Gemma Whelan on Yara Greyjoy’s pansexuality and where Daenerys’ armada could land


Game of Thrones Season 6 saw the return of a lot of characters we hadn’t seen for a while (Bran, Benjen, the Hound, etc). Yara Greyjoy was among these. The character, played by Gemma Whelan in Seasons 2, 3, and 4, arguably had her best year yet in Season 6. She staked her claim to rule the Iron Islands, stole a fleet of ships, bonded with her traumatized brother, and forged an alliance with the Mother of Dragons. Whelan is pleased with the way things have gone. “[Yara] knows who she is, and what she wants,” she told Vulture. “She’s very focused, and she takes it all with abundant energy.”

Vulture grilled the actress on several big questions, including one on a lot of fans’ minds: where exactly is Daenerys going to land her giant armada? Will she land in Dorne to spare the Dothraki uncomfortable time at sea, will she go straight for King’s Landing, or might she make like her ancestor Aegon the Conqueror and land on Dragonstone?

"Oh, God. I don’t know. I think she wants to get the game done. The Dothraki are going to have to get on with their sea sickness! Go straight for King’s Landing. Let’s give her that option. [Laughs.]"

So that’s one vote for King’s Landing, although since the cast members are apparently “the last ones to know” what happens, nothing’s set in stone. Not that this stops Whelan from speculating. Apparently, Finn Jones (Loras) is “[t]he biggest geek-out person in the cast,” and she spends time theorizing with him. (Or spent time, considering that Loras suffered a pretty severe case of death in the finale.)

Whelan also isn’t sure how Daenerys plans to unite the Seven Kingdoms under her rule when so many of them seem to want independence (the Iron Islands, the North, arguably Dorne), but she’s betting the Dragon Queen has it under control. “I think she should just keep playing it the way she’s playing it,” she said of Daenerys. “She’s had to make some sacrifices and some decisions that haven’t made her very popular, but she’s playing a good long game, and recruiting the right people. Daenerys always finds a way. I trust her.”

That’s a good thing, too, since Yara had to promise to give up the Ironborn way of life (“no more reaving, roving, raiding, or raping,” as Daenerys put it) in order to gain her support. That was a touch choice for Yara, but at that point she didn’t have many options.

"I think at that point, Yara and Theon realize they don’t have a plan B. This is plan A, and they have to make it work. I think they’re prepared to make sacrifices for a greater good. And why not make a change? By all accounts, Yara doesn’t really agree with the way her father’s been running things, and things are different now, so she makes a decision right there. They have to change something, they can’t go back home, and we need this woman, so we compromise. It’s a very tactical move. It’s a heavy decision, but it’s not too difficult for her, because she’s got to get this deal done so we can get on with things."

If nothing else, she seems to have made a new friend in Daenerys Targaryen. The flirtation between Yara and Dany made waves after it happened in “Battle of the Bastards,” and while Whelan didn’t see it coming, she’s open to it, and wouldn’t mind if the characters took things to another level.

"Emilia [Clarke] and I both enjoy the idea. [Laughs.] We get along very well, so we enjoy working with each other quite a lot. So maybe! I don’t know! It’s up to the writers and the machinations of their minds. We like each other, we reflect each other, and whether it’s more than friendship is irrelevant, really."

Daenerys sealing peace in Westeros with a lesbian wedding would definitely be an interesting direction to take—I’m just saying. But Whelan isn’t quite that quick to label Yara’s sexuality.

"I don’t think she’s bisexual. There’s a new saying going around, “pansexual,” which means if she’s up for it … I think she says, “I’m up for anything.” That’s her ethos. I don’t this she swings any way in particular, other than the way she feels at the time. She’s just open-minded, which fits the character perfectly."

And in any case, it may be more that Dany and Yara simply “get the cut of each other’s jib,” as Whelan puts it. “[W]hat we have to say, what we both stand for, is appealing. Not necessarily in a sexual way, but in the way that power is attractive, and it’s something we both want to achieve, and we can do it together.” We’ll see what’s next for those crazy kids come Season 7.

As for what’s next for Yara, Whelan can only guess. She does have an idea of one character she’d like to cross paths with, though.

"Jaqen H’ghar is one of my favorite characters because he’s so mysterious. He’s an enigma to me. I cannot work him out. I never really understand exactly what he’s up to, or what he’s all about, or who he really is. I would love it if we could cross over with him! There’s been a rather large culling of characters — I forget exactly who goes where and when — so I’m actually shocked and delighted that I made it this far. I guess I’m alive still, so that’s got to be a good thing, isn’t it? [Laughs.] I’m loathe to speculate, though, because hopes are dashed, aren’t they? It’s best to expect nothing, and then see what you get."

On a show where characters are routinely killed, that might be best.