Latest News

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Duplicitous Roles Are Nothing Like His Real-Life Persona

“I can relate to him—the core of him—where he says he’ll do anything for his daughters. The core, for most people, is love.”
Loading the player...

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has played some dubious characters over the years, from Game Of Thrones’ Jamie Lannister to The Other Woman’s Mark King, but in the TV series The Last Thing He Told Me, the Danish-born actor deepens his exploration of complex and multi-faceted roles.

Coster-Waldau portrays Owen Michaels, in Laura Dave’s novel-turned-TV-series adaptation, created through Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine.

Nikolaj as ‘Owen’ and Jennifer as ‘Hannah’. (Credit: Image: The Last Thing He Told Me)

Owen is a difficult role, given that he vanishes in the opening of plot, leaving nothing behind but a note reading ‘protect her’, written to his new wife Hannah (Jennifer Garner) about her new step-daughter Bailey (Australian actress, Angourie Rice). A thriller ensues, with Coster-Waldau’s scenes playing out mostly in Hannah or Bailey’s memory, rather than in real time.

On playing the role, he says the storyline did strike closer to home than you’d first think.

“I need to get better at communicating with my wife,” he jokes when asked what he took home from the role. “I can do better with my note writing.”

Owen Michaels is a rather cryptic character. (Credit: Image: The Last Thing He Told Me)

On a more serious note, Coster-Waldau says that Owen Michael’s dedication to his wife and daughter did resonate with him, given he has been married to his wife Nukâka, a Greenlandic singer, actress and model, for over 20 years.

Together they have two children, Filippa, 22, and Safina, 19.

“I can relate to [Owen Michaels]—the core of him—where he says he’ll do anything for his daughters. The core, for most people, is love. Love of family, of friends, relationships, right? That’s what’s most important.”

Despite their obviously close familial bond, Coster-Waldau says the fandom he’s accrued in public is not replicated at home. His family appear to have that non-Hollywood, très normal, family bond that we all aspire to.

Nukâka and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. (Credit: Image: Getty)

“I wish I could say they were like, my biggest fans and everything I do they just sit down and watch, like they can’t wait…but it’s not. That’s not how it works,” he explains.

“I know my wife will watch. She watched the first episode of Game of Thrones because I took her to the premiere and then she’s still got to catch up the rest of the seasons.

“I’m going to take her to the premiere of [The Last Thing He Told Me], and I’m actually pretty sure that she will like this show and I’m sure that my daughters will like this show, because it’s very much up their alley. But that’s not the relationship we have. It’s not like ‘look what I did’.

“And I’d rather watch something together with them and I’m not really going to watch myself,” he laughs.

The Coster-Waldau family. (Credit: Image: Getty)

Of course, when choosing any project to join, it can be hard to find the storylines that speak to you. For Coster-Waldau, the ‘keep you guessing’ plot twists of The Last Thing He Told Me drew him in.

“I love a good mystery,” he says. “For me, the whole thing was reading the scripts. I was trying to guess it.

“And I didn’t get it right, and I thought that was good. And then at the same time I did feel…these characters actually paid off at the very end. You know, I didn’t feel like a fool at the end,” he adds.

In addition, it was a bonus to work alongside executive producer Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Garner (who plays both the leading role of Hannah and was an executive producer on the project).

“I mean, they’re just very inspiring human beings. They are great artists but also very talented producers, actors, you know, businesswomen,” he explains.

“To work with a company like Hello Sunshine, you understand that from the top to the bottom they’ve thought about how they want the workplace to be, and they want it to be a good place to come to work.”

(Credit: Image: Instagram)

Coster-Waldau says that it would be easy to attribute this positive feeling to the fact that the project was largely female-run, but that it goes deeper than that.

“I suddenly noticed that all the executives were women…I’m not going to jump on that one and say, ‘Just because they were all women, that’s why it was great’. I think it’s not about gender, it’s about personality. It’s about who you are as a person, and they’re just lovely people.”

He did develop a friendship with his co-star and on-screen wife, Jennifer Garner while shooting.

“Jennifer Garner is a goofball, in the best meaning of the word, she was so much fun to work with,” he added. “I have to say the whole production was very, very well run.”

So, does Coster-Waldau have any hints when it comes to what we should be looking for when we tune into the series?

“When things start going crazy, I think you’re going to start questioning, who is this guy,” he says. “Is he some dark, devious, criminal guy?”

“I find it interesting, human beings are capable of being both honest, truthful and liars at the same time.”

Interesting, complex, intriguing? Sign us up!

The Last Thing He Told Me premieres this Friday, April 14, on Apple TV+.

Related stories