry Aurelie Corinthios
August 28, 2019 10:01 AM

Game of Thrones‘ Brienne of Tarth will go down in history as one of TV’s most noble warriors.

In an interview after a photoshoot for PEOPLE’s 2019 Emmy portfolio, Gwendoline Christie, who nabbed her first nomination for the role, reflects on the “extraordinary” character.

“George R.R. Martin created a really phenomenal female character, the like of which we are not really used to seeing on television,” she says. “I love that she has so much unabashed physical strength, but we also see the complexity of her struggle with her physical self and how she fits into a man’s world.”

“I have been really encouraged by the response from women to that warrior,” she adds. “A woman who is a warrior but who also has a very deep sensitivity, a very strong moral sense and a deeply rich emotional world which she struggles to hide. I hope what it means is that we see more three-dimensional female characters, and I hope this signals the end of female parts that are merely the girlfriend and mother.”

(To see the entire portfolio, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on stands now.)

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Ruven Afanador

The final season saw Brienne explore her relationship with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and Christie says she was pleased with the character development that ensued.

“Personally, I’m glad that Brienne elected to have her first sexual experience,” she says. “It was something that she consents to and I’m glad we see her leaving herself open and having an honest, emotional response to that — and recovering from it. And, ultimately, superseding her expectations and no longer being in service and protecting someone else but being in control.”

Christie notes the importance of the romantic storyline not overshadowing her character’s true worth.

“I love that Brienne elects to have this romantic moment with Jaime Lannister and that it’s her choice to have that,” she continues. “And, ultimately, what was my favorite point was that she gets the promotion that she’s always wanted. She is Lord Commander of the king’s guard. And how it ends is not about her relationship with a man, but about her fulfilling her destiny and her work. And that’s delighted me. That the woman goes back to work!”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Christie, 40, took matters into her own hands and self-submitted her work after HBO submitted only Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) for consideration in the supporting actress category.

“I just really wanted the possibility of the opportunity. I wanted the possibility of that opportunity because of everything I believe the character Brienne of Tarth represents: a woman outside of the patriarchy,” she explains. “Of course, she is abused due to the way that she looks, because she’s not deemed conventionally attractive. She overcomes that and she remains her own person.”

“Just because of what I feel that represents in television, I really wanted the possibility of the opportunity as a testament to the character,” she continues. “And also, I worked really hard. So I checked it wasn’t an inappropriate thing to do, I was told it wasn’t — people do it all the time.”

“I don’t think anyone on earth thought it would happen,” she adds with a laugh. “And it has and it’s genuinely one of the best things that’s happened to me in my life.”

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