Lena Headey Talks ‘Game of Thrones’ And Bringing Humanity to Cersei

Lena Headley in 'Game of Thrones'

“Everything I do with my job, I do because I am intrigued by a character” – Lena Headey


Lena Headey is known for her work on Game of Thrones, where she plays Cersei, Queen Regent of the Seven Kingdoms. Involved in an incestuous relationship with her twin brother, dealing with parricide plus dealing with the erratic actions of her psychotic children, Cersei can’t be an easy character to relate to.

“The great thing about these characters is they are all, except for the White Walkers, living flesh and blood — people who have been really damaged by family relationships, by upbringing, by societal restraint, by all that good stuff,” Headey explains. “There doesn’t seem to be a functional family in Westeros. I just move forward with [Cersei] in the way of somebody who had a really [bad] childhood. Like most of us who become parents, we don’t want to retread a past that didn’t work and she’s trying really hard not to do that.”

Headey tries to tap into the basic humanity of Cersei despite the theatricality of the show. As she points out, the setting might be an elaborate fantasy world but human instinct remains the same. As fans of the show will attest, Game of Thrones could easily become a parody of itself if the characters were pushed too far, so Headey tries to keep Cersei grounded.

“I think it’s tough because I have a very ridiculous side and I love comedy, so sometimes you’re desperate to do it just for a giggle. Everything I do with my job, I do because I am intrigued by a character. Just because they’re in Westeros, which is a fantasy world and they’re wearing gowns doesn’t mean they don’t bleed and lie down at night and cry and love someone who doesn’t love them back. We all have these human emotions in that respect. I just put her in reality. If you took off the gown, she could be in a modern-day contemporary piece, like all those characters.”

Do the costumes help to get into the character’s mindset? Headey seems to think so but as many actors will agree, ultimately you still need to be able to identify with the thoughts and emotions your character is dealing with, whatever situation they might be in.

“All of that helps, and so does being on these amazing sets. I just treat [Cersei] like any other character and consider her history. Ultimately she’s just a woman who is in the midst of a … storm and has to be a parent to three children fathered by her brother. You start off with this blank canvas, and then you think “how would I feel?” and transfer it to the time and place.”

Via LA Times

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