Men’s Journal’s Everyday Warrior With Mike Sarraille is a new podcast that inspires individuals to live more fulfilling lives by having conversations with disrupters and high performers in all walks of life. In our seventeenth episode, we spoke to Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

Listen to the full episode above (scroll down for the transcript) and see more from this series below.

This interview has not been edited for length or clarity.


Mike Sarraille:
Welcome to the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior podcast. I’m excited for this one. We’ve got Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Um, unfortunately, you know, to stereotype you, everyone knows you as Jamie Lannister. Except I gotta tell you this story. So my wife is probably one of 100 people in the United States that didn’t watch Game of Thrones.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Well, then you can add my wife to it. So there’s two of them <laugh>

Mike Sarraille:
But she did know you, uh, and you know, I said the name she’s like, the name is so familiar. So I pulled up the other woman and she, she sort of had this frown. She’s like, oh, that guy, cuz you played it so well, uh, she’s like men. So, um, funny story, but uh Nielly thanks for joining us. Um, want to get into your background cuz people rarely, rarely understand the environments in the back stories that shape the people we watch on TV or, or sports or, or significant business leaders, politicians, um, let’s dive into, into your life. I mean, uh, I read that you were born into a village of 40 people

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Yeah. In a, in a good year. Yeah. It was kind of, there was a<laugh> it was tiny. It was uh it’s in Denmark, a tiny farming community. Uh, one of those villages that is kind of built around a big farm. So the houses that were there were kind of for the farm workers. Um, and um, we moved there when I was five, my parents divorced. So I was there with my mom, my two older sisters. Um, so yeah, we grew up there. Um, I, yeah, I always think of my childhood as, as good. I was, you know, had great friends, but, but it was, uh, it was, you know, it’s, it’s funny that thing you I’m sure you can relate to that. You get older, you always think that, well, my childhood was just my childhood, but then compared to, to others, you realize it was, it was, um, as always, it it’s unique and special, but, but I, you know, I had a lot of time on my own.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Um, there was no supervision, there was no, um, um, there were no adults interfering if, if you will. Um, my mom had to trust, had trust in, in, in, in us as kids, she had to, she had to go to work. Um, um, and um, and my dad was, um, as I said, they divorced and then later they remarried, which was, uh, I not a necessarily, <laugh> a smart choice. My dad worked in, in, in Greenland at that time. There’s an, an American air force base at the very top of Greenland tool. And he worked there and he would come back every three months for a month and then, you know, it would be, the first week would be great. He would still have money in his pocket and then the next few weeks would be less great and then he would take off. So it was kind of, uh, that was the routine. Um, and then they remarried and then the divorced again, because obviously there was a reason they divorced the first time.

Mike Sarraille:
It, it seems from doing the research you’ve, uh, been surrounded by women all your life. Uh, you’ve got two sisters. Uh, you now you have your wife, two daughters. How’s how’s that impacted you?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Well, I mean, I, I think I’ve been very lucky. I mean, I it’s, it’s a, it’s a, yeah, I guess I, at one point when I was younger, there was a definitely a search for father figure that I was, you know, obviously wanted to get from my dad. I didn’t get that. So I got that from various coaches, you know, you know, looking for someone teachers, but I think it’s, you know, I, I, it’s a good thing to have a lot of, um, you know, the female perspective, um, in your life. Uh, and it also, I guess for a lot of guys, when you grow up, if you don’t have that, it can kind of be, women are very intimidating if you, if you’re not used to it, do you know what I mean? Like that, that, that I never had that kind of fear of, of women because they are different, you know, they are, you know, they, it’s, it’s a whole different thing.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
And I, I kind of, I was exposed to all that, um, early on, in a big way. So, so, um, I tried to think of it as a, as a positive. Um, but, uh, <laugh>, I dunno, maybe you have to ask my wife about that. She’s probably gonna say, what are you talking about? You don’t understand. She’s like what? Yeah, but I’ve always had very strong friend male friendships. And, uh, and I think that, um, I, I obviously have female friends as well, but my male friendships are really the one, the ones that are the deepest. And I think maybe there’s a reason for that, that I, I needed that,

