Game Of Thrones Actress Says Sex Scenes Were ‘Frenzied Mess’ Without An Intimacy Director

gemma whelan yara greyjoy game of thrones hbo
(Image credit: HBO)

I know it’s been a little over two years, but I can imagine that you guys still remember Game of Thrones. The fantastical drama is known for many things: gruesome deaths, wild plot twists, an ending that many people despised...But, certainly, one thing that got a lot of attention while GOT was on HBO were the sex scenes and nudity. Now, Game of Thrones’ Yara Greyjoy, Gemma Whelan, has said that without an intimacy director, those many sex scenes were actually a “frenzied mess.”

From Seasons 2 through 8, Gemma Whelan played Theon’s fierce (and highly sexual) older sister, Yara. As with many of the characters, especially those who spent a lot of time fighting and leading armies, Yara also did her share of visiting brothels and getting her horizontal on. But, as we know, much of Game of Thrones was filmed before having intimacy directors (or coordinators) on set was a standard for filming such scenes. In a recent chat with The Guardian, Whelan was asked whether or not the actors involved in love scenes “were just left to get on with it,” and she replied:

Almost literally. They used to just say, ‘When we shout action, go for it!’ and it could be a sort of frenzied mess. But between the actors there was always an instinct to check in with each other. 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.

Egad! My impression had been that sexytimes in movies or shows like Game of Thrones was always at least planned out beforehand, even if the parties getting fake-busy didn’t have a lot of say (or feel like they had a say) in what happened, so that everyone at least knew what was expected of them. According to Whelan, though, this was not quite the case on the hit series.

As we are all fully aware of now, and, thankfully, have been for several years, just telling a couple of people who are probably basically strangers to “go for it” before filming sexy stuff is a very bad idea. It leaves too many variables undefined, and could easily lead to people doing things they don’t really want to do on camera. And, how many actors would feel comfortable stopping if that happened? Most would be unlikely to interrupt a scene that’s working, halt production to hash things out, or feel bad for possibly saying something that made their scene partner feel bad, among other things, so it would go on without proper care being taken.

Luckily, Whelan says that the actors were, generally, very aware of how vulnerable everyone was in these situations, and would check in with each other to make sure things were heading in a direction all were cool with. This was also true of the first time we saw Yara on GOT, when she picked Theon up after he finally returned home in the second season. The two got a, flirty, while on horseback, but Alfie Allen, who played Theon, was sure to sort some things out beforehand:

Alfie 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.

As Gemma Whelan noted, now, actors on sex-forward shows like Bridgerton don’t have to deal with this kind of uncertainty with sex scenes, or potentially feel like they can’t negotiate what actually happens during them, at any time. Which is great for many reasons, including that it means viewers get to enjoy these moments without worry, and that’s wonderful for everyone. Even if the characters involved are, you know...siblings.

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Yennefer's apprentice, Gilmore Girl; will Vulcan nerve pinch pretty much anyone if prompted with cheese...Yes, even Jamie Fraser.