Gemma Whelan was profiled by The Guardian to talk about her upcoming role in the ITV’s The Tower, where she’ll play Detective Sergeant Sarah Collins in the adaptation of Kate London’s novel Post Mortem. In the interview, she also looks back at playing Yara Greyjoy on Game Of Thrones. She particularly opens up about what it was like to shoot intimate scenes—including the very awkward one where Yara shares a passionate moment with her brother, Theon.
Turns out, no matter how much money HBO has, they chose to not get an intimacy coordinator to guide them through the show’s many sex scenes. The actors were instead left to figure it all out on their own.
“They used to just say, ‘When we shout action, go for it!’, and it could be a sort of frenzied mess,” Whelan recalls. The actors were, at least, intuitive and consent-focused enough to check in with each other, according to the actor.
She adds, “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.”
As for the uncomfortable, incestuous scene, Whelan says that Alfie Allen “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 isn’t the first time a Game Of Thrones alum has talked about the mishandling of sex scenes from a production standpoint.
In an interview for James Hibberd’s oral history Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon: Game Of Thrones And The Official Untold Story Of The Epic Series, Jason Momoa shared that he was pressured to take off his intimacy pouch (the fabric covering his genitals) by David Benioff. He ultimately handed it to the GOT co-creator.
“[Benioff ending up holding the intimacy pouch] because David had been like, ‘Momoa, just take it off!’ You know, giving me shit,” Momoa recalled. “‘Sacrifice! Do it for your art!’ I’m just like ‘Fuck you, bro. My wife would be pissed. That’s for one lady only, man. So afterward I ripped the thing off and kept it in my hand and gave him a big hug and a handshake and was like, ‘Hey, now you have a little bit of me in you, buddy.”
Emilia Clarke also spoke about her experience shooting sex scenes for the book, saying, “I was so desperate to be the most professional actor I could be that I’d be like, ‘Yeah, sure,’ for anything they threw at me. I’ll just cry about it in the bathroom later, whatever, you won’t know.”