Mike Sarraille:
You know, you’ve talked and, and, and I always hate to, to, to dive into tough issues, but, you know, publicly you’ve talked about your father and his alcoholism. And when I think of cuz we are all shaped by our environments, I, I don’t think anything, anyone will, will, will doubt that, uh, nature versus nurture, uh, nurture has definitely something to, to do with our, our, our raising in, in how we become. But shot collar is a perfect example of this. You were, uh, a, a traditional family man thrust into an environment. And in order to, to survive that, that environment, uh, you had to adapt to that environment. Um, what did you learn from your father’s alcoholism? I mean, one, when you were a child, I mean, that, that had to be a different perspective and how’s that shaped you as a man?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
My dad was like, alcoholism is just, it’s a, it’s a horrible thing. Cause it’s like a disease and it just infects everything. And it, it has consequences, not just for yourself, but also of course, for your family and, and your surroundings. He, so I, I guess I, the, the very basic answer is like, I always, for me, when I hear that, that, uh, this guy became, I mean, I guess there are two ways you can look at it, you can, you can go, well, it runs in the family. So the classic is, well, his dad was an alcoholic, so he became an alcoholic. So his kids are gonna be alcoholic. And I was kind of the opposite. I was like, well, I’m never gonna, I’m never gonna be like that, that I don’t want. Um, because it was, it was so, you know, it was something that was controlling him in a, such a negative way.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
And, um, it ruined his life. I mean, he had, you know, that was always something that I never understood that, um, I can understand it like intellectually, I can look at it, but, but emotionally I never understood. How can you have, like, you have three kids and you just, you just, this is, it’s more important for you to have a drink. Like, that’s that I just couldn’t, you know, emotionally understand that. And then of course I can, I can understand intellectually as a grown, I enough’s a, its it’s addiction. It’s, it’s bigger than you. Unfortunately, I guess in some ways it shaped me in, in, in, in, you know, not wanting to do that. Um, and it’s also sometimes I guess that’s in a, in a positive way. Negative can also be that I’ve, I’ve, you know, sometimes been afraid of losing control if you will.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
So everything has been very focused, always, uh, and there’s a strength and, and, and a positive in that, but it can also be negative cuz sometimes it’s important to be able to just, you know, to be in the moment and, and let you know, not always want to know what’s what happens around the next corner, but allow it to happen. So I’ve worked with that, but no, but, and then the funny thing and the thing about, and that that’s something I thought about as a grown up is that kids, you love your parents. It’s almost unconditional. I mean, they, they have, I mean, even when they really mess up there is still love there. And um, and that’s, I just, I remember when my, my father passed it more than 20 years ago, he was, he was 58 and, uh, it was just, it was such, it was so painful because I never got to know the guy.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
And that was what you always want. Like in a way as a kid, you always, that’s what you’re looking. That’s what, what you kind of, your whole childhood is, is going, leading you towards the points where you can finally go, all right. I am a man now let’s hello? Who are you? Like, you know, you know, where you get to know your parents as, as a grown up and uh, and that’s, uh, yeah, they shouldn’t have remarried. It was, uh, it was kind of a out of necessity. I think my, my mom was alone with, with three kids and, and he was away all the time. So anyway, but yeah, I think that sometimes it’s, um, um, you know, I do believe like I’m, I’ve been married for 24 years and I’m very happy with my wife. And of course, I don’t know if you’ve been married, but like, like it, you know, any relationship has its ups and downs and, and I do feel for us, you know, it’s uh, no, but I do feel like once we’ve gone through those tough patches, we kind of come out the other side stronger. That doesn’t always, that is not necessarily the case for everyone. And I know for my parents, it was definitely not the case. And then when they finally tore off the bandaid, it was, it was for the best,

Mike Sarraille:
I I’ve gotta assume game of Thrones took you away from your family for, for a long time. Uh, how, how did you deal with that with the family? I mean, what, what did you explain to the girls when you were gonna be gone for what I’m assuming month, month?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Well, actually it wasn’t the game of throne wasn’t was not bad. A lot of the other shows I’ve done in movies are much worse. I mean, game of Thrones until the last two seasons, the most I worked a season would be 25 days, 30 days. So this was like the perfect job in terms of, uh, family. And it was shooting in Europe so I could fly. It was a couple of hour flight. It was, it was easy. It was nothing there. And they, and they also would, would join me sometimes. So that was, that was an easy one. It, I think the, the hardest in my whole career has been the last few years with COVID because when I’ve been working, I was in Mexico last year, before that was in Iceland. And that’ suddenly, it becomes five, six months away because you can break COVID protocol. That’s been tough. Right. But what about you? I mean, are you married?

Mike Sarraille:
So, uh, unfortunately, and you know, this community that I come from, well, there was a high divorce rate. Uh, we had like a 95% divorce rate, uh, cuz we were gone so often and we’re not that’s I, I don’t say that with any pride whatsoever. That is a horrible thing. And families were, I don’t wanna say families were destroyed, but families were broken, uh, because of it. I mean that was just the, the speed of war for 20 years.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
What was the longest? What’s the longest? You’ve been away

Mike Sarraille:
Eight months

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
At a time, eight

Mike Sarraille:
Months.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Oh wow.

Mike Sarraille:
I, I I’ll tell you this. I, my son was born in 2008, one month later, I had to, uh, deploy to, uh, Iraq for a seven month deployment. And when I got home, I tried to surprise the family. So I came around to the back sliding door and my daughter was, uh, she was four by this point. Uh, but then this young toddler starts crawling around the, uh, the side of the couch band. I broke out in tears. Um, it was of course realization that like, I don’t wanna say I was failing as a father, but it was a realization that I’m not fulfilling the traditional fatherly roles if I’m gone that, that long. So it was, it was a balance for us, man.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Yeah. And, and are you you still together or did you then, did it break up on the

Mike Sarraille:
No. Um, who’s, who’s interviewing who here? Uh, no, I’m ju I’m kidding with you.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Well, it’s a, it’s a conversation.

