Hannah Waddingham says she was 'waterboarded' for 10 hours filming Game of Thrones torture scene
Being an actor on Game of Thrones was never easy — keeping tightly held script secrets, worrying about when you'd be next to be killed off.
But Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham had a particularly traumatizing experience one the HBO drama. The actress, who played the religious zealot Septa Unella (of the infamous "shame" meme) in seasons 5 and 6, opened up about her harrowing torture scene on Collider Ladies Night, saying she was "waterboarded" for 10 hours while filming.
Waddingham said the original scene was meant to be even more tortuous, with Unella being raped by Gregor Clegane, a.k.a. the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson). "I think they'd had so many complaints about the rape of Sansa [Sophie Turner] that they chose not to go with it," she 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."
Helen Sloan/HBO Hannah Waddingham on 'Game of Thrones'
Apparently they hadn't, and when Waddingham arrived on set, she was indeed outfitted with a wetsuit. "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.'"
Waddingham said she was bound to the wooden table in the scene with "proper big straps" for hours as Cersei (Lena Headey) poured wine into 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.'"
She also recalled walking past the episode's director, Miguel Sapochnik, after finishing filming for the day and telling him, "Not really," when he asked if she was all right. "[He then said], 'The crew have just been saying we are actually really waterboarding you here.' And I was like, 'Yup, you don't need to tell me that!'"
HBO did not immediately respond to EW's request for comment.
When Waddingham returned to the hotel that night, she said she was unable to speak above a whisper and had "bruises already coming up like I'd been attacked."
Filming the scene had a lingering impact on her. "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."
Waddingham was driven by the creators' desire for authenticity and her trust in the production team. "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," she said. "As [GOT co-creator] 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 aren't going to let you die, so get on with it, be uncomfortable."