Gemma Whelan became a superstar after playing Yara Greyjoy on 16 episodes in one of the most popular shows of all time: Game of Thrones.
HBO's fantasy show gained millions of admirers, but the behind-the-scenes input paints a chaotic story for such a massive and expensive production. And that's putting in mildly.
Whelan spoke to TheGuardian about her experience as she joined the show in the second season. This was before HBO finally hired intimacy coordinators to supervise all sex scenes. The coordinators were hired after showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff faced multiple complaints from the viewers and the cast.
Though many secrets were revealed in the past few years, Gemma Whelan's confessions still managed to shock everyone who ever heard of the show.
The "Just Go For It" Approach
Whelan, who was pregnant during the final season, cheekily revealed that her tummy made it possible to get some memorable close-ups.
But, she continued talking about the post-Weinstein era and what it meant for her career:
"There's a very different choice of language now. If anyone makes an innuendo, everyone shuts down. I think, five or ten years ago, if there were a double entendre, everyone would jump on the bandwagon and see how many laughs they could raise."
Before 2018, things were quite chaotic, as the actress described what it felt like working on the Game of Thrones set:
"They used to just say, 'When we shout action, go for it!', and it could be a sort of frenzied mess. But between the actors, there was always an instinct to check in with each other."
Luckily, the actors had some form of understanding. Whelan recalled one of the most memorable moments from the set:
"There was a scene in a brothel with a woman and she was so exposed that we talked together about where the camera would be and what she was happy with. A director might say, 'Bit of boob biting, then slap her bum and go!', but I'd always talk it through with the other actor."
Gemma Whelan's Yara, And Alfie Allen's Theon Greyjoy
The scene Gemma described happened in season 2 before the audience learned Yara and Theon were related.
Whelan recalled that Alfie Allen always made sure she was okay, but she pointed out the importance of coordinators:
"Alfie was very much, 'Is this ok? How are we going to make this work?'"
"With intimacy directors, it's choreography — you move there, I move there, and permission and consent is given before you start. It is a step in the right direction.
This is not the first comment about the graphic scenes on the show. Even Jason Momoa found a wedding night rape scene between his character, Khal Drogo, and Emilia Clarke's Daenerys "icky."
When asked whether he regrets playing the role, Momoa stated:
"We'll put it this way: I already did it. Not doing it again."
Though sex scenes were almost entirely done by the time HBO hired intimacy coordinators, it was a relief for actors and their future projects. As Whelan said, it indeed was a step in the right direction.