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"Game of Thrones" Star Says 10-Hour Torture Scene Gave Her "Chronic Claustrophobia"

Hannah Waddingham said the scene required being "actually waterboarded."

Hannah Waddingham is famously known for her role in Ted Lasso, however, fans first got a taste of her acting chops when she starred as Septa Unella in Game of Thrones. Her legendary performance as part of the Faith of Seven in the HBO fantasy drama series is cemented in pop culture history, but it didn't come without its challenges. Looking back at some of the show's more harrowing scenes, Waddingham now realizes she was almost dedicated to a fault.

RELATED: "Game of Thrones" Co-Stars Wouldn't Share Scenes After a Messy Breakup.

On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the British actor opened up about the "horrific" scene during Season 6, in which her character is imprisoned and tortured by Cersei Lannister (played by Lena Headey). The form of punishment is payback from when Unella originally tormented Cersei in Season 5. While Waddingham knew what the scene demanded of her as an actor, she wasn't prepared for the repercussions that would come with it.

"I'm strapped to a table with all these leather straps. I couldn't lift up my head because I said that would be too obvious that it's loose," she explained on the show. "I couldn't speak because the Mountain had his hand over my mouth while I was screaming and I had strap marks everywhere like I had been attacked."

Despite it being only a 90-second scene, Waddingham said filming took 10 hours. On top of that, she succumbed to one of the most demonizing forms of torture: waterboarding. "It was horrific. Ten hours of being actually waterboarded, like actually waterboarded," she recalled.

Waddingham then revealed, "Thrones gave me something I wasn't expecting from it and that is chronic claustrophobia."


Speaking with Collider in 2021, Waddingham said that particular day on set was tied with childbirth as "the worst day of my life." After filming, she "got in a terrible panic about it" and sought professional help.

"I hadn't even realized that it definitely gave me claustrophobia around water. Definitely," she said. "And I actually went and had a bit of a chat to somebody about it, because it's quite full-on being waterboarded for 10 hours, and then only one minute and 30 seconds can be used on camera."

Although an inhumane moment on the show, Waddinghman noted that scenes of this nature weren't unusual on Game of Thrones. In fact, some of her co-stars were unfazed by her ghastly appearance post-shoot. "One of the other guys who had been shooting something else was like, 'You're lucky, I've just been crawling through [expletive] on my elbow for four days,'" Waddingham recalled.

Nonetheless, Waddingham said, "It kind of doesn't matter when you're in Thrones because you just want to give the best."

She added that she feels it's the cast and crew's hard work ethic that makes Game of Thrones unmatched. "The reason why I don't believe it's been touched yet, in terms of the cinematography for it as a series, it's just a different level—but with that comes actual waterboarding," she quipped.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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