Just as Brienne of Tarth never shied from a fight, actress Gwendoline Christie was fearless about diving into the debate surrounding violence against women on HBO’s Game of Thrones.
We spoke to the Thrones/Hunger Games/Star Wars actress before season 5 began about the show’s violence and, most specifically, asked her about the dark story twists this season involving female characters (like—spoilers—Sansa Stark getting assaulted on her wedding night earlier this year and Cersei’s Walk of Shame in Sunday’s finale). As an avowed feminist who portrays the physically toughest female character (perhaps even the physically toughest character of all) on the show, we asked Christie her opinion on this season’s most debated sequences.
“I’ve always been quite clear about my attitude toward gender equality and female empowerment.” Christie said. “And a lot of this show is inspired by actual historical events, and that’s what’s occurring with the women. Women have been treated appalling in history. Men have too. Human beings have. What this show is doing is shining a light on women and has an exploration of female characters that has rarely been approached before—and I applaud that. Yes, those scenes are difficult, and they should be difficult. They should further illuminate human consciousness about how we interact as human beings.”
There is also, Christie noted, some broader context for the most debated events in the show. The acts do not happen in isolation, and the story of the impacted characters is often not yet complete. “Those downfalls and points of agony and pain that affect us so acutely with these horrific events that the female characters go though, those events are not the only things that happen in the show,” she said. “The show is so dense and so complex. This isn’t just a season-by-season story, we’re looking at this story as a whole.”
It’s true that on Thrones, pretty much everybody without power—men, women, children—are victims of the powerful, and that the show’s handling of that issue is evolving in the story. In the season 5 premiere, a character (Varys) laid out an idealistic vision to create a better world for the first time on the show, while Daenerys Targaryen recently declared that her goal was to correct the imbalance of power in Westeros. Her comments are actually similar to what Thrones author George R.R. Martin recently said on this same subject.
“I truly believe this, I truly do,” Christie concluded. “Because people ask me about this all the time. And what’s wonderful about Game of Thrones is it’s a TV show, and in watching it, the show allows us to perhaps adapt our own personal attitudes and create a better reality.”
The actress paused after she finished her defense of the series, delivered entirely off the cuff during a midday tea break. Christie then asked: “Now can you write that so I sound more eloquent?” No need!