Mike Sarraille:
I, um, no, uh, two, two amazing kids, uh, out of that marriage, um, who I’m, I’m extremely proud of. Uh, I, I am remarried and, and I’ll tell you that, uh, very strong-willed woman, uh, I’ll, I’ll tell you, regardless of my background, she, she runs at home and it’s a partnership, but, um, I, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve taken some time to reflect on my first marriage, uh, to make sure that, um, when I, I knew I was sure when I married her, but, uh, we will eventually probably have kids. Sure. But making sure that, uh,

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
How did, how did, so one thing I always wonder when I, because of, you know, when I’ve spoken to, to, um, um, soldiers and people who’ve deployed like you, and when you, when you do what you did, um, when you were active, the fact that it’s very difficult to cuz when I, when I go away, if I want to talk about with my wife about whatever happened at work, I’ll, I’ll talk to her about it and it’s easy to share and you know, that’s, you couldn’t do that or you that’s a different kind of thing. And how do you deal with that? Because obviously that instantly that is a, that must be, I just always found that that must be the one thing that’s tricky in a, in a relationship where you want to be as close as you possibly can emotionally. But at the same time, there’s something that is just very, very difficult

Mike Sarraille:
To share. I did want to expose them to that. Um, we I’ve always told my kids, you know, they had, uh, some sort of idea of what I did, but I’d always say that, like I was a supply officer that I got the resources for the guys that go outside the, uh, the wire, even though that wasn’t true. But, uh, there was a high degree of com compartmentalization, um, that, that my, my problem to deal with the horrors, we saw the guys we left behind the things we had to do because you know, and again, nickel, I, you, you saw this, uh, stuttering studying for the role to play Gary Gordon. But, um, in order to send people, evil people away, sometimes you have to go to hell, hell, hell yourself. It’s there. There’s nothing beautiful about war whatsoever. And I, you know, we follow the

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Rules. No, it’s funny. It’s an interesting thing. Cause I remember, um, I was talking to another of your colleagues and then he was just saying, God, you know, I wish more politicians had, had, had seen what we’ve seen, cuz then they would work much harder to avoid war cause that it should always be the last resort that should always, nobody wants that.

Mike Sarraille:
When, when diplomacy fails, it is a failure, uh, of humanity. I’ll put it to you that way. I will, I’ll say this, my father served in the army. He didn’t go to Vietnam, but it was during the Vietnam era and it destroyed him because I came home wounded on my second deployment pretty badly. And I’d lost, uh, a very good friend, literally on her grenade, three feet from me. He, he was Oly awarded the, uh, the medal of honor, but he saved my life and it destroyed him because that was my second deployment. I went on nine more deployments after that and it destroyed him. I will be eternally grateful if my son chooses a different path and never goes into the military, I’ll be inwardly proud of them, but I don’t want to feel what a father and a mother felt, uh, for seven months while they’re child. Uh, whether that child’s 23 year old, 23, 23 year old or, or 30 year old. Um, I don’t, I don’t want to ever feel that. Um, yeah, it’s, it’s interesting, man. But so, I mean your first major role in the us was Blackhawk now.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Yes, no, it was an amazing experience also. Cause I, I learned so much. I remember we, we, I, I, I, you know, I, I just did a, you know, I did a tape at home with a buddy and then we send it off and Ridley Scott liked it. And then suddenly I get this call that I’m on my way to Fort Bragg and um, and, and, and bootcamp, and was the most fun. It was so cool was just the three of us. There was me, Eric Bann and William Fickner. Um, and then they were 12 instructors and they, the first day they were like, okay, we discussed what to do with you, Hollywood guys. Um, and we felt my, you know, we were either gonna just, you know, beat you up for a week, uh, or we were gonna have fun. So we decided to have fun and we had so much fun.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
And what was interesting was that we both, both these two groups, there was these three actors and these, this group of, of, of, of structured soldiers from, from the special forces, they, we all had these preconceived opinions about the others. They were like, oh, we’re gonna have these soft, you know, you know, you know, you know, actors from Hollywood and they, they don’t know anything about real life. And, and we were like, oh, we’re gonna have read these, this bunch of Rambos that all, you know, all these preconceived opinions. And of course what we found out was that it was the opposite. Um, first of all, that you don’t get to be work for the special forces, uh, without having you being really smart and really thoughtful and, and, you know, you’re there for the right reasons and you, and, and you’ve worked really, really hard and you’re very talented.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
And then, you know, it, and there’s no room for someone who’s like a, like if now when I say ramble, you know what I mean? Like that kind of, uh, you know, that kind of mentality, there’s just, no, you, you have to be able to, to, uh, you have to be smart. Um, and, and, and, and they saw us as, as just connected. It was really, really, was it just, it just taught me something about, um, and, and, and it keeps, I think in my life, I always, I’m constantly reminded of that also when I’ve been traveling and whenever I go anywhere don’t ever jump to conclusions and, and don’t ever, you know, assume, you know, people or any, whatever it is like at the, at the core, I would say 99.9% of, of people I meet are really decent, good people. And always interesting, you know, you know what I mean? There are always gonna be someone where you go, oh, what a Dick, but that doesn’t, it’s really the outliers. Um, and of course in any, in any job function where you meet someone who’s at the top of their game, usually they’re really interesting cuz they’ve, they’ve, uh, they’ve had to, there’s a reason they, they are where they are,

