Game of Thrones’ sex scenes were ‘frenzied mess’, says Yara Greyjoy actor Gemma Whelan

Gemma Whelan as Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones

Gemma Whelan, who played the queer Yara Greyjoy on Game of Thrones, has said sex scenes on the show could be a “frenzied mess”.

Whelan is set to star in the upcoming ITV police drama The Tower, and she told The Guardian that sex scenes in the series are overseen by an intimacy coach.

However, it was a different story on Game of Thrones, she said, with actors “left to get on with it”.

She explained: “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.”

Whelan’s character Yara famously took part in some incestuous groping on horseback with her on-screen brother Theon, played by Alfie Allen.

The scene was left up to the actors to coordinate, she said, adding: “Alfie was very much: ‘Is this OK? How are we going to make this work?'”

But Whelan, who first appeared on Game of Thrones in 2012, said the use of intimacy coaches allows for more explicit consent and is an important step.

“With intimacy directors, it’s choreography – you move there, I move there, and permission and consent is given before you start,” she said. “It is a step in the right direction.” 

Game of Thrones has included a plethora of queer characters over the years

Game of Thrones included a number of LGBT+ characters over its eight seasons, including Yara Greyjoy, the asexual Lord Varys, played by Conleth Hill, and the bisexual Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal).

Maisie Williams, who played Arya Stark, spoke about her own fluid gender expression earlier this year, opening up about her identity in an interview with Tatler magazine.

Williams said: “I identify as female, [but] I think that fluidity between your image can be celebrated freely.

“I like that I don’t need to label that, I guess, and can just express myself that way and still feel, and identify, as female.”