Nathalie Emmanuel on Missandei & Grey Worm romance and John Bradley on Sam’s gruesome scene with Jorah in “Stormborn”

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As promised, this season brings more juicy scenes per episode than we are used to, and that means more interviews with the cast as well, as they dissect their particular characters’ highlight scenes in the episode. This week, after Stormborn, it was the turn of Nathalie Emmanuel and John Bradley, who talked about romance and gross imagery — I’ll leave it to you, clever reader, to guess which of them talked about what.

The Hollywood Reporter discussed Sam’s scenes from this past episode with John Bradley, who is quite ecstatic about the reaction it got, though not surprised: “I knew it would be another memorable moment, and a visceral moment,” Bradley began. “Something that people are going to have a strong emotional connection to, and something people would be talking about. I was happy to be involved in something that was essential not just to my plot but also to Jorah’s storyline and how it impacts the Daenerys story. It was nice to feel like a part of that and the wider landscape and story. I was really happy for Sam as well. He’s taking matters into his own hands. He’s being brave. He’s defying authority. He had that dragonglass moment at the end of the first episode, and now he has another moment here where he can save somebody’s life. It’s nice for him that he’s now fulfilling his promises and putting his skills to good use.”

That doesn’t mean it was an easy shoot, however. In fact, it was a highly technical scene:

“Iain had to get up at 3 AM every morning we were filming those sequences,” Bradley revealed. “He had to sit there in a prosthetics trailer while they applied these really detailed and intricate greyscale prosthetics, piece by piece. That was a very long process. When I was peeling sections of that off, I was basically peeling the plastic latex prosthetic off of Iain’s actual body. He was kind of in a suit, and then there were a few parts with more give than what I could take off, which made it easier. It was the same as pulling away a prosthetic. It was a very, very big technical job for the prosthetics department. There were about five or six guys on set that day that you can’t see but were just out of the camera line, there with pumps and buckets of pus.”

After going into even greater detail about exactly how equally difficult and disgusting the scene was to film, Bradley moved on to the stone-man himself, Iain Glen:

“It’s quite a grueling process to have all of that applied to you, and you just have to sit back and stay still,” Bradley commiserated. “It’s quite a grueling experience to have four or five people swarming around you for hours at a time. I tried to be respectful in between shots and takes, giving him as much quiet time as I could. He needed to save some energy for the takes. It was a big job, to put across that level of pain and discomfort, the agony that his character is in. It’s a big acting job,” he told THR. “When you hear [Jorah’s howling], it really kind of pierces through your heart. The idea of a man being in such agony and being so uncomfortable … it was so distressing to hear … I think he was exceptional. He was exceptional on the day, and the way Mark shot it and edited it, it was just such an interesting sequence. I’m so happy that I got to be a part of it and to share the screen with Iain Glen. I’ve admired him for so long. I think he’s amazing.”

James Cosmo as Lord Commander Jeor Mormont in "And Now His Watch Is Ended." Photo: HBO
James Cosmo as Lord Commander Jeor Mormont in “And Now His Watch Is Ended.” Photo: HBO

Once John was done with even more gushing about Iain Glen (who wouldn’t), he moved on to the commonalities between their characters, and the link that unites them:

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“He feels he owes a debt to Lord Commander Mormont, and that’s what links those characters together … It was nice to play the part of meeting somebody you have this connection with, and somebody whose life you instantly want to save. There was something really beautiful about putting these two characters together. It was another one of the ways where the show can link two characters who you think have nothing in common, but it turns out they do and it’s really lovely.”

Maybe Sam and Jorah couldn’t have connected back when we first met them in season one, but they have both gone through a lot, especially Sam, as Bradley explained in detail to The Hollywood Reporter: “He walks into the room and sets about his business. He’s not tentative in that moment at all. He’s not dancing around Ser Jorah in a reserved and hesitant way like he normally would. He goes in and becomes the boss of that room. He tells Ser Jorah what to do. ‘Drink that, bite on that, take off your shirt.’ It’s a much more assertive side of him than we’ve seen before. We never even approached 10 percent of how assertive and confident he was in that moment. It’s all about stripping away all of that emotional baggage. Actually, it’s an interesting metaphor. He’s stripping away Jorah’s physical scars as he’s shedding his own psychological scars. They’re both shedding unwanted stuff. Jorah’s is physical and Sam’s is emotional, but they’re both progressing. You can see Sam’s progression this season already. He’s no longer willing to be shat on by life. He’s going into situations and taking control and doing things only because they’re the right thing to do. I love that progression for him this season.”

Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm and Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei. Photo: HBO
Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm and Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei. Photo: HBO

Nathalie Emmanuel talked to The Hollywood Reporter as well, though the subject matter was more pleasant, discussing first why Grey Worm and Missandei came together:

“They were both suddenly thrust into freedom. It was a whole new concept: freedom of having individual thoughts, or feelings, or opinions, as opposed to being told what to do and when to do it without question. They’re both thrust into this world based on their own skill and the respect of, in Missandei’s case, Daenerys, and Daenerys respecting Missandei’s abilities. For Grey Worm, it’s the mutual respect in his ability as a soldier. He’s elected as the leader of the Unsullied by his peers,” Emmanuel compared them. “Out of all the people who surround Daenerys, they understand where the other one has come from more than anybody else. Missandei is asked to teach him the common tongue. It grows from there. It grows from a mutual understanding, and also their vulnerability of being a little bit afraid, and also being afraid together.”

The actress then credited the writers —that is, showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, as well as Stormborn‘s writer Bryan Cogman— for telling this story in the first place:

“They’ve given it the time it’s due. These two characters, like I said, are both at least slightly nervous. This is all-new territory and slightly scary for them. To see this romance blossom so slowly over the last four seasons, it’s happened when it was supposed to happen. At no point could this have been rushed in any way. It wouldn’t have been truthful to them and the people they are, facing this whole new world and this foreign environment they’ve found themselves in together … I think the only reason it happened is because he was leaving [for war.] The situation made it happen sooner than it may have happened organically if there wasn’t the threat of war. I really appreciate the writers choosing to do that. It made it so much more of an impact. It made it so much more special when it did finally happen for them.”

“When I read it, I found it very touching,” Nathalie said, regarding the sex scene. “I thought it was very, very well-written. All of the moments and feelings of each of those characters was laid out so beautifully on the page already. It made me very excited about discovering more and seeing what else we could bring out of it. We had rehearsals for it when we eventually came around to filming. We played with other different ways of telling this next phase of their story.” This is not to say she didn’t find the nudity “nerve-racking,” but she felt “incredibly safe” thanks to Jacob Anderson and director Mark Mylod, and the extensive preparations made it easier: “We rehearsed and decided exactly what was going to happen in terms of the disrobing and the action of the scene. We walked onto set that day knowing exactly what was going to happen … It allowed us to pour our energy into the performance and hitting the notes we wanted to hit, and to show each character’s feelings in the scene and what it meant to them.”

Finally, Nathalie Emmanuel had a few stern words for those who were confused by how they could possibly have sex without a penis, a sentiment I very much agree with:

“I think people are very unimaginative if that’s all they can think about. It’s interesting. I read an article this morning about the scene, and this idea that people who are eunuchs aren’t sexual beings — these heteronormative ideas of sex of a penis going into a vagina, like it’s the only way people can conceive sex and sexual intimacy. Obviously we know from the many different types of relationships in the world that penises aren’t always needed.” Whether Grey Worm’s “pillar” was cut as well as his “stones,” a fact not actually revealed in the universe of the show, Emmanuel believes it’s inconsequential: “Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to these two characters. It doesn’t mean they can’t be sexually involved with each other, even if he has no penis. It’s so interesting to me that people are like, ‘Well, how did they do it?’ Well, if you don’t know, I sort of feel sorry for you. (Laughs.) You maybe need to explore some things, because it’s really fun if you do!”

Amen! Seriously. The confused reaction to their romance before this scene (and during it, in some cases!), from men especially, has been disheartening. It paints a sad picture.