Mike Sarraille:
Dude. You’ve just said so many things that I want to dissect. Uh, you know, I said it earlier, uh, Hollywood is the greatest recruiting tool for any military. I mean, it’s always been the propaganda machine and, and I’m not saying that in a bad way, what sets you guys apart? Why I loved black Hawk down in particular, the characters you guys played Delta force. I mean, in, in the movie, the Rangers, you know, had that youthful, uh, ignorance in the Rangers are like that the 75th ranger regiment is awesome, but you guys nailed this role so well when, again, while Hollywood may be a great recruiting tool, it does not always cast, uh, our profession in a great light. Again, the Rambos when I talked about the most lethal warriors, I knew at seal team six in Delta is they were some of the kindest, most respectful, empathetic human beings that would never tell you how many kills they got, how many metals they have, or how many deployments they had. And you guys really portrayed these mature well, let’s, let’s call it operators, um, that anyone would be like, yeah, we’re proud that they represent any nation that, that they represent. But, um, what I mean, did you get to talk to anyone that knew,

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
But it was just, yeah, no, no. We had, we, when we were at Fort Bryan, we also had OB, obviously we had Lee and our sale who was like, you know, he was our main instructor. He was also the, the Colonel. He was at, you know, he was there at the time he was leading them. Um, but we also met, uh, we had coffee and, and dinner with some of the guys who, um, who were no longer will with Delta, but we were still living around Fort brag. And we just, it was just the nicest guys. And, and then they would never, as you say, they would never say anything, but then one of them had, you know, he was kind of the guy who Eric Van’s character was kind of modeled on. And, uh, and he was like, just said, what he did that, you know, those 18 hours was just so heroic and so insane.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Like he just saved so many people. And he said something which I thought was interesting. He said, well, the only thing I remember was that I didn’t hear a sound like he was in the craziest gun battle. And it was like complete SI. There was just something about the way he described it, because his focus was so intense that he was not, he wasn’t that whole thing, that ability to not let, let everything the madness affect you, but still stay focused. I just, I thought, I mean, the way he described it was just really interesting. And again, as you said, the nicest guy, I would never, and that was the only guys I met. I would never, if I didn’t know, had picked them out as, as, as some of the, you know, as you said, the most lethal soldiers in the world or the most accomplished, I would never in a million years, because that’s not, as you said, that’s not usually how Hollywood portrays, uh, those guys usually they’re like, like who come on, kill. Yeah. Go all that stuff. It’s funny. You said that thing about recruitment tool. I, I was just reading about, like, it was just that the new top gun that came out back in the day when the first top gun came out, air force had the biggest, you know, spike ever. And I bet you it’s happening right now.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah, yeah.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Again,

Mike Sarraille:
Anyway, aviation community is, is definitely, uh, gonna, yes. Uh, let me ask this man. Were they shocked when they found out you were Danish?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Uh, yeah. I, I mean, I didn’t tell anyone. I mean, I, um, I didn’t, uh, I don’t, unless they asked, I didn’t, I didn’t mention it, uh, cuz I thought why, why, why, why ruin the uh, <laugh> why ruin the illusion? I had one, uh, kinda interesting, you know, in, at Fort Bragg, there’s the special forces museum. And I went there with, uh, I went there on my own and um, and there’s a wall, uh, of yellow stars at the end of the museum when you come through the whole thing. And at that time, the last two, uh, golden stars were, uh, Randy shoe and Gary Gordon. And then this guy came up to me and he was like, then next to me, he was like, oh, so you, you won them Hollywood guys. And I said, yeah, yeah, I’m I’m an actor. Huh? Who you play?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
I say it, well, I I’m I’m I’m on, I’m gonna I’m portraying Gary Gordon. You don’t look like Gary. No, I, no, I don’t. I know, I know. I, I don’t. That was a big shoes to fill. Yeah. Well sir, I, I will, I will do my very best. I will, you know, and was, it was clearly someone who knew him and, and, but he, it was just, it was very moving to me because suddenly it just, it just hit home. You know, that thing where this I, this is like before we, we went out to Morocco where we shot, but up until then it had been so much, I had had so much fun training for this and it was another part. And I was like, there was something about it, which, you know, I was so excited, you know, Ridley Scott and all these things.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Um, but when I spoke to this guy, I was, it was suddenly just, it, it was standing in front of that wall. It became so, um, it was just a very, uh, sobering moment where I went like, okay, I, I have to, I have to get, do my, I have to do my very best. And also when we came out and I, I, I spoke to Ridley and I, I, I, uh, I told him the same thing. I said, listen, I mean, I know there are four, there’s so many stories in this. This is really a story about this war battle more than it is about the characters. But I said, if there’s anything, you know, we can do, I want to, you know, show our respect to these, these men who, uh, who gave their lives. And he, then if you remember, the very last shot in the movie is this beautiful shot of the, you know, the cargo plane and you see the caskets and then you hear, uh, it’s actually Gary’s words, the letter that was, that was in his, uh, um, that, that left beyond that, that you guys, I guess you all have to write a letter in case something bad happens.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Um, so that I was very, I was, I was, it meant a lot to me and I was very proud that they, that he, that he put that in there because yeah, you know, it is a movie, it is entertainment, but this specific movie was also, it was a real event and, and people lost their lives. And,

