How Lena Headey raised Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones through her performance
Lena headey is 48 years old today. The talented English actor had appeared in a number of projects before. Game Of Thrones, but it was HBO’s popular fantasy series that catapulted her to the pinnacle of fame.
She played the role of Cersei Lannister in the show created by David Benioff and DB Weiss, based on the novels by George RR Martin. Let’s explore how Lena Headey, with the help of writers, kept Cersei Lannister from becoming a villainous, cartoonish character.
On paper, Cersei is pure evil, the personification of cruelty, the queen of wickedness and stratagems. A vicious human being without the slightest conscience. To paraphrase his own words, anyone who is not a Lannister is a potential enemy. She had no qualms about having a young boy killed if it helped protect her dirty secrets.
She even gets a little girl, her husband Robert Baratheon’s bastard from a prostitute, killed just out of spite. This obviously does not include the many other people she killed or threatened to achieve her ends. In the books, in particular, the character is more of a note for the most part. This is mainly because Cersei is not a point of view character until the fourth book. So readers only see his atrocities, not what’s going on in his head so far.
However, thanks to Lena Headey and some solid writing from the writers of Martin and GoT, Cersei is a more complete character on the show. Benioff and Weiss quickly realized they had to show Cersei’s side from the start to make sure Lannisters didn’t turn into a supervillain in the comic book sense.
If you dig deep into the character, it’s no wonder Cersei is as despicable as she is. Westeros is almost medieval England and back then the world was brutal for everyone, but especially for women. They were treated as little more than objects – things to be acquired and dispensed with or traded like movable goods to achieve political goals. For example, if a lord wanted to ally with another lord or more powerful king, he could essentially sell his daughter and call her marriage.
And that’s what Tywin Lannister, the Patriarch of House Lannister, did with Cersei. She had dreamed of marrying Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, but her father forced her to marry Robert instead. A witty and intelligent woman like Cersei was forced into a loveless marriage with a drunken husband who raped and often beat her. It is therefore no wonder that she has become a bitter and hateful woman.
It helps that it was an actor of Lena’s caliber who played the part. She brought a lot of nuance, emotion and vulnerability to the character. Even everyday sound lines took on a lot of gravity as they came out of his mouth.
In many ways, Lena elevated the character of Cersei Lannister through her performance. It is remarkable that his portrayal of such a gravely negative character never degenerated into histrionic.