Game of Thrones actress says she was waterboarded during torture scene

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Game of Thrones, Hannah Waddingham, waterboard, torture

Some people like to think that you have to suffer for your art, but should that creative process involve literal torture? Recently while appearing as a guest on Collider Ladies Night, Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham revealed that she was waterboarded for upward of 10 hours while filming a scene for HBO's Game of Thrones.

Waddingham played the religious zealot Septa Unella (aka the "shame" nun) in seasons 5 and 6, and according to her story, engaged in a real-life torture scene for the epic series. During her interview, Waddingham explained that the original scene involved her character being raped by Gregor Clegane, a.k.a The Mountain. However, Game of Thrones had already been criticized for its excessive rape scenes, so they found another way to make Septa Unella suffer.

"I think they'd had so many complaints about the rape of Sansa [Sophie Turner] that they chose not to go with it," Waddingham said. "Unbelievably, they changed it quite at the last minute. I think they possibly changed it when I was mid-air flying to Belfast because suddenly I got sent these new sides that said I would need a wetsuit top. I thought they'd sent me the wrong bits."

Unfortunately, once Waddingham had arrived on set, she quickly realized that the scene hadn't been rewritten.

"They were like, 'Oh, it's going to be waterboarding instead,'" she recalled. "And I was like, 'But we're not actually doing waterboarding.' And they were like, 'No, no, no, we are.'"

For the scene, Waddingham says she was bound to a wooden table with "proper big straps" for hours as Cersei (Lena Headey), poured wine onto her face. "Definitely other than childbirth, [it] was the worst day of my life," she said. "Lena was uncomfortable pouring liquid in my face for that long, and I was beside myself. But in those moments, you go, 'Do you serve the piece and get on with it?' Or do you chicken out and go, 'This isn't what I signed up for.'"

Adding to the terror of this situation, Waddingham says she was unable to speak above a whisper later that evening and had "bruises already coming up like I'd been attacked." To make matters even worse, the experience stuck with her long after filming. "It definitely gave me claustrophobia around water," she said. "It's quite full-on being waterboarded for 10 hours — and then, for only one minute and 37 seconds to be used on camera."

At this point, you might be asking yourself, how does something like this happen? Evidently, it all comes down to authenticity and going above and beyond to sell Cersei's hatred to audiences. "I didn't want the strap tight around my neck, but as they pointed out if the camera can see you lifting your head to save yourself, that's not authentic," Waddingham recalls. "As Dan Weiss pointed out, he came up 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. That is not enough retribution for Cersei. It needs to be three-quarters full or so — if we can cheat it, even more — of a carafe of wine.' The one thing I kept thinking to myself was the production company isn't going to let you die, so get on with it, be uncomfortable."

What do you make of Waddingham's story? Do you think they went overboard or does Waddingham giving her consent make it okay? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Source: Collider Extras

About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.