Mike Sarraille:
Uh, Niel, I let me put it to you this way, man, from all of us in the us military, thank you for what you guys did, cuz you memorialized those men and you kept their legacies alive and their legacies will live on because of that movie. I’ve, you know, I just went with a buddy, uh, to Iceland where we skydived in, uh, into several locations trying to, uh,

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Oh, wow.

Mike Sarraille:
To, to uphold the legacy, it’s called legacy expeditions to keep the legacy of our fallen alive. Uh, and it’s, it’s tougher than you think. And, and you got to see firsthand the type of men yeah. That these, these people were men and women, both men and women. Let me say that in the military, that, that yeah. Are so selfless for something they believe in. So you guys, you guys absolutely crushed it. And, and that movie for will forever be always a, uh, a go to for a lot of military, uh, members, but naturally, you know, everyone listen, listening to this wants to go to, uh, to game of Thrones. Dude, walk me, uh, walk me into how that even came to, to fruition. I mean, were you approached, did you hear they were producing something? How, how did that, how did you land that role first

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Off? No, I was, uh, it was, uh, <laugh>. I was in, in Los Angeles. I was testing for this movie that I was really excited about called John Carter or Morris, um, that, you know, I, I thought, you know, I thought I was gonna get, I was gonna nail this thing and I was gonna get it. And it was gonna be the biggest movie of all time. That’s what I thought. I didn’t get the part, but on the same trip I met with my agent said, there’s this HBO pilot, which pilot is the first episode of a show, a test. They do a test before they decide whether they want to finance it. So, um, and I said, okay, but my focus was all about this thing, but it was HBO. So I thought what’s it about? And he said something about it’s based on this series of books called the song of, of ice and fire.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
It’s like a fantasy. And I was like, I’m not sure. I mean, fantasies that really, but I met the, I met with, with the guys and I was like, they were really cool. Like I, you know, that thing when you meet someone where you go, oh, I wanna, I wanna play with these guys. Like then, then wise David Benoff was just smart and fun. And, and I, you know, I was like, wow, this is in. Then I read the, and I read the, and I thought, okay, this character is fascinating. He’s this beginning of a, of a story arc is so interesting cuz it’s so dark and he’s, doesn’t worse that he’s, you know, sleeping with his sister. He’s trying to kill his, this kid. And you know, this is, this is weird. And then I, they told me what was gonna happen for the first three season.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
And then, um, yeah. Then, then, then I was offered the part and, and, and uh, and we shot the pilot and, and I think when we shot it, we all thought this was gonna be, this was, was just gonna be a pilot because they were so weird and so many stories, so complicated to follow. Um, so everything about game of throne was kind of an, uh, you know, what, no one saw it coming. That was gonna be such a, a massive thing. And, and, and I wasn’t actively looking for it. It just kind of suddenly appeared. You know, I, I, I, I have to, I know I have to, to and make my answers shorter. I have a tendency. You,

Mike Sarraille:
You one, I, I know one you were up for, you know, the Emmy ward nomination for outstanding supporting actor, but, uh, certain, uh, film, uh, I don’t know, critics said you played one of the best anti heroes in film history. And in a lot of ways, Jamie Leister became the main character that people followed. I, I mean, he was so complex. Um, what did you learn from that role? Cause I, I, I know the, the amputation of his hand sort of transformed that character as well. How, how did you deal?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. No, I just thought I, you, you know, it’s funny, it goes back to, you tried to understand where does this guy come from? And, and, and, and you talk about complicated relationship with his dad. You didn’t have a mother and it all began there. Of course, then the sister relation that whole family relationship, how messed up that was. And then, uh, at the core, he’s a, the way I see him, uh, a very, uh, he, he’s a soldier and he’s a, he’s a, he’s a, he’s, he’s a very honorable, uh, uh, the way I saw him and the way I, I always, you know, that didn’t wave, I didn’t change over the course of the story. I know he had a big arc in terms of, of, of the circumstances of his life changed, but the very core of him was always, um, I will do anything to protect the people I love and what I believe in. And he did that and, and that made me, and that meant, uh, you know, uh, even doing horrible things like, you know, who wanted you, how can you, you cannot, and I don’t think he would ever, um, talk about him as if he’s a real person. Of course he’s not, but I don’t think Jamie land would ever try to excuse, uh, pushing a kid out the window, but he would also, he would probably do it again if he had to. And, and I could, I could understand. And I think that, that was interesting.

