How far should a person go for their craft? How much is one willing to endure?
It’s not uncommon for actors to be injured while on set, and many have come away from roles with emotional and physical wounds. While actors and other creative individuals involved in acting might view this as being part of the job, these experiences raise the question of what sort of expectations are placed on actors.
Zach Sharf, writer for Indiewire, published an article that discusses one such instance on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t finished the series!
Hannah Waddingham is sometimes known for her role as Septa Unella on the hit Game of Thrones series, the religious official who trails after a naked Cersei whilst ringing a bell and publicly shaming her. Cersei, played by Lena Headey, gets her revenge in season 6 by imprisoning Unella and torturing her.
One scene that viewers watched of Cersei pouring wine on Unella’s face did not, in fact, only last thirty seconds for the actress. To get the shots required, Hannah Waddingham spent ten hours strapped to a table in a situation that she described as being akin to waterboarding. The day after she finished shooting her scenes, her throat was raw and she had lost her voice–which is a frightening thing for a singer like herself.
Waddingham will also be the first to say that this is the sort of thing that actors sign up for; after she returned to her hotel after shooting, she met with another actor from Game of Thrones who described crawling around in filth for four whole days. Waddingham describes how one doesn’t sign up to be a part of the series without expecting to run the gamut.
image via los angeles times
Additionally, Sharf details how Waddingham developed a water-related claustrophobia that caused her to panic when she was watching a film that had a close-up of an actor submerged in water. Waddingham did speak with someone about this, fortunately. She described how her experience that day, besides giving birth, was one of the worst days of her life.
Waddingham finished her interview by saying,
“The one thing I kept thinking to myself, ‘The production company aren’t going to let you die, so get on with it, be uncomfortable.’ Like you were saying in your question, I would say, get on with it. As long as you feel like there’s not any genuine threat of something happening, push yourself, be uncomfortable. It’s the same as if people don’t cry on camera, don’t impart this emotion to the right moment. Why not? My whole thing has always been, take people to the absolute nth degree of their emotions and that’s the same thing. Give of yourself and then it gives back to you.”
And while I don’t have the answer to the question posed by this situation, I do think that this is a topic worth pondering. How far should producers expect an actor to go for their work?