"You get to experience places that you've never gone to before," the actor tells PEOPLE of his new Bloomberg docuseries, 'An Optimist's Guide to the Planet'
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau became famous across the globe as the dashing yet complicated Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones, but nowadays the actor is more concerned with the future of Earth than drama in the Seven Kingdoms.
"If you look just 50 years back at all these issues — gender equality, eliminating extreme hunger, access to education, LGBTQ rights, civil liberties — we are in a whole so much better today than we were 50 years ago," Coster-Waldau, 53, tells PEOPLE at the premiere of his new docuseries, An Optimist's Guide to the Planet, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City on Jan. 31. "And there's a lot of work to do, but we are doing so much better. Climate change, we're not. We have to do better but we can and we will."
That's the focus of his six-episode series, which premiered Thursday on Bloomberg Originals and Bloomberg TV and can be streamed on Bloomberg.com, YouTube and the Bloomberg app. (Watch the first episode here.)
"The series captures Coster-Waldau and his team as they criss-cross the globe exploring humanity, witnessing its power for good, and learning about some of the remarkable solutions (both old and new) that inspire his optimism for the future," reads Bloomberg's description of the project. "On their journey they visit: Greenland, Australia, United States, Japan, Vietnam, Germany, Kenya, St. Vincent, Spain, Mexico, The Netherlands and Switzerland."
In total, the Emmy-nominated actor visited 15 different countries to film his new project. And while he had a blast, it wasn't all a smooth ride.
"I got quite sick," he says of his ailments, which included seasickness and some alarming rashes he has a sense of humor about in the first episode. "I like people and I like to meet people. And of course, I was shaking a lot of hands, and I mean a lot and I picked up a lot of [germs]... I got to say quite a bit. But listen, that's part of it. And I would never want to hold back."
"It's this journey where you get to see this world," he adds. "You get to experience places that you've never gone to before... We have some great moments."
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One of those moments included meeting a Kenyan man at the Nashulai Maasai Conservancy, "the first Maasai conservancy in the Maasai Mara to be created, governed and managed by the people whose ancestors have inhabited this beautiful land for centuries, understand it intimately, and have sustained themselves and their herds in harmony with the natural life of this globally important ecosystem," according to its website.
The goal of the 5,000-acre community is to conserve wildlife, reverse poverty and preserve culture with a holistic approach.
"He said, 'Listen, nashulai,' which basically means balance between man and nature," says Coster-Waldau. "And that's what they were aiming for there. He said, 'Well, what we want is what we used to have: no borders, no fencing, let animals and livestock live together.' And then we walked out, and then suddenly we had all these giraffes, the wildebeests — all the animals just suddenly felt like they were running around me. And I was absolutely blown away by the beauty and the shift in perspective."
Coster-Waldau hopes that viewers will find inspiration in the places and people he visits in the show to counter pessimism resulting from heartbreaking headlines on the climate crisis.
"Everywhere, people are coming up with new ideas, new solutions, new ways of approaching problems," he says. "It has to give you hope."
"I refuse to believe that we are so stupid that we're going to destroy the only planet we have," he adds. "We're not."
Part of what drives Coster-Waldau is wanting to protect the planet for future generations.
"I've shown [my children] bits and pieces, and they're very excited," he says of his daughters Safina, 20, and Fillippa, 23, whom he shares with wife Nukaaka, 52.
"I know they both have dreams of maybe having kids one day," he says, "and so they don't have that kind of negative outlook or fear of the future, which I'm very happy about because I think there's nothing worse than fear."
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