Mike Sarraille:
That brings up a good question as a father, man, would you, and I know my answer, man. I’m not trying to walk you

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
No, let,

Mike Sarraille:
There are things I would do to

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
No, no, no. But the list at the end of the day, I figure, as you say, once you have kids, you will do anything. I mean, like it it’s, if you had to choose between saving your kids or someone that you’ve never met before, it, you know, you’re gonna pick your own kids, you might have to kill yourself if you couldn’t live with what you did. Yeah. But, but you would still pick your kids. That that’s just, I mean, the way I see it, I, I don’t see how that could be any other

Mike Sarraille:
Choice. You know, you, you know, we, you, we’ve talked about earlier, you hate when people make, uh, you know, assumptions based off of, uh, uh, you know, gossip and, and, and other things, but

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Sure.

Mike Sarraille:
Let me frame it this way. You’ve gotta be wildly proud of playing Jamie Lancaster on one of the greatest series in film history, but does it get to a point where you have to redefine yourself? I mean, has, has a stereotype been placed on you because of that?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
No, I don’t. I, no, I don’t. I mean, listen, it’s always gonna be there. Cause as you say it, it was the, it, it, you know, it was biggest show in the world so that, so obviously most people will know me from, from that show. Um, but that’s, that’s okay. I mean, the, the funny thing is the first thing I ever did as an actor, bang in Denmark was a movie that became very, very successful. So for years I was known as that guy. It’s just the way it is. I mean, there’s, if you start, you know, yeah. That, it’s just the way it is. And the thing is, I, I am, I’m, you know, there’s been, this is also, um, a lot of people have then seen other, seeing other shows I’ve done because of game throne. They, oh, oh, we’re gonna check that out.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Let’s check out shock caller. That’s the guy, Jamie Lenox. Let’s just see what that is. And I’ve had so much great feedback from that or, or any of the other movies I’ve done. So, um, I don’t, you know, it’s not a, I’m not, you know, as you, I mean, I haven’t done 10 other nights cuz I don’t think I should. Yeah. I’m looking for, I’m not looking for that, but uh, no, it’s, uh, it’s a, it’s a, it’s fine. You know, I don’t mind that, you know, yes. People will sometimes go, Hey Jamie LA or Kings player. That’s, that’s absolutely fine. It’s as long as they don’t throw tomatoes or you know what, it’s, it’s a good, it’s

Mike Sarraille:
A good problem. It’s a great problem to have, I, I gotta tell you this, when, uh, on deployment we looked forward to those releases. It was almost painful that they only released one a week when, when they came out there <laugh> we, we were addicted to that, uh, serious, but you brought up a role, which I I’m gonna say is my personal favorite because it’s just so I, I mean the initial part of the role of shot collar is, is, is maybe more similar to who you are as a, as an individual, a father, a family man. And then this guy transforms in a let’s just like I would rather go back to war 10 times than end up in a penitentiary.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Oh my God. I, I talk about, you know, you know, I learned, I learned a lot from that movie. It was really, um, cause I, I, again, I I’d seen, I’d seen movies. I’d heard stories about the, uh, prison system, especially in, in the, when I did the research and found out and Rick wall who’s, who’s great director who really goes deep in his, in his research. Um, he took me these trips and I met these guys and, and it’s, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s scary how the, how real, the story of sh of course it’s a movie and you know, it, it it’s, it’s, you know, it get, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, but everything that happened, I met guys who’d been through that whole journey, uh, and it’s just, it, it was heartbreaking. And it’s also, um, it’s, it’s just a very scary thing because, because you go, how could that possibly happen in this day and age?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
How can, you know how you don’t just throw young men into, into the shark tanks, but, but we do. And it’s, uh, uh, it is funny I’ve, I’ve met <laugh>, I’ve met a lot of people who love, especially here, people come and say, yeah, I’m never gonna have a drink when I drive again. This is like, you know, it’s, uh, it’s scary thing cuz that’s, that’s what happened for the guy. He, you know, has a drank too many. He gets behind the wheel of a car and a horrible accident happens and, and he has to go away. And then, and, and the reality of, of, of, of going is, is it’s, it’s not a fun place. It shouldn’t be a fun place, but it, it, um, there are things in the system that is so, I mean, I, I didn’t even know. I didn’t know, like all, like all the gangs, I had no idea that the gang system was created inside and it still run from the, in inside of prisons.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
It just seems so it’s crazy. But anyway, yeah, it’s it was a, it was a, it was a, it was a very interesting shoot, um, with a great direct by, by the way, talk about, um, Rick wall, the director, he did a just, I dunno if you’ve seen it, he did a documentary about, uh, a veteran, uh, which is absolutely it’s so good. Um, and uh, I just wanna find the name cause I want, I want to, if anyone’s, cause you just said you, you did work for, to remember, you know, veterans and, and, and, and uh, this movie is just one of the Mo most it’s so moving. Uh, and it’s so powerful. Um, and I just wanna, I wanna just throw it out there so people can check it out.

