Hannah Waddingham Sought Mental Health Treatment After Her ‘Game of Thrones’ Torture Scene: ‘Other Than Childbirth, It Was the Worst Day of My Life’

Game of Thrones can be a brutal show at times, and no one knows that better than the former cast members. The production was often taxing on them, with season 8 leaving many of them feeling miserable; throughout the show, the actors and stunt doubles even had a safe word. Like many, Hannah Waddingham‘s character endured torture — and evidently, that Game of Thrones scene resulted in the actor seeking mental health treatment.

Waddingham played Septa Unella in ‘Game of Thrones’

In Game of Thrones, Waddingham portrayed Septa Unella. Unella is a member of the Faith of the Seven and serves under the High Sparrow. She appears in season 5, and she is responsible for imprisoning Cersei. Unella uses various means to get Cersei to confess and atone for her sins. 

While the actors were on good terms, Unella and Cersei hated each other. One of the most memorable scenes of the two is the walk of atonement. Other septas cut Cersei’s hair short before removing her clothes and making her walk across the Red Keep. Then, there was a particular torture scene.  

The last viewers saw of Unella, Cerise had turned the tables, and she inflicted pain on the septa. Cersei had her strapped down and poured wine on her face. Essentially, Unella endures waterboarding during her final moments on camera.  

Waddingham had no idea that the show was going to film the scene until she got on set. Originally, her fate would have been worse. Still, the actor had doubts about whether she should go through with it but decided to film the torture scene. 

Hannah Waddingham needed mental health care after filming her torture scene in ‘Game of Thrones’

Hannah Waddingham, whose torture scene in 'Game of Thrones' mentally scarred her, attends Apple's 'Ted Lasso' Season 2 premiere
Hannah Waddingham attends Apple’s “Ted Lasso” Season 2 premiere. | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

It is not uncommon for actors to feel the effects of the scenes they film. For Hannah Waddingham, she considered the waterboarding torture scene in Game of Thrones the worst day of her life. According to Esquire, the moment affected her so badly that she sought mental health treatment. 

“Definitely, other than childbirth, it was the worst day of my life. Because Lena was uncomfortable pouring liquid in my face for that long, and I was beside myself,” Waddingham explained in an interview. “I hadn’t even realized that it definitely gave me claustrophobia around water.” 

Waddingham mentioned that she had to endure the ordeal for about 10 hours, but only a minute of it made it to the show. The lasting psychological effects gave her a phobia of water. Luckily, she was able to see a professional for help. 

According to Elle, Waddingham still enjoyed playing Unella despite the torture. Even though she would get typecast as the terrifying woman for a while, she liked playing someone so different from her. 

How did ‘Game of Thrones’ produce the waterboarding scene?


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Waddingham has been vocal about how difficult it was to be in the waterboarding scene. She described how the crew filmed it. Naturally, viewers would think the show used CGI to make it appear like wine was going down her face. Instead, it was all real, and Waddingham did get tortured for hours while bound to a wooden table. She and Lena Headey were uncomfortable throughout the entire process. Headey told Waddingham that she looked like she was choking and kept reassuring her co-star. 

The two were able to go through with it since they knew Waddingham would not die from it. While terrifying, there was no genuine threat. Still, Waddingham said she was not fine when the director walked by and asked if she was OK. The star has said she felt that her stress and discomfort were worth it in the end.