Let’s not fool ourselves: the Sand Snakes were not the most popular characters on Game of Thrones. And frankly, fans had good reasons to dislike them. To a man, they were flat and underwritten, all posture and almost no substance. The show will probably be better now that they’re all dead.
However, that shouldn’t suggest that the actors who play them — Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jessica Henwick, and Rosabell Laurenti Sellers — aren’t tremendously talented. This past Sunday, Tyene Sand — the last of the Sand Snakes — passed on. We’re here to look back on Sellers’ performance as the character, and to bid the most memorable of the Sand Snakes farewell.
Sellers got her start in acting early, appearing onstage alongside her brother when she was 8 years old. A native Italian, she grew up in New York City, but eventually returned to Italy to live in Rome. There, she appeared in a string of of Italian movies, including a TV miniseries about Coco Chanel, a TV movie based about Anne Frank, and a two-part drama called Cenerentola.
Outside of her Italian-language work, Sellers notably appeared as lead character Mia in Mia and Me, about a orphaned boarding school student who gains access to the mystical land of Centopia, which is full of fairies and unicorns and stuff. Have a taste of that:
But her most visible role so far has been as Tyene Sand. Of the three Sand Snakes, Tyene left the biggest impression, although not necessarily for the best reasons.
Tyene is the youngest of the three Sand Snakes we meet, and the only one who’s also a daughter of Ellaria Sand. Perhaps that’s why she was afforded a little more screen time than her sisters, Obara and Nymeria.
An expert with knives and poisons, Tyene was eager to join her mother in getting revenge against the Lannisters for the death of Oberyn Martell, her father. She and her sisters tried to abduct Myrcella Baratheon, Cersei’s daughter, from under the nose of Prince Doran Martell at the Water Gardens, but Jaime and Bronn got in their way, resulting in one of the more underwhelming fight scenes in the series.
During the fight, Tyene wounded Bronn with a poison-tipped dagger. As she and her sisters stewed in a cell across from Bronn, also imprisoned at the time, we got to know Tyene a little better when she withheld the antidote from Bronn until he admitted that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. It was Tyene’s best scene because it showed us a little more of her personality — playful and vain, pouty and cherubic. And Sellers had the chops and confidence to pull it off.
The problem with Tyene is that the show never called on her to do anything beyond that. She struck a different note only once: in her final scene, after Cersei repaid the murder of Myrcella by giving Tyene a poisoned kiss. Terrified, Tyene looked to her mother Ellaria with a desperate plea in her eyes, and we caught a glimpse of one of the layers the show could have explored if it had cared to.
Tyene may be gone, but Sellers is just getting started. She’ll appear this year in a lead role in What About Love, playing a young lover who inspires her parents to rediscover their feelings for each other. She’ll star alongside Sharon Stone, Andy Garcia, and fellow Game of Thrones cast member Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont). We wish her the best.