Game of Thrones star Hannah Waddingham faced a characteristically brutal ending on the show, but she is just now revealing the details of the experience. In a new interview with Collider, she confirmed that she was truly waterboarded during Septa Unella's torture scene in Season 6. While Waddingham is a dedicated actress, she admitted it was a lot for her to go through.
For those that don't recall, Waddingham played Septa Unella, a dedicated woman of the Westerosi "Faith of The Seven" who tortured Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) during her imprisonment in Season 6. She even had the iconic role of following Cersei through the streets of King's Landing during her naked penitent march chanting "shame" and ringing a cowbell. At the end of the season, Cersei regained power and took her personal revenge on Unella, dumping wine on her head in a dark chamber of the Red Keep. Waddingham described the filming process at length.
"And there I was strapped to a wooden table with proper big straps for ten hours," she said. "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?'" she continued. "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!'"
Waddingham also revealed that the scene was originally meant to be more graphic, confirming longstanding rumors among the fandom. She said her character "was meant to be raped by The Mountain [Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson], and I think they'd had so many complaints about the rape of Sansa that they chose not to go with it." She was sure the change was a last-minute decision.
"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," she said. "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.'"
While Waddingham had a surprisingly good outlook on her experience, she left no doubt that it had been traumatic in ways as well. She said: "I hadn't even realized that it definitely gave me claustrophobia around water. Definitely. I hadn't realized until I watched a program where the camera's down on the actor's face and they're being dipped into the water, but you see them face up to the camera, and I got in a terrible panic about it. And I actually went and had a bit of a chat to somebody about it, because it's quite full-on being waterboarded for ten hours, and then only one minute and 30 seconds can be used on camera."
Today, Waddingham is renowned for her portrayal of Rebecca on Apple TV+'s Ted Lasso, where she is much less likely to face this kind of brutal filming schedule. Ted Lasso Season 1 is streaming now, and Game of Thrones is still streaming on HBO Max.