Mike Sarraille:
So for shot caller, you had to put on 20 pounds. And I remember there was a men’s journal article about that was, it was interesting. And, uh, you fed yourself to the point where, uh, maybe you didn’t know if this was all that healthy or not.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
No, I it’s. I had to put on a lot of, a lot of muscle and, uh, I was, I was just working out like a piece, but then of course, you know, you have to eat so much. Um, and I, yeah. And, uh, yeah, I was, uh, <laugh> there was a lot of animals killed so I could grow.

Mike Sarraille:
Did, did you, uh, work the weight off afterwards?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Oh yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean that, I mean, I, it’s funny. I found that, uh, obviously when you get older, it takes a little longer, uh, I Al I’ve putting on muscle. I mean, I love the way that, you know, I’m joking with friends that sometimes if you go and you work out and they were like, they don’t want do certain, you know, they go, no, I don’t wanna get too big and you go, listen, you’re not gonna get too big. It’s gotta, it takes so long for you to get big. Um, but, uh, yeah, I could get rid of it fairly easy, but, but putting on the muscle is just, it’s just, it takes a lot of time. Did I lose you again?

Mike Sarraille:
No, no, no. I’m here froze.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Um, so,

Mike Sarraille:
You know, we end this on, on, uh, sort of a note of vulner of vulnerability. I I’m big about vulnerability. I think it’s one of the most masculine human traits you can ever have. So we ask a series of questions, um, and we don’t like to play Trump, but take as much time as you need. What is the, uh, probably the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make in, in your life?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
It’s an interesting thing. It’s like the hardest decisions are for me, usually just hard before you, before you finally take them when they do them. And then when you, when you’ve done it, it’s like, oh yeah, well, that’s done now. Um, I think it’s, it’s, it’s, um, I’ve had very, you know, I find it difficult to, uh, if I have to let people go, um, you know, and I think most people have that, but when you have to kind of move on from someone, uh, and you know, that it, and I’m not talking about a romantic relationship, but it could be a work relationship friend. Those moments have been very, very tough, a very hard, um, um, but, uh, I’ve never regretted any of those times, but, but those are the most difficult

Mike Sarraille:
Ones. What, what are those maybe two to three sort of non-negotiables those tenants you, you live by that have it, most times led to success for you, you know, discipline, uh, integrity. What, what, what do you preach to your, your daughters?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Well, it’s, it’s, it’s the basics, right? Honesty, uh, states just be honest. Uh, uh, um, and then, uh, perseverance grit. Um, I think that is the most valuable thing for anyone is like, you have to stick at it. I mean, what if, if you have something that you want to achieve, don’t put a time limit on it because that, that you, you, you can, but you just have to stay with it, stay the course. Um, so on a secret and then be kind, just be, be, be kind to people

Mike Sarraille:
That I, I, I think those are invaluable. Were, were there ever times during your, your film, your acting career where things just weren’t happening, rap rapid enough in, in your

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Question? The thing is if you, if, if you, if you have something SP I mean, like what I do, I’m an actor. I love, you know, diving into personality, exploring the human psyche and, and all these things. I’m not in it because I want to be the most famous guy in the world. Cause if that was the goal, I would’ve been, you know, I would’ve that’s that, how can that be a goal? It doesn’t interest me. Um, but sometimes, you know, when you’re younger, you, things are not, you know, when you start your career, you know, you’re not getting the offers you want, but, but I’ve always, I’ve never had doubt that I would find my way because I, I believed it in, in my heart. And then, and you know, so I guess to be honest, that one thing I got from my dad, because even when he was, he was such, he messed up his life, but there was one thing he, he always preached and that was like, you, you, you know, you have to work hard, um, and, and show up.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
And, and it’s very, you know, it’s that it is like, it’s like when you work out, it’s like, if you, you know, that thing about you wanna get in shape. Yeah. It’s just, it’s not that hard. It’s not that complicated, you know, just show up, you know, be, go to the gym or if you wanna lose weight, you just eat less. <laugh> I know, I know it sounds like I, and I don’t mean, listen, I know there are a lot of people with medical issue. I’m not trying to point a finger at anyone, but, but sometimes, you know, we, we overcomplicate things, uh, that really aren’t.

Mike Sarraille:
I, I think in the latter part of my military career, I had very little, uh, doubt, but now that I’ve gotten out and I’ve retired and in, in a lot of sense, you know, similar to Tyler Gray’s story, we’re redefining ourselves. I’ve, I’ve had a lot more doubt this, that, you know, since I’m 40 and I’m only 44 now, but, um, of, Hey, even even this for men’s journal, do I suck at interviewing people cuz this was not a, a, a skill I’ve had in having to learn this as quickly as possible has been, uh, it’s been a shot to the ego a little bit,

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
But that’s, that is good. That is, I think that is really good because I, you know, I doubt God, God knows. I’ve also had doubt, but I’ve never doubted that I was on the right trajectory and I was on the right course and all that. But I, I doubt myself all the time and I think that’s, I, I, I think it’s important to acknowledge and then to, to, to be able to, to kind of, uh, uh, to, to, to force yourself, to open up your mind to, to new things. Um, and, uh, and I said, as I said earlier, I have, I definitely have had, uh, issues of, of wanting to be able to control everything. And that’s, that is not good because then you miss out on, on, on, on good things. Uh, but doubt. Yeah. And I guess, and, and I definitely recognize that thing. You say getting older. Yeah. You, you re, but also once, you know, more, you realize there’s more to be, to, to be learned if, if that makes sense.

