Actress traumatized after being waterboarded 10 hours on set

By Alexandra Heilbron on May 27, 2021 | 13 Comments

Lena Heady as Cersei pouring wine on Hanna Waddington in a scene from Game of Thrones (photo credit: HBO)Game of Thrones star Hannah Waddingham, who played Unella on the popular series, says she was strapped down and waterboarded for 10 hours in order to play a scene in which she was tortured by Cersei Lannister for the sixth season finale.

Unella was a Septa, which is a female member of the clergy who has taken a vow of celibacy — like a nun — which made the scene even more shocking.

In an interview with Collider Ladies Night podcast, Hannah revealed that the episode initially was supposed to have her character being raped by brutal knight Gregor Clegane, also known as “The Mountain,” but it wasn’t until she was on a flight on the way to the set that she found out the scene had been changed. She said: “I think they’d had so many complaints about the rape of Sansa that they chose not to go with it.”

Arriving in Belfast to shoot her scene, she was sent a note saying she would need to be fitted for a wetsuit top, and thought it was a mistake. “I thought they’d sent me the wrong bits.”

But when she arrived on set, she was told, “Oh, it’s going to be waterboarding instead.” She says she couldn’t believe it. “I was like, ‘But we’re not actually doing waterboarding.’ And they were like, ‘No, no, no, we are.’ There I was strapped to a wooden table with proper big straps for 10 hours. And definitely, other than childbirth, it was the worst day of my life.”

She recalled, “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.’ 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.'”

Afterwards, she was hoarse and in pain. “I could barely speak because I had been screaming through The Mountain’s hand. So I had no voice at all to barely whisper, bruises already coming up like I had been attacked, and I was like, ‘I’ve basically just been waterboarded for 10 hours.'”

She says Miguel Sapochnik, the director of the episode, asked her if she was all right as she walked off the set, and she told him, “Not really.”

Hannah admitted the experience was so traumatic that she later had to speak to a counselor. “It definitely gave me claustrophobia around water. It’s quite full on being waterboarded for 10 hours — and then, for only one minute and 37 seconds to be used on camera.”

Hannah can currently be seen playing Rebecca on the Apple TV+ comedy/drama series Ted Lasso, opposite Jason Sudeikis. ~Alexandra Heilbron

Comments & Discussion

  1. James • May 27, 2021 @ 9:34 AM

    I wonder if they would have switched that up on a man and decided to suddenly subject him to 10 hours of being tortured.

  2. Angela • May 27, 2021 @ 10:44 AM

    Isn’t there a union to protect actors? Nobody should be strapped to a board and waterboarded for 10 hours. I don’t think even prisoners of war get that treatment.

  3. Redrover • May 27, 2021 @ 11:11 AM

    That’s when things go wrong on film sets and people die

    It’s film – You are taught not to complain otherwise you won’t get work

  4. jojo • May 27, 2021 @ 11:12 AM

    Some actors will do anything just for (work) the art however, yes they have the right to refuse doing stuff for safety. Anyone in the business knows it is written in union guidelines. But it’s only a guide? Huh…

  5. Niky • May 27, 2021 @ 11:24 AM

    It clearly sounds like the director has a hate-on for women….hmmm who can we compare his backwards behaviour too?! So sad and barbaric but at least only he has to live with himself. I feel sorry for him. The 10 hours could have easily been translated to 10 minutes or much less. Is this guy a narcissistic personality? So so so sad..

  6. Mike • May 27, 2021 @ 11:26 AM

    She should have refused to do it. This is what they have stunt doubles for. And the stunt team would have made sure everything was safe for the stunt actor, this is how it’s supposed to work in film

  7. Gwen Collins • May 27, 2021 @ 1:06 PM

    Cheaper to put 5 cameras on set than to waterboard someone for 10 hours. What about the scene wasn’t right that they had to repeat it so much? I never watched the show, but I really feel sorry for this actress.

  8. Max • May 27, 2021 @ 2:12 PM

    I watched the show briefly, maybe the second season but there was one scene that was so disturbing that I couldn’t watch anymore. I’m glad I stopped then. This show was made for the kind of people who enjoy watching tigers kill animals in arenas, hangings, bull fights and other barbaric “entertainment” from the dark ages. Glad most of us have evolved farther than to enjoy watching another person’s pain.

  9. cc • May 27, 2021 @ 3:31 PM

    I don’t think the director or anyone else was truly thinking about what they were actually doing. The show and books are so brutal that I can see them thinking that it is just pretend even though they were actually doing the act for 10 hours. They probably thought, ‘we do not really want to torture her so then that must mean we are not actually doing it.’
    Hannah is one tough woman.

  10. J • May 28, 2021 @ 7:23 PM

    Suck it up, Buttercup.

    If you don’t want to do your job then someone else gladly will.

  11. D • May 29, 2021 @ 5:38 PM

    @J: Its not her job to be tortured for 10 hours for the entertainment of others. She’s is an actor not a stunt double.

  12. DM Anderson • May 29, 2021 @ 6:52 PM


  13. MA • May 31, 2021 @ 10:21 PM

    She should have refused to do this scene.
    It’s not worth it!
    It doesn’t make you stronger!
    Everyone will still respect you and the person you are.

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