Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Wonders About the Past 2 Million Years

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau wants people to step away from the abyss when it comes to climate action.

“It’s a very difficult balance,” said the Danish actor, who portrayed Jaime Lannister in “Game of Thrones.” “You want to get people aware, you want to inspire change. But I think we’ve gone overboard by making it into this doomsday.”

“It’s exhausting for everyone,” he added. “And it’s not quite true, actually.”

In “An Optimist’s Guide to the Planet,” a documentary series from Bloomberg Originals, Coster-Waldau meets with scientists, activists and ordinary folks who have developed ingenious solutions to global issues — things like sargassum that captures carbon on St. Vincent, worms that eat plastic in Spain and a zero-waste village in Japan.

It’s an insane endeavor, Coster-Waldau said, but he predicts bluer skies ahead.

“The biggest resource, and we keep forgetting that, is that we need each other,” he said. “What humans can do when we pull together, it’s incredible.”

In a video call from his home north of Copenhagen, Coster-Waldau — who will play William of Normandy in the upcoming “King and Conqueror” series — discussed why George the Poet’s podcast, miniature art and “3 Body Problem” have captured his attention.

These are edited excerpts from the conversation.


What he’s doing is understanding who we are by looking back in time. Now they can actually extract DNA from soil samples, so they picked down in northeast Greenland and were able to go back 2 million years. And that means now you can see how this world of ours has changed dramatically many, many times.


It’s an amazing novel that I just revisited about Marstal, a small town in Denmark — a seafaring town, a fisherman’s town — and the riders of freight ships from this town. It’s a historical novel, but it’s incredibly well told.


That’s my best friend Joe Derrick’s music so please, to anyone who reads this, check it out. I’ve known him my whole life, so a lot of the songs have so much meaning to me.


I was out with a scientist in an area that was still not open, and we were in these hazmat suits, measuring. I said that to him, “Is it true that no matter what, nature will just be fine if we take humans out of the equation?” He said: “Well, yes, but humans are also part of nature. We’ve been here for so long now, and a lot of animals also depend on us. You take us out of the equation and suddenly we open up the doors for other predators.” I never thought of it like that.


George the Poet is of Ugandan descent, living in London. It’s brilliant. It’s poetic. It’s beautiful.


I do find it interesting that in a world where we absolutely want to have inclusion, we’re creating so many more boxes to put ourselves into. Suddenly it doesn’t seem very free and very open, but very the opposite. Have we taken over what we hate about algorithms in the way that we look at the world? That, without wanting to, we steer our focus toward what will confirm our bias?


I’d been to Africa before, but standing with a Maasai man, walking over the Serengeti, then 50 giraffes suddenly come running past and the wildebeest is there and he’s talking about the lions over there, and feeling the whole ground shaking — it was humbling.


I am insanely excited about this show from two of the guys [Dan Weiss and David Benioff, with Alexander Woo] who did “Game of Thrones.” It’s sci-fi, and this is how I understood it: We know that aliens are coming. They won’t be coming for a long time, but they’re going to come to take over. So how are we going to deal with this?


There are so many incredible storytellers. If you want to watch a movie that will blow your mind, one film that really stood out to me and touched me massively is a Swedish film by the Iranian Swedish director Ali Abbasi. I could also recommend his second feature, “Holy Spider.” Brilliant.


A small gallery, but they’ve got some amazing stuff. I love everything miniature, the idea that we are flying through space on this planet, and if you zoom out far enough, we literally are just a pebble on a beach.

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