Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: ‘It Was Degrading’ for Emilia Clarke to Act in ‘Thrones’ Pilot Rape Scene

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau tells The Times of London (via Insider) in a new interview that it was “really tough and degrading” for his “Game of Thrones” co-star Emilia Clarke to act in a sexual assault scene during the making of the HBO series’ pilot episode. The rape scene takes place on the wedding night of Daenerys (Clarke) and Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) and has long been controversial since “Thrones” author George R.R. Martin wrote the wedding night love scene as consensual in his book.

“For Emilia to play that in Series One was really tough and degrading, because what that character goes through is horrific,” Coster-Waldau said. “She’s sold to a guy who rapes her, but her way of getting through that is a massive journey, right?”

“Cersei, too, was never looked upon as an equal to her brother just because of gender. But then she rises to the top,” the actor continued, noting that most of the women characters on “Thrones” overcame abuse and rose to power. “And you could argue that the way those two women turned out was because of being raised in this horrific way,”

George R.R. Martin made headlines last week after revealing in the new “Thrones” oral history book “Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon” that he disagreed with the choice to switch Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s love scene from consensual sex to rape. Martin asked the author in an interview, “Why did the wedding scene change from the consensual seduction scene to the brutal rape of Emilia Clarke? We never discussed it. It made [the pilot] worse, not better.”

While the wedding night love scene is consensual in Martin’s book, later sex scenes in the novel between Daenerys and Khal Drogo are more abusive. “Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss reveal in “Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon” they changed the wedding night love scene to assault so the storytelling could stay more consistent.

“In the second episode she has to go back to the less consensual, rougher relationship,” Weiss said. “In the book that works, but we just didn’t have that amount of time and access to the character’s mind. It turns too quickly. It was something the actors themselves felt wasn’t gelling.”

Weiss notes in the book that Clarke was on the same page as them about making the pilot change and “mentioned the wedding night and issues she was having with it.” The book is now available for purchase. Head over to The Times’ website to read Coster-Waldau’s new interview in its entirety.

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