Gemma Whelan has appeared in shows like Gentleman Jack and Killing Eve and films such as Emma and The Wolfman, but she's best known for playing Yara Greyjoy on Game of Thrones. Whelan first appeared on the HBO series in the second season during a controversial scene that saw her character have a sexual encounter with her onscreen brother, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). Whelan went on to appear in every subsequent season aside from the fifth, and recently spoke with The Guardian about filming sex scenes for the show.
"Almost literally," Whelan replied when asked if actors "were just 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."
When talking about her infamous scene with Allen, she explained, "Alfie was very much, 'Is this OK? How are we going to make this work?' With intimacy directors, it's choreography - you move there, I move there, and permission and consent is given before you start. It is a step in the right direction."
This isn't the first time an actor has spoken out about the sex and nudity featured on Game of Thrones. Recently, Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei) made an appearance on Josh Smith's Make It Reign podcast (via the New York Post) and spoke about her time on the series, and how her nude scenes on the show have since affected her career.
"When I did Game of Thrones, I agreed toward certain nude scenes or nudity within the show," Emmanuel explained. "And the perception from other projects, when the role required nudity, that I was just open to do anything because I did it on that one show." She added, "What people didn't realize is I agreed [to] terms and specific things for that one particular project, and that doesn't necessarily apply to all projects."
"I've had people challenge me and be like, 'But this part requires that,' and I said, 'That's fine if you require that in the part; I don't feel comfortable doing that level of nudity. I will do this amount, you know, I can do this, which I think is necessary for the part," she added. "Frankly, if someone was, like, 'Well we need this nudity,' I would be, like, 'Well, thank you very much, I appreciate your interest but that's just not what I feel is necessary for this part and it's a difference of opinion and creative differences and that's fine.'"
Back in 2019, Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) shared a similar sentiment after being nude on Game of Thrones. "I'm a lot more savvy [now] with what I'm comfortable with, and what I am okay with doing," Clarke told Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast. "I have had fights onset before when I am like, 'No, sheet stays up.' And they are like 'You don't want to disappoint your Game of Thrones fans.' And I'm like 'F*ck you.'"