Mike Sarraille:
It, it makes,

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
You know, you know what I mean? Like they, the more, the more, you know, the more you there is to know, I mean, you know, and the, and, uh, I always find it, you know, there’s nothing, what, what is so strange, like most people I know, and everyone I meet when you meet and talk, we, when you connect with someone, you also realize that shit there, there’s so many ways to see, look at a situation and there’s not a right or wrong way. You know, we just come at it from different angles and this different perspective. And that’s really interesting. And we should, we should treasure that. And then suddenly you, you, you turn on the news, you read, you you’ve get the impression that, that, that, oh, no, no people are in two tribes. And this is like, and, and it’s just not real. It’s not a real, that is not how we live as human beings. It’s just not real. And it just, it just blows my mind, why we allow the narrative of, of division to rule our world. It’s a complete different story, but I, it just, it does, it does drive me crazy.

Mike Sarraille:
Uh, before we end, I do want to talk about your passion project and I’m actually excited, uh, about this one radio man, let’s, let’s hear this. Why you got involved with this? Why you’re excited?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Well, I, I, I’ve been working with my, like my, my closest friend, Joe Derek for years, he’s a writer we write together. We did a movie that you should check out called against the ice on, on Netflix, which we shot in ice in Greenland, which is about this Explorer. Amazing, really proud of that movie. And then we, we heard, heard about this, this real story about a, a killer in a small town in Eastern, uh, Eastern Europe. And we, we then got the core of that story. We, that was inspiring because it was basically about a guy who created his own, like a journalist who created his own crime story. Um, and we put that into the north of England, created this podcast that is called radioman and <affirmative>, and Joe wrote it. I star in it with the, with a guy with David Morris. You might have seen him in, um, uh, walking dead.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
And it’s just, it’s a, and then we were very lucky cuz cuz you know, I didn’t, I didn’t know podcast actually before, uh COVID I wasn’t really listening to podcasts. And suddenly I found myself having a lot of time, you know, and I was starting to listen to podcasts and it just, you know, now when I work out or in my car, I always have something on because it’s just a, it’s just a great way to, to, you know, to, to hear stories. And one of the, the, the, the, the stories I heard was a thing called the, uh, the Greenville tower, which, uh, was, was created by this guy. The sound was created by this guy called Ben brick. Um, and we, we got hold of him for our show. And what he does is he creates this audio world, which is like a, it’s like a mix of a movie and a book it’s just, it’s so vivid. Um, and yeah, I can talk about this a long time, but radioman, it’s UN audible. I am insanely proud of it. And, uh, if you’re listening for a true crime broadcast, that’s the one

Mike Sarraille:
Last question. How is ly gonna evaluate whether he’s lived a life, uh, of impact? What is most important to you, man? The legacy you’re gonna leave behind?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
Oh, I mean, I think that the legacy, I don’t know. I mean, I think that that’s, you know, as, you know, your kids will live on and then, and you know, hopefully they’ll be, you know, they’ll have some kids and I think that’s, I’m looking forward to that. I think for me, the big issue is if you talk about apart from the career and all that, there’s the, my family then, uh, I’ve, I’ve spent a lot of time working with the United nations development program. And there are some, you know, we, I’m gonna, we’re starting production on a documentary, which is called earth rise, which is about, you know, these challenges we all face globally, which is like, obviously the biggest one is the climate change, which is real, which is happening, which is gonna affect all of us. And it’s, it’s what we’re trying to, what I want to do is to, to, to, um, tell the story of, uh, of hope, uh, tell a story of, of that is solution based because there are actually incredible solution, incredibly smart people out there that have come up with solutions to some of these issues and, um, even, and also that we can scale.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
So I’m, we’re gonna tell the story about that. And I think that’s not my legacy, but that’s what I hope will be our legacy, all of us that we, uh, we were able, um, to, to, uh, correct to course correct. That’s what I really hope that when we, when we, you and I sit back in 30 years time and we are old, man, that we won’t be looking at a world that is falling apart, we’ll be going, thank God we, we stepped up. We as a species weren’t as stupid as we thought we were for a second.

Mike Sarraille:
If we don’t leave the place better than we found it, then we failed across the board so I could not agree more. Thank you for joining me. I’ve learned from this. I wish you and your family nothing but blessings and hopefully one day I can shake your hand in person.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:
I hope that I hope Mike. I hope we can meet. I would love to continue this conversation. It’s been a real pleasure.

Episode 18

Everyday Warrior Podcast Episode 18: Dr. Kirk Parsley
In episode eighteen, we spoke to Dr. Kirk Parsley, M.D., who specializes in sleep, wellness, and hormonal optimization. 
Play
Flip podcast card

Episode 19

Everyday Warrior Podcast Episode 19: Michael Gaffney
In episode nineteen, we spoke to Michael Gaffney, retired professional bull rider.
Play
Flip podcast card