Born: October 28, 1978 in Sussex, England, UK
Gwendoline Christie grew up in a hamlet near the South Downs in southern England. She trained as a semi-professional gymnast as a child, but after a spine injury forced her to abandon that career, she took up acting. She graduated from Drama Centre, London in 2005 and lives in London. In an interview with the Radio Times, she stated that she’s “lost track” of her age.
Her striking height, 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m), makes her feel “pretty genderless” at times, Christie said in 2013. Intrigued by her stature, photographer Polly Borland made Christie the subject of a noted series of photographs, Bunny, between 2002 and 2008. According to Christie, she felt then that the photographs, in which she appears mostly naked, could help her come to terms with her body, and challenge notions of femininity. But in retrospect, she said, she was shocked that she had agreed to them.
- “To be involved in something that is genuinely challenging gender stereotyping is what I’ve always wanted. I don’t have to worry about whether I look attractive. Brienne looks like a bag of dung – that’s the character and that’s fine – so I can focus on other things.“
- ―Gwendoline Christie on playing Brienne of Tarth
Gwendoline Christie is a British actress who has played several minor roles in films such as The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Game of Thrones is her first major role. She is 6’3″ in height (192 cm).
On Thrones she plays the character of Brienne of Tarth, who debuted in Season 2. She was announced in the role by George R.R. Martin on 8 July 2011. She joined the cast as a guest star in the second season.
Christie first heard about the role of Brienne of Tarth when a friend notified her that there was internet speculation that she was going to be cast in an HBO series (there are only so many 6’3″ tall actresses, thus Christie was on the short list of fansite speculation). Ironically, Christie had never heard about it before, but this very speculation led her to look up fansites and find out what Game of Thrones was, and about Brienne of Tarth. Christie utterly fell in love with Brienne, read the books and everything about them, and subsequently sought out the role.
For her role as Brienne, Christie trained extensively to get into the right physical condition, as well as cutting off her long hair and reading all of the available novels to study her character’s development in detail.HBO also had Christie take horseriding lessons, and she was trained in swordfighting by C.C. Smith.
Source: Game of Thrones Wiki
Interview by Andrew Davies-Cole
Fantasy fans are an impatient lot.
Not content to simply wait for news of Game Of Thrones’ second season, some were eagerly “fore-casting” its return before the clouds of season one had even cleared.
Fansite Winteriscoming.net earmarked London-based actor Gwendoline Christie in a shortlist of actors who could play the role of warrior maiden Brienne of Tarth months ahead of auditions actually taking place. One particular enthusiast emailed her agent to alert him to the part.
“Because of the stuff I’d seen online I’d already talked to my agent about it,” Christie reveals. “But he did say to me: ‘Someone’s emailed me about this – what’s going on?’
“I suppose that’s the power of the books – people feel so passionately. I thought that was lovely.”
She certainly must stand out at the auditions. One might be forgiven for thinking Christie – whose six foot three frame was once crowned by waves of blond hair – would have it made in the business from the very beginning. Few of her peers can match such a striking appearance. Yet she’d baulk at the suggestion she’s had it easy.
“It’s difficult, because many people can’t see past my height, and it’s been very difficult to be considered for parts simply because I’m six foot three.”
Raised in a small hamlet at the foot of the South Downs, tales of Sussex’s famous son Sir Laurence Olivier served to inspire Christie as she grew up.
“I graduated in 2005 from Drama Centre London, and had a very complex but wonderful training there,” she says. “I got a First as well… which made my father proud, and that pleased me.”
Pleasing too was her recent coup in being cast as master swordswoman Brienne who first turns up in episode three of the new season of Game Of Thrones, which UK viewers will get to see next Monday at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.
“I wanted the part so very badly because from reading the books the character was so like elements of myself and the kind you’d always want to play. I’ve not come across a part like this before, whereby the complexities of being an extremely tall woman are explored. So I decided I had to go all out for it.”
Previous stage roles – including Mrs Hubble in a 2005 RSC adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations and as the Queen of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline (opposite Tom “Loki” Hiddleston) in 2007 – helped hone her craft, as did a small role sharing scenes with future Academy Award winners Heath Ledger and Christopher Plummer in Terry Gilliam’s film The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus. Beyond these roles she’d also been mentored since drama school by actor and author Simon Callow.
But the lengths Christie went to ensnare the part in Game Of Thrones took her into new territory.
“I wasn’t someone who went to the gym, but a big part of this character is her physicality,” she says. “She’s not just tall, but big, broad, phenomenally strong. She’s extremely athletic, a master swordswoman and horse-rider.”
So she got some training in to prepare for the audition.
“Over six weeks a dear friend of mine worked with me: I started working out and lost a stone and a half,” she reveals, adding: “We did cardio-vascular exercises and I began to do yoga regularly. I stopped drinking, changed my diet entirely, and when I learnt I had a meeting coming up, I started kickboxing. I couldn’t find any sword-fighting places…but I read all of Brienne’s story throughout the books in detail and started watching the series.”
Christie felt tapping into the lifeblood of the character – discovering her psychology – was vital too.
“Because the character is very masculine, I changed what I wore. Because I was trained as a dancer – which helps feminise you if you’re extremely tall – I deliberately started wearing very unisexual clothing. I’d always been someone that’s had long blonde hair, wore lots of make up, dressed up and wore high heels, and this part was very far away from that.
“I’m the type of person that has to make those kinds of external changes to get in touch with and increase my own masculinity.”
- I don’t really have any interest in playing the same part again and again. Let’s just keep everything crossed that doesn’t happen.
- I don’t know, so much of women’s femininity is tied up with their hair.
- As a woman, we all want to feel attractive. We all want to feel that we’re making the very best of ourselves so we can accept ourselves.
- Part of the reason why I love acting is that you do hope that somehow your work will connect to people and somehow expand their consciousness somewhat, and being able to challenge notions of prejudice through work – through my work – is really thrilling.
- Genuine and true love is so rare that when you encounter it in any form, it’s a wonderful thing, to be utterly cherished in whatever form it takes.
- I’m certainly really rather tall at 6 foot 3, and I’ve been this way since I was 14, but for years, women who are even 5 foot 10 have come up to me in the street and said, ‘Oh, it’s so nice to see a woman who is taller than me. I’ve always felt like a giant.’
- ‘Game of Thrones’ is a fantasy show not dedicated to any specific time, but it seems to exist in sort of a 1400s medieval fantasy world, and in that setting, I wouldn’t have had a six-pack.
- I was a semi-professional gymnast as a child. I did rhythmic gymnastics, but I sustained an injury and strained all the muscles in my spine.