[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
These days most folks know Hannah Waddingham as AFC Richmond owner Rebecca on Ted Lasso. But before joining the cast of the lighthearted Apple TV+ hit, she was unrecognizable wearing a scowl and a habit as Sister Unella on Game Of Thrones.
That’s right. The “shame” nun who tortured Cersei Lannister for a season, leading up to that infamous naked walk through King’s Landing.
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But as you may recall, Lena Headey didn’t actually do that naked walk. It was a facial replacement on a body double. In Hannah’s case, her own torture scene, revenge at the hands of Cersei, was essentially just being tortured for real, or as she puts it:
“It’s quite full on being waterboarded for 10 hours — and then only one minute and 37 seconds can be used on camera.”
In a new interview with the Collider Ladies Night podcast, she reveals the original scene as scripted was quite different. The nun’s rape at the hands of the zombified Mountain, Gregor Clegane, that is insinuated at the end of the scene was originally what was actually going to be put onscreen.
Considering the show’s clumsy history of handling sexual assault scenes, one can hardly blame them for changing their minds. Unfortunately it apparently took way too long to finally get a clue, however. Hannah recalls:
“I think they’d had so many complaints about the rape of Sansa that they chose not to go with it. But, unbelievably, they changed it quite at the last minute. I think they possibly changed it while I was mid-air, flying to Belfast, because suddenly I got sent these new sides that said I would need a wetsuit top. And I thought they’d sent me the wrong bits. And sure enough when I got there, I was then put in the wetsuit top and I was like, ‘Because?’ and they were like, ‘Oh, it’s waterboarding instead.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, we’re not actually doing waterboarding?’ ‘No, no, no, we are.’”
Yeah, no faking that with CGI. Gurl had fake wine poured on her face over and over again — and she was unable to move to save herself.
“The one thing that I was really worried about, I didn’t want the strap tight around my neck, but as they pointed out if the camera can see you lifting your head up to save yourself, that’s not authentic. And it was [co-creator] Dan Weiss who came up to me and said, ‘Look, in the script, it says Cersei empties the remainder of her glass of red wine to wake up Unella. People aren’t going to think that’s enough. What you’ve put the character through, her character through, that is not enough retribution for Cersei. Especially for the kind of person that she is. It needs to be more like a three-quarters full or so — if we can cheat it, even more — carafe of wine.’”
And that’s just what the scene was.
Speaking about her decision to go through with the incredibly “uncomfortable” new scene, she said:
“That’s what I mean about that moment of fight or flight… The one thing I kept thinking to myself was, the production company aren’t going to let you die, so get on with it, be uncomfortable.”
Thankfully she never felt unsafe with the crew being as respectful as it was. That is crucial. She says artists should put themselves out there for their art as long as they don’t feel unsafe. But uncomfortable? Sure.
But how bad was it? The actress says:
“Definitely other than childbirth, it was the worst day of my life.”
She says even her torturer was having trouble with it:
“Because Lena was uncomfortable pouring liquid in my face for that long, and I was beside myself. But in those moments, you have to think, ‘Do you serve the piece and get on with it?’ Or do you chicken out and go, ‘No, this isn’t what I signed up for, blah, blah, blah.”
You close your eyes and think of Westeros, we guess!
[Image via Phil Lewis/WENN/HBO Max.]