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“Her wanting to see him isn’t about whether or not he has a penis,” Emmanuel continued with an explanation that wouldn’t be necessary with some basic sex ed. “It’s about seeing all of the man that she loves. Despite everything they’ve both been through, all of the scars and the brutality, she just loves this man. She accepts him in his entirety. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about whether he can perform in the bedroom. Even if he couldn’t, up to this point, it hasn’t stopped her from loving him any less. She knows his situation. She came from that world. She knows what the masters did to those boys and she loves him anyway. Their intimacy is something else. It’s an emotional connection, which, for me, personally, is the foundation of any physical intimacy that means anything. It’s a great basis for them to have a physical relationship already, but whether or not the show decides to reveal those details is irrelevant. It doesn’t change how Missandei feels about him. That’s the point, and that’s why they probably chose not to [show it]. I can’t speak for the writers, but that’s the obvious reason for me as to why we don’t know or not: because ultimately, Missandei does not care. She loves him anyway.”

Give Emmanuel a medal, please. So many people need to read these last few paragraphs. You should read both interviews in their entirety, too, as Emmanuel and Bradley got much deeper into their scenes — the sex scene and the background for it, and the technical aspects of Jorah’s treatment, as well as Sam’s story with his father, respectively.


  1. I’m putting in an hour of overtime at this white shirt corporate temp job, and I have to ask before reading this, is it SFW? Sounds a little bit naughty! 😉

  2. All I can think about when people make jokes about him not being able to be intimate because his parts aren’t intact are the many many war veterans who’ve been coming home to the US for the last 16 years from the M.E. (and other warring areas) with their parts blown off or injured to some extent.

    Are they not still men, capable of love and deserving of intimacy? Should we mock them and demand to see what they’re left with?

    Just a thought.

  3. Sam should look for the Blackfyre and give it to Daenerys and other valyrian steel resources as soon as possible.

  4. Lyanna_Targaryen,

    They are, of course! However, I couldn’t help but watch and feel sorry for him. It was a lovely scene, but I felt terrible and frustrated on his behalf.

    That’s just being honest.

  5. Catspaw Assassin,

    Not at all.

    Loved both articles but esp Natalie’s. It had to be difficult but it looked like the producers and writers were looking out for each actor. The whole scene was quite lovely and moving. Now just watch one of them die……sigh

  6. Lyanna_Targaryen,

    You are so right. Never thought much about it until I watched a movie, I think with Joam Baez, about a woman who is hired to care for a returned parapolegic vet. The tenderness of the love scene made me realize how much two people can love each other, and really affected me as a teenager (wish I could remember the name, I thought it was Born on the 4th of July but its not….anyone know?)

    Got it! Its Coming Home with Jane Fonda and Jon Voight

  7. I think this judgmental attitude towards those who wonder what Grey Worm and Missandei did is misguided.

    Educating the ignorant is probably more helpful than scorning them.

    Yes, obviously for a woman there are a million and one ways to receive sexual pleasure without the need for a penis.

    For a heterosexual and anatomically male individual such as Grey Worm, the lack of a penis does somewhat complicate things.

    Downplaying the importance of the penis also diminishes the trauma that comes from being mutilated in such a horrific way. Similarly, women who suffer female genital mutilation can still receive sexual pleasure, despite what has been done to them, but it is in fact more difficult.

    For a heterosexual and anatomical male, achieving an orgasm without a penis would be considerably more difficult. The diminished testosterone due to the lack of testicles would already be one issue, as would the absence of what is for most men the primary erogenous zone.

    Yes, men have other erogenous zones, one in particular that I’m sure most people are familiar with, but it’s fair to say that achieving sexual gratification through the stimulation of that particular body part without the presence of a penis is difficult for many men, perhaps even impossible for some.

    In short, we shouldn’t diminish what it means for someone like Grey Worm, or Theon, to lose a penis. It’s the equivalent of a woman losing her clitoris, and having her vaginal opening sewn shut.

    Oral sex still exists, anal stimulation still exists, nipples still exist, the male prostate still exists, all that is fine and dandy, but it does considerably change things.

