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Things We Saw Today: Hannah Waddingham on Her Upsetting Game of Thrones Fate

The Ted Lasso actress played Septa Unella in the HBO series.

Hannah Waddingham, Lena Headey

CW: CONTENT WARNING – This post discusses rape and sexual assault.

English actress Hannah Waddingham has earned countless new fans thanks to her role as AFC Richmond owner Rebecca Welton on Apple TV+’s breakout hit Ted Lasso. But before joining everyone’s favorite feel-good series, Waddingham appeared in a small role on the iconic Game of Thrones as the cruel Septa Unella. You may not remember the name, but you surely remember her as the bell-ringing nun shouting “Shame!” while parading a naked Cersei Lannister through the streets. The small role became a popular meme, making its rounds in GIFs and jokes online.

Of course, Cersei later got her revenge, locking Unella in a cell with The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson). Viewers assumed that Unella was tortured to death at the hands of The Mountain, but Waddingham revealed a more disturbing end for her character. In an interview with Collider, she said “She was meant to be raped by The Mountain, and I think they’d had so many complaints about the rape of Sansa that they chose not to go with it.”

Game of Thrones has long been criticized for its numerous scenes of sexual assault, and it’s upsetting but sadly predictable that the writers had even more assaults planned. The plans were changed last-minute, as Waddingham found out right before filming.

She said, “I think they possibly changed it when I was mid-air flying to Belfast because suddenly I got sent these new sides that said that I would need a wetsuit top. And I thought they’d sent me the wrong bits. And sure enough, when I got there, I was then put in a wetsuit top and I was like, ‘Because?’ And they went, ‘Oh, it’s waterboarding instead.’”

The waterboarding scene was no walk in the park either, as Waddingham was ACTUALLY waterboarded during filming:

“And there I was strapped to a wooden table with proper big straps for ten hours. And definitely, other than childbirth, it was the worst day of my life. Because Lena was uncomfortable pouring liquid in my face for that long, and I was beside myself. But in those moments you have to think, do you serve the piece and get on with it or do you chicken out and go, ‘No, this isn’t what I signed up for, blah, blah, blah?’ And then, the funny thing was, after we’d finished shooting it for the whole day, and people like Miguel Sapochnik, the director by the way, walking past with a cup of tea and a sandwich on-the-go and going, ‘Hi hunny, you alright?’ And I was like, ‘Not really.’ ‘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!’”

The actress added that she now has claustrophobia around water, which she had to later unpack with a professional. And despite what sounds like a horrific and dangerous shoot, Waddingham added, “And that’s what I mean about that moment of fight or flight. I just thought, ‘Do you know what?’ The one thing I kept thinking to myself, ‘The production company aren’t going to let you die, so get on with it, be uncomfortable.’”

This is all deeply disturbing and upsetting, like much of Game of Thrones. Honestly I’m just relieved that she’s on Ted Lasso now, cracking jokes and eating biscuits.

(via CBR, image: HBO)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.