How do you survive in the harsh lands of Westeros? Have dragons, says Jessica Henwick.
The Singaporean-British actress, who plays Nymeria Sand in HBO’s Game of Thrones, was in town to promote next week’s finale, Mother’s Mercy, when she sat down for an interview with local and regional media, including Geek Crusade.
Here are seven things she revealed about playing a Sand Snake.
1. Jessica Henwick originally auditioned for a different role, but she really wanted to play Nymeria:
Despite originally auditioning for another role, Jessica really wanted to play Nymeria Sand, a role in which the producers intended to cast a black actress.
“I thought she was the most interesting of the three sisters,” the actress said. “The interesting about Nym is that her mother was a fighter as well… so Nym doesn’t feel the need to prove herself in any way.”
“She’s very confident in herself. She sits back, she watches things… She’s always scheming, and that’s what I was interested in, because it’s a different role for me.”
“I’d like to think I’m as perceptive as she (Nym) is,” Jessica replied when asked if she saw any similarities between herself and the character she plays.
“But probably not, no,” she added with a laugh.
2. Nymeria’s armour takes 20 minutes to put on:
While the Sand Snakes may seem to favour lighter armour, much like their father Oberyn (Pedro Pascal), that didn’t make getting ready on set any easier.
“The armour that I wear takes a good 20 minutes to put on, because there’s lots and lots of little pieces,” Jessica said, adding that her co-star Keisha Castle-Hughes, who plays Obara Sand, had armour that’s “like an armadillo”.
The three of them also worked with different dialect coaches to perfect their accent for their on-screen roles, with each Sand Snake taking after their mothers.
3. Her first day on set involved live scorpions:
Jessica revealed her first day on set involved scorpions, a whip, and an actor in the sand.
“I got to the set and they said ‘okay here’s an eight-foot bullwhip, there’s an actor in the sand, here are twelve live scorpions, go. And don’t killl the scorpions, don’t injure the actor, don’t break the cameras, and don’t injure the crew. And so the crew brought out these riot shields to protect themselves.”
“It was surreal, exhilirating, fun, and also very, very scary joining a show with such a big fan base,” Jessica said.
4. All three Sand Snakes were injured during filming:
With her role calling for her to use an eight-foot bullwhip, it was no surprise that there were some injuries.
Jessica said all three of the Sand Snakes were “very injured” during filming, with Rosebell Laurenti Sellers (Tyene Sand) receiving a scar which she considered a “battle wound” to be worn proudly.
5. She learnt some of her whip moves from YouTube:
“They (Game of Thrones producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss) were quite eager to hear my ideas, specifically for the fight,” Jessica said.
“I immediately went and started Youtubing famous whip people, and said ‘look at all these moves! I wanna do that and I wanna do that and I wanna do that!'”
“There’s a guy on YouTube called Adam Winrich,” Jessica said, calling him the “most helpful teacher I could’ve had”. After looking at the video below, we can understand her admiration.
6. She didn’t use a stunt double:
“Nikolaj (Coster-Waldau), who plays Jaime and Jerome (Flynn), who plays Bronn, I think they came in on the first day with very low expectations of what we (herself, Rosabell and Keisha) were able to do,” Jessica said about the scene where the Kingslayer and Bronn confront the Sand Sankes in Dorne.
“And then we got to set, and I didn’t use a stunt double,” she said. “Nikolaj got tired and had to use a stunt double. So did Jerome.”
“I think we kinda proved ourselves to them… I think they were pleasantly surprised,” Jessica said with a laugh.
7. Fans were really excited even before the Sand Snakes appeared on screen:
While filming in Spain, Jessica and her co-stars were followed by the paparazzi, which resulted in them getting mobbed on their last day there by fans.
“Suddenly, it went from us being random people staying at the hotel to oh my god, they’re the new cast members!”
“They all wanted my autograph and photos with me, and I thought ‘the show hasn’t even come out yet’, but that’s how intense the fans are,” Jessica said.
Since then, she hasn’t been mobbed, but still gets recognised for her Game of Thrones role and her previous work, though she has had some unusual fan requests.
“I think it’s always funny when people want you to sign body parts… It’s a bit weird.”
Jessica, who is the first Asian actor in the Game of Thrones cast, also talked about her favourite A Song of Ice and Fire characters and who she’d like Lady Nym to meet, if it were possible (please don’t kill her off). We’ll cover that in a separate article.
Meanwhile, you can read my take on that Sansa scene which sparked outrage on the Internet, or our 10 tips to survive in the world of Game of Thrones. Also, did you know that both the Queen Mother and the Mother of Dragons have played Sarah Connor in the Terminator franchise?