Hannah Waddingham was tortured for 10 hours for a scene in Game of Thrones

When I first watched Ted Lasso, I had totally forgotten that Hannah Waddington was in Game of Thrones. I had only remembered her from her small role on Sex Education. Hannah, as most of you probably do remember, played Septa Unella on GOT, aka the nun who walked Cersi through the town while chanting “shame.” And if you had also forgotten, you’re welcome!

Anyway, Hannah was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert earlier this week to promote her upcoming film, The Fall Guy, which she co-stars in with Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt. During the interview, she spoke about some pretty disturbing behind-the-scenes details involving the scene where Cersei imprisons Unella and waterboards her with wine. Hannah and Lena Headley have already shared that they hated filming that scene because poor Hannah was really waterboarded (wineboarded?). Well, Hannah revealed to Stephen that the entire experience left her with “chronic claustrophobia.”

“Thrones gave me something I wasn’t expecting from it, and that is chronic claustrophobia,” Hannah told Stephen. “I’ve talked about it since with David Benioff and David Weiss, the two exec producers on it, I was like: ‘Good job it was for them because it was horrific. 10 hours of being actually waterboarded… Like, actually waterboarded.”

Hannah went on to insist that the reality of her scene is what made Game of Thrones such a great series, saying: “The reason why I don’t believe it’s touched yet in terms of the cinematography of it, for a series, it’s just a different level. But with that comes actual waterboarding.”

Detailing her grueling day on set, she recalled: “I’m strapped to a table with all these leather straps, and I couldn’t lift up my head because they said that it would be too obvious that it’s loose. And I was like: ‘Right, I’d quite like it to be loose!’”

Once filming for the scene had wrapped, Hannah was looking a little worse for wear in a “fancy pants” elevator, and she said: “I had grape juice all in my hair, so it went purple. I couldn’t speak because the Mountain [another character] had his hand over my mouth while I was screaming, and I had strap marks everywhere like I had been attacked.”

“And the [elevator] doors opened, and one of the other guys who had been shooting something else was like: ‘What has happened to you?’” she laughed. “And I told him everything, and he went: ‘Well, you’re lucky. I’ve just been crawling through shit on my elbows for four days.’ And we were laughing about the fact that both of us are in Game of Thrones, and it kind of doesn’t matter when you’re in Thrones. You just want to give the best.”

[From Buzzfeed]

My goodness, that is absolutely awful. It is unacceptable to put a human being through literal torture just for the sake of making a scene look realistic. Was there no other way for showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and their production team to figure out how to not waterboard a woman for 10 hours? And poor Hannah is not the first GOT actor to talk about the trauma they’ve endured as a result of filming the show. Both Sophie Turner and Iwan Rheon have talked about how awful it was to film that horrible Season 5 scene where Ramsay rapes Sansa on their wedding night. Iwan has called it the “worst day of my career” and Sophie has said she expects to “exhibit some symptoms of trauma” at some point. Kit Harrington has also revealed that his mental health and alcohol abuse struggles were heightened “directly due to the nature of the show.”

I totally understand that the Game of Thrones book series is this dark and graphic. I’m not saying that creators should stay away from adapting from that type of source material. But when you have multiple actors talking about how much filming a show f—ked them up, that’s on production. They should not be torturing actors. Why weren’t they providing mental health counseling on set? I don’t know what the answer is, but there has to be a better way to handle filming an intense and graphically violent series than Benioff and Weiss did.

Here’s Hannah’s interview with Stephen:

Embed from Getty Images

Photos credit: i-Images, PacificCoastNews / Avalon, Justin Ng / Avalon, Ulices Ramales / Backgrid, David Fisher/Todd Williamson/Shutterstock for SAG via Netflix Press, Xavier Collin / Image Press Agency / Avalon. Getty

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28 Responses to “Hannah Waddingham was tortured for 10 hours for a scene in Game of Thrones”

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  1. CROWHOOD says:

    If it takes the director/camera crew etc 10 hours to film a scene like that they aren’t good enough at their job. Full stop.

    • Sandra says:

      This! IIRC it was not even a long scene at all, how did they drag it out to last TEN hours?!

    • Dawn says:

      Animals have guardians on all sets so that they do not get hurt or abused. The horses were treated better than the humans.

      • Bumbles says:

        Animals don’t have a voice, are never consenting to the experience of being on set and are particularly vulnerable. Humans can speak out and speak up for themselves. Animals should be protected more and treated better than humans!

  2. Digital Unicorn says:

    Those 2 should have been held accountable for what they allowed to happen on set and did to the cast and crew – from what I’ve read they were not easy to work with and were not popular with the crew and cast. They abused people in the name of art – there are ways that they could have handled the subject matter better.

