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'Game of Thrones' star says show's sex scenes were a 'frenzied mess'

"They used to just say, ‘When we shout action, go for it!'"

By Vanessa Armstrong
Alfie Allen and Gemma Whelan in Game of Thrones

One thing Game of Thrones is (in)famously known for are its explicit, arguably over-gratuitous sex scenes. According to one star, some of those scenes perhaps weren't shot with much thought for the comfort of the actors involved.

In a new interview with The Guardian, Gemma Whelan, who played Yara Greyjoy in the series, revealed that her NSFW scenes were unplanned and without an intimacy director to guide the actors through a sequence (a position HBO has required on set since 2018).

“They used to just say, ‘When we shout action, go for it!’, and it could be a sort of frenzied mess,” she said. “But between the actors, there was always an instinct to check in with each other. 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.”

That lack of guidance carried over to Yara’s incestuously memorable scene on a horse with her brother Theon (Alfie Allen). The two, however, talked through the moment beforehand. 

“Alfie was very much, ‘Is this OK? How are we going to make this work?’” Whelan said. “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.”

Game of Thrones aired from 2011 to 2019, with the earlier years taking place at a time when having an intimacy director on set wasn’t common practice. The good news, as Whelan points out, is that they have since become an integral part of many productions.

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