Hannah Waddingham recalls enduring "actual waterboarding" on Game of Thrones

Hannah Waddingham played Septa Unella, aka the Shame Nun, on Game of Thrones. Her torture scene with Cersei was really, REALLY real.
Game of Thrones Lena Headey Hannah Waddingham
Game of Thrones Lena Headey Hannah Waddingham /

Hannah Waddingham is a British actress probably best known for playing Rebecca Welton on the comedy Ted Lasso, a role for which she won an Emmy. But she might be best known for playing Septa Unella on Game of Thrones, aka the nun who walks behind Cersei Lannister with a bell yelling "shame" every few seconds.

You just know people still yell that at Waddingham when she's out and about. Anyway, like many Game of Thrones characters before and after her, Septa Unella died on the show. After destroying the Faith Militant, Cersei strapped Unella to a table, poured wine on her face, and then left her alone with Gregor "the Mountain" Clegane. Whatever happened next, Unella definitely didn't survive.

Her final scene represents another rung on the ladder to madness Cersei has been climbing for years. It's a chilling watch, but as Hannah Waddingham explained during a visit to The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, things may have gotten too real. "Thrones gave me something I wasn't expecting from it and that is chronic claustrophobia," the actress said.

"I've talked about it since with David Benioff and Dan Weiss, the two exec producers on it, I was like, 'Good job it's for them because it was horrific.' 10 hours of being actually waterboarded, like actually waterboarded," Waddingham continued. "The reason why I don't believe [Game of Thrones] is touched yet in terms of the cinematography of it for a series, it's just a different level. But with that comes actual waterboarding."

So when Cersei is pouring wine onto Unella's face, that's really happening. Well, the wine was grape juice, but that's beside the point. It did bleach her purple for a bit. "And I couldn't speak 'cause The Mountain had his hand on my mouth when I was screaming, and I had strap marks everywhere like I'd been attacked," Waddingham remembered. "And the lift doors open, one of the other guys who'd been shooting something else was just like, 'What has happened to you?' and I told him everything and he went, 'Well, you're lucky. I've just been crawling through s**t on my elbows for four days.'"

"We were laughing about the fact that both of us are in Game of Thrones. It kind of doesn't matter when you're on Thrones cause you just want to give the best [performance]."

The guy crawling through s**t, by the way, was almost definitely Eugene Simon, who played Lancel Lannister. He has a scene in the same episode where Unella gets wine-boarded, "The Winds of Winter," where he attempts to stop Cersei from exploding the Sept of Baelor by crawling on his elbows through a dark corridor in an attempt to defuse a wildfire bomb. We all remember how that went.

Waddingham did some more of her own stunts, so to speak, in The Fall Guy, a new movie about stuntpeople that's coming out next weekend. In that movie, Waddingham stars alongside Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

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