Game of Thrones Gave Hannah Waddingham a Mental Trauma, but She Didn't Mind

Game of Thrones Gave Hannah Waddingham a Mental Trauma, but She Didn't Mind
Image credit: HBO, Legion-Media

'It kind of doesn't matter when you're in Thrones because you just want to give the best,' the actress says.


  • Playing Septa Unella on Game of Thrones is one of the highlights of Hannah Waddingham's career.
  • The actress experienced everything her character did while filming the waterboarding scene.
  • As a result, Waddingham developed a phobia, but she's still happy to have worked on GoT.

Though it's been nearly five years since the last episode of HBO's hit fantasy series Game of Thrones aired, no other series has matched GoT's success. The show, based on G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga, proved instantly popular with audiences when it premiered in 2011, thanks to its intriguing plot and uninhibited portrayal of sex and violence.

Over the course of its eight-season run, Game of Thrones saw its fair share of actors, many of whom went on to become true stars. For example, Richard Madden, who played Robb Stark on the show, went on to star in Disney's Cinderella and Marvel's Eternals. While Septa Unella on GoT wasn't Hannah Waddingham's biggest role, it did help her career as she went on to play Rebecca Welton on Apple TV+'s Ted Lasso. But aside from a career boost, the HBO show gave the actress a serious phobia .

A Disturbing Degree of Reality

Violence, including battle scenes, murder scenes, execution scenes, and torture scenes, was perhaps one of the main reasons for Game of Thrones' popularity with viewers. And it seems that the natural look of the show was a result of many of these things actually happening on the set, albeit in a much milder and safer form.

At the end of Season 6, when Cersei took her revenge on the people who had hurt and humiliated her, Hannah Waddingham's Septa Unella was the unluckiest foe, even though (or perhaps because) she hadn't been killed in the epic explosion of the Great Sept of Baelor. Instead, Unella was imprisoned by Cersei, strapped to a table and waterboarded with wine until the Lannister queen grew bored with her vengeance and left the woman for the Mountain to play with.

The Actress' Dedication

According to Waddingham, she was actually strapped down to the table to make it look more realistic, and Lena Headey poured gallons of grape juice over her head, turning her bleached hair purple. And the intense process went on for hours, which took a toll on Hannah's mental well-being.

'There weren't stunts, but Thrones gave me something I wasn't expecting from it, and that is chronic claustrophobia,' the actress shared in a recent interview.

Still, Waddingham doesn't seem to have minded the process. In fact, she admitted she was happy to be contributing to a masterpiece like Game of Thrones. So even though she had to be waterboarded and tied up in a dark room to create this chef-d'oeuvre, it was worth it.

'The reason why I don't believe [GoT] is touched yet in terms of the cinematography of it for a series, it's just a different level [of excellence]. But with that comes actual waterboarding,' Hannah Waddingham explained.

Hopefully, the actress' future roles won't require such sacrifices.

Source: YouTube.