    This reminds me of the story of the actress who played Ros and how shooting her time on GoT left her with lasting trauma.

    • AlpineWitch says:

      There are several actors who complained about their treatment on that set but the directors/writers were hailed as ‘geniuses’, as usual they got away with such behaviour in the name of ‘art’ 😵‍💫

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      I also remember Emilia Clarke feeling pressured to do nude scenes & not even being provided with a robe between takes until Jason Momoa intervened on her behalf. I mean, with that budget, that cast & a good part of the *entire series* already written for you, many people could make a compelling show without harming anyone.

      They traumatized people because they wanted to.

    • It Really Is You, Not Me says:

      There is no way that “art” requires you to subject an actor to 10 hours of torture! “Art” is just a cover for these directors and showrunners to get their rocks off by *legally* abusing and torturing people. They should be held accountable.

  3. Bettyrose says:

    I’m still reeling from the account of the actress who was in a horrific scene being tortured by Joffrey while IRL was involved with and being tortured by Marilyn Manson. I’ll google to find the name. I still think about her.

    ETA: Esme Bianco

  4. Brassy Rebel says:

    Good God! I have never been into GOT and now I’m glad I’m not. This is wrong on so many levels. But the basic problem is THEY ARE TORTURING ACTORS to make film. At least, that’s the excuse. I suspect that someone is enjoying this sadism. Where is SAG during all this abuse of its members? Sounds like a ripe case to me. It’s like a “snuff” film!

    • Nikki says:

      SAG was busy awarding GoT lots and lots of awards! Not only not protecting their members but actively rewarding them for accepting the treatment.

    • sevenblue says:

      @Brassy Rebel, at the time, there were unfortunately no public complaints from the actors. I don’t think, any of them said they made a complaint to their union etc. Since GOT was so popular and making a lot of money for the HBO, the actors probably thought that they were lucky to get a scene on GOT. Even Emilia Clarke, one of the leads, could put no nudity to her contract after a few seasons and I remember the fans were pissed about it. Now, a few actresses came forward with bad stories about the working conditions, if they did during the series run, I am not sure that anyone (fans, union or HBO) could take them seriously.

  5. molly says:

    Everything I’ve ever read about the GoT set sounds traumatic and miserable. Especially when it comes to the treatment of the female actresses.

  6. Leigh_S says:

    I swear, for some directors, its like they think they are playing with dolls not working with humans. Therefore, they can do anything they do anything they want.

  7. Elsa says:

    That is some BS. There could have been a better way to film it. I don’t have as much respect for the makers of this series as I used to.

  8. K.W. says:

    I wonder whether Emilia Clarke’s brain aneurisms were related to head trauma suffered on set.

    • Chloe says:

      Oooh interesting thought. Did she have any incidents on set?

      • K.W. says:

        I don’t recall anything specific, but her scenes sounded pretty rough, and given D&D, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a lot of safety issues.

  9. Nikki says:

    It’s called ACTING! I thought these people were award nominated/winning actors. If the only way you can make it “believable” is to acctually torture people or make them crawl threw sh!t, you’re not very good at your jobs.

    • sevenblue says:

      Unfortunately, the actors have to do the scenes as the director wants them. I don’t think, Hannah was a big name at the time, she probably didn’t think she can say no or request a stunt double if they really want a real water boarding scene.

      • Nikki says:

        Agreed. I wasn’t blaming the actors at all, rather the directors. They have some of the best actors working for them and they have to resort to torture to make their show believable. Let the actors act, they’re up to the challenge. It took them 10 hours of actual torture to make it believable! Pretty sure the actors could have gotten the job done in an hour without resorting to torture.

  10. tealily says:

    There is absolutely no reason to WATERBOARD somebody for art. You can always imply what’s happening and cut away. That scene wasn’t even memorable enough that I recalled the details of it, just that Cersi got her revenge. This is worse than method actors inflicting themselves on their fellow cast members.

  11. therese says:

    I just couldn’t finish that show. I have major issues with it.

    • Bettyrose says:

      At some point though the show turns a corner and it’s no longer about torturing women. It’s about women fighting back. (And then season 8 comes and the show forgets completely what it’s about).

  12. martha says:

    This was filmed before the Me, Too + Time’s Up movement. I like to think actors won’t put up with this shit anymore. It’s criminal and those two showrunners really showed their ass to the rest of the world by the end of the series.

    On one of the Hollywood Reporter roundtables, Dominique Fishback said she requested an on-set trauma counselor while filming a particularly harrowing episode of “Swarm.” Donald Glover and other show runners were very receptive to this and have since said that they now make it clear to actors that on-set counseling is available for anyone before/during/after filming.

    The older actresses in the roundtable were really impressed by how take-charge the younger actresses are.