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Why Cersei's fate in Game of Thrones was a hard sell for Lena Headey

By Jacob Oller
Game of Thrones Cersei Lannister

Cersei Lannister is one of Game of Thrones’ most relentless and consistent characters in a show built upon twists and developmental arcs. People loved to hate her and even felt sorry for her when she was shamed in an outrageously tragic fashion. Now, as Game of Thrones comes to an end, even Cersei goes through change.

In the HBO fantasy series’ jaw-dropping penultimate episode, “The Bells,” the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros makes a choice that was a hard sell even for the actress who’s played her since 2013.

**Spoilers from the Game of Thrones episode “The Bells” follow**

Speaking to EW, Cersei portrayer Lena Headey explained her initial hesitation about the romantic, tragic fate of the Lannister regent. With a “mixed” initial reaction to the script, Headey wanted more for the acerbic queen. “I wanted her to have some big piece or fight with somebody,” Headey said. However, ultimately, she came around to the idea of Cersei dying down beneath the throne she’d fought so hard to sit upon, accompanied only by her twin brother/lover Jaime.

In fact, Jaime actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was key to her acceptance of the scene. “The more we talked about it the more it seemed like the perfect end for her,” the actress said. “They came into the world together and now they leave together.” The rocky ceiling caved in and crushed the pair, burying them along with their hopes of escape. But at least they were buried together.

“I think the biggest surprise is he came back for her,” Headey said. “Cersei realizes just how she loves him and just how much he loves her. It’s the most authentic connection she’s ever had. Ultimately they belong together.” Waiting together for the end, wrapped in an embrace with all ambitions or hope for survival gone is perhaps “the first time that Cersei has been at peace.”

After a long day on set “walking up and down the stairs 20,000 times” as she and her posse — The Mountain and Qyburn — abandoned the Keep (before her posse abandoned her), there was “a lot of crying to be had” before the end. That final scene was just as romantic as any the taboo relationship had over the course of the show.

“I told Nikolaj, ‘I’ve never seen you so sweet and sentimental.’ And he’s all, ‘What’s happening to me?’ We kept cuddling going ‘I love you.’ It was weird,” Headey said. “There’s a sense of loss that nothing like this will ever happen again. There was a great sense of grief and an enormous amount of gratitude going on.”

King’s Landing may have been razed to the ground, but even one of the show’s cruelest characters still found a moment of serenity before the end. Now to see if the queen that did the burning will be equally lucky in the show’s series finale next week.