Game of Thrones is no stranger to beheading/impaling/skull-crushing/setting-a-pack-of-rabid-dogs-on its characters on-screen, but Gemma Whelan’s role as Yara Greyjoy was almost killed off before she appeared on camera.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Whelan revealed that she almost lost the part after announcing her casting before HBO. “The first lesson I learnt was when I first got the job. No-one told me to keep quiet about it,” she said.
“I just thought it was normal to pop it on my Spotlight entry, so I wrote on my CV, ‘This summer Gemma will be playing Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones’. And the internet went nuts.
“One of the lovely, lovely producers on Thrones called me into his office and said, ‘This is very serious. We almost can’t employ you because of this’.”
But fortunately, Thrones changed their mind and Whelan kept her role, a final casting even luckier considering how she came on the show’s radar: Thrones’ casting director had spotted the actor during an unsuccessful audition for comedy Threesome back in 2011.
However, after she was approached by the show, Whelan was initially sceptical of her chances. “I watched all of season one and thought, ‘There’s no way I’m going to get this’,” she said. “I’d done a couple of comedies, I was doing a bit of stand-up — but a big HBO series? Not on the cards.
“I’d been desperate to be seen for drama, because I really wanted to do both… but it’s quite hard to be considered in both categories sometimes, until you can prove yourself.”
Whelan has since starred in 12 episodes of the fantasy drama, with her character poised to invade the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros in the upcoming season.
“When we left off season six, it was clear that Daenerys [Emilia Clarke] and Yara were off on a mission,” said Whelan. “And we left me on a boat — so it would follow that you would find me on a boat. But I’m not ruling out being on land. How about that? Let’s not rule out any land!”
So – SPOILER ALERT – Yara may or may not appear on land next season. Consider yourself warned.
Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres exclusively in the UK on 17th July on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV at 2am, repeated at 9pm on the same day