Are White Walkers a metaphor for climate change? Nikolaj Coster-Waldau weighs in


The 69th Annual Emmy Awards were held this Sunday, but there was something missing this year; for the first time since it came on the air, Game of Thrones wasn’t eligible for any awards (season 7 missed the cutoff date), leaving a giant hole usually filled by backstabbing and dragons. “We’re getting through it,” Saturday Night Live star and Game of Thrones superfan Leslie Jones said on the red carpet. “Me and the fans, we’re getting through it. We’ll be okay.”

Without much skin in the game this year, some cast members felt free to pursue other interests. For example, rather than be in LA for the Emmys yesterday, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) was speaking at the Social Good Summit in New York City in his capacity as a United Nations Development Programme Global Ambassador. Coster-Waldau gave a talk about climate change and gender equality, and Billboard was on hand to get his thoughts on those topics as they related to Thrones, starting with the message the show sends by including a variety of strong female characters in its lineup.

"We talk about that, which of course means that it’s unusual. It’s something you want to raise as a question because, ‘Wow, that’s amazing, there’s a show that actually believes that women can be in control and can be powerful.’ I think that’s the biggest takeaway: it shouldn’t be a surprise, or you shouldn’t even think about it in those terms."

Billboard also brought up the much-discussed theory that White Walkers, a potentially apocalyptic problem that the civilized people south of the Wall are too busy fighting each other to notice, could be a metaphor for global climate change. “You’d have to ask George R.R. Martin,” the actor said. “It’s very easy to look at it that way.”

"I don’t think it was necessarily intended like that, but the parallels are you have a world where you’re trying to get all of the powerful houses, all of the countries, to get together to fight this enormous enemy and the most powerful house says ‘Yes I’m going to do this’ and then suddenly decides not to. You can easily draw parallels. But the truth is that reality is always much more extreme than fiction. We couldn’t make up what’s happening now. Our species, we’ve been so successful. We’re almost 7 and a half billion. By 2030 we’ll be 8 and a half billion people. It’s like, wow, we did really well. The irony is we’re about to destroy all of this. We think we’re invincible. If we go above 2.5 degrees, it’s going to end in tears."

Let’s hope things don’t get that bad for everyone in Westeros, although by the of season 7 things were looking pretty dire.

Finally, Coster-Waldau addressed an age-old question about celebrities: do actors really have the right to talk about these sorts of questions at all?

"It’s funny. I was doing this interview this morning and the last question was: so how do you feel about celebrities and actors who get up on stage and [speak about issues]…what do you say to people who say you should just shut up and stick to what you do best? The funny thing is sometimes I get the same feeling. But the truth is you’re trying to raise awareness of what the smart people do. Because of Game of Thrones, there’s a lot of attention and I can use that to get the spotlight on some causes that are very, very important."

You can read the whole interview, which includes a deeper discussion of the issues at hand, at Billboard.

Also: no, Coster-Waldau doesn’t know if Jaime Lannister survives season 8, as PEOPLE asked him at the same event. “No idea, I don’t have a clue.”

Next: Game of Thrones will film multiple endings to avoid leaks

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h/t Refinery 29