Racy TV shows are nothing new, and controversy around risqué scenes is nearly as old as the medium itself. Still, some series manage to push the envelope more than others. HBO’s Game of Thrones stands out as particularly mired in criticism when it comes to its plentiful and often violent ຣᥱ𝑥 scenes.
One actor who worked on the GOT set says it wasn’t just the finished episodes viewers saw that stirred up trouble. The filming of the scenes themselves was a “frenzied mess.”
‘Game of Thrones’ is known for depictions of violence
Game of Thrones enjoys its status as one of the most popular TV shows of all time. But it also turned a lot of stomachs when it came to violence on the screen. Just saying phrases like “Red Wedding” or “Stallion Heart” is enough to make some viewers turn green. The show featured lots of graphic violence with shocking twists and turns.
Still, the rape scenes felt particularly gratuitous and received extra criticism. Some scenes were so harrowing that they left actors like Jason Momoa in tears. The scenes were often graphic, and there was frequently little immediate consequence for the characters who perpetuated such ຣᥱ𝑥ual violence. It was just another part of the backdrop of the fantasy world.
Even consensual ຣᥱ𝑥 scenes were often disturbing with a plotline of incest between twins as well as many storylines occuring in a brothel.
‘Game of Thrones’ ຣᥱ𝑥 scenes were troubling for some of the actors, too
Gemma Whelan is perhaps best known for portraying Yara Greyjoy on Game of Thrones. But the actor is no stranger to the conventions of filming. She’s appeared in more than 50 roles throughout her career. Whelan explains that many sets employ “intimacy coordinators.”
These experts walk actors through ຣᥱ𝑥 scenes so they don’t have to guess what’s appropriate and what’s not. As Insider reports, Whelan sees intimacy coordinators as a good step toward a safer, more comfortable set. “With intimacy directors, it’s choreography — you move there, I move there, and permission and consent is given before you start,” she explained.
Game of Thrones had no such occupation on the set. Instead, actors were tossed into the scenes with very little direction. “They used to just say, ‘When we shout action, go for it!’ and it could be a sort of frenzied mess,” Whelan explained in an interview with The Guardian.
‘Game of Thrones’ actors checked in with each other
The creators may not have done their due diligence in providing a safe, protective space for actors filming vulnerable ຣᥱ𝑥 scenes. So, the actors often stepped in to provide their own systems of protection. Whelan explained, “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.”
This characterization of actors stepping up to fill a role the directors failed to fulfill is echoed in statements Emilia Clarke made about her experiences. Prior to filming Game of Thrones, Clarke — who portrayed Daenerys Targaryen and was the victim of one of the show’s most memorable rapes — had never done nude scenes.
She recalls actor Jason Momoa (who portrayed the perpetrator in her rape scene) being incredibly kind and supportive to ensure she was comfortable. Eventually, HBO mandated that the show hire an intimacy coordinator, but it wasn’t until 2018.