Lena Headey has played Cersei Lannister since the hit HBO show premiered in 2011
WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from season 8 of Game of Thrones.
After eight seasons of outwitting her enemies in the nick of time, Cersei Lannister’s rule is finally over.
The ruthless queen perished in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, crushed in the Red Keep’s cellar as the structure collapsed under the bombardment of Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) dragon attack. She died in the arms of her twin brother and lover, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
“I wanted her to have some big piece or fight with somebody,” she said.
But when she talked over the scene with Coster-Waldau, 48, she changed her mind. Trapped in an underground passageway, emotional but resigned to their doomed fate, Jaime uttered his final words to Cersei as the walls around them collapsed: “Nothing else matters, only us.”
“The more we talked about it the more it seemed like the perfect end for her,” Headey said. “They came into the world together and now they leave together.”
Jaime’s return to King’s Landing was also significant given his character arc: After a season of rebuilding himself and his moral code, free from Cersei’s grasp, he ultimately decided to abandon his friend and newfound lover Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) to return to his queen.
“I think the important thing is that Jaime had a chance at freedom [with Brienne] and finally liberated himself from Cersei, which I think the audience will be thrilled about,” Headey said. “I think the biggest surprise is he came back for her. Cersei realizes just how she loves him and just how much he loves her.”
“It’s the most authentic connection she’s ever had,” she continued. “Ultimately they belong together.”
In their final moments together, it’s “maybe the first time that Cersei has been at peace,” Headey noted.
And for Headey and Coster-Waldau, saying goodbye to their characters was surprisingly emotional.
“I told Nikolaj, ‘I’ve never seen you so sweet and sentimental,’ ” Headey recalled. “And he’s all, ‘What’s happening to me?’ We kept cuddling going, ‘I love you.’ It was weird.”
“There’s a sense of loss that nothing like this will ever happen again,” she added. “There was a great sense of grief and an enormous amount of gratitude going on.”
The series finale of Game of Thrones airs this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.