    I don’t think those wondering about how Grey Worm’s sex life can ever be entirely fulfilling deserve to be chastised. He is sadly missing something very significant, hence the severity of what was done to him.

  8. I think many of those questions on “but how do they do it?” from men actually stem from the feelings of “how can I have enjoyable sex without any genitals?”. Yes, of course there are performing acts on the other person. And yes you can enjoy things in a different way. But if I was to imagine sex without any female genitals for me, it would confuse me too. The only joy would be pleasing the other person. Which is wonderful and tender but I get the confusion. I don’t necessarily think it is just ignorance or lack of imagination.

  9. Grey Worm has something there, otherwise, how would he empty his bladder? I guess it’s pretty small. Theoretically if he still has testes, he could father a child..theoretically.

    It was a lovely scene, and their desperation(re him possibly dying), and nervousness came through.

    But lets not kid ourselves…they robbed those boys of a great deal.

  10. John’s man-crush on Iain is sweet. Lucky guy!!! 😊

    “Missandei is asked to teach him the common tongue.”

    It would seem she succeeded. 😜

  11. He walks into the room and sets about his business. He’s not tentative in that moment at all. He’s not dancing around Ser Jorah in a reserved and hesitant way like he normally would. He goes in and becomes the boss of that room. He tells Ser Jorah what to do. “Drink that, bite on that, take off your shirt.” It’s a much more assertive side of him than we’ve seen before. We never even approached 10 percent of how assertive and confident he was in that moment.

    Sam is such a boss ass bitch! I love it.

  12. Violator,

    Having empathy for somebody is a lot different than making fun of them “scissoring” with their partner, or demanding to see “it”.

  13. Love John Bradley. Great to see Sam taking control. Not only is he capable, he is a damn sight more capable than most of his “colleagues.” I hope he continues to become more comfortable in his own shoes as the series progresses.

  14. And OT, but here’s another lovely little video of Emilia Clarke, this time reading fan theories. Not sure if it’s been posted?

  15. Markus Stark,


    I get where you guys are coming from. However, a lot of the peeps who are like “HOW CAN SEX W/O PENIS” clearly do not understand any kind of sex that doesn’t involve “putting it in”. Like. In this day and age? It’s hard to believe but it seems like a basic lack of empathy on their part IMO.

    It’s like Nathalie says… really? That’s all you can think of?? Sad.

    For the specific case of these unsullied. They have not had a penis since they are very young boys (I believe like 8 Y.O.?). Most likely like most pre-teens assuming they are not asexual they will have played around with whatever is going on, and figured out if there is anything there that is pleasurable to touch. In which case, I hope that GW will tell Missandei how to recprocate in whatever way that works for him. In the case of FGM I belive taht is how many victimcs proceed. This hurts, don’t do this, but do this instead… etc. Communication, intimacy, that’s what matters.

    Or Maybe some of them are basically asexual – partly due to the lack of T – but however at least in the case of Grey Worm and others, clearly not aromantic. In which case – and this is true for many people who are ace – the pleasure of the other person literally IS the point of a sexual encounter. And that’s ok too.

  16. Pigeon:

    “Missandei is asked to teach him the common tongue.”

    It would seem she succeeded. 😜

    I saw that line also in the HWR article and had to chuckle 😉

    As I mentioned in Oz’s Unsullied recap….

    However one thing is for sure? Like Missandei speaking all those different languages/tongues, GW apparently is also a cunning linguist! 😛

  17. Gina,

    Gina, just wait until menopause. Then, you’ll fully understand sex without pleasure. 😉

  18. This is a reminder, folks: get your Greyscale tests frequently, and get treatment immediately. Well, except under Trumpcare: then just pray….

  19. Black Raven: However one thing is for sure? Like Missandei speaking all those different languages/tongues, GW apparently is also a cunning linguist!

    Before the great war, Colonel Angus has come to Dragonstone to invite everyone to his Shady Thicket Plantation in the deep south. It will be hot and humid there but it is a good place to rest your head before indulging in swordplay… 🙂

    (courtesy of SNL)

  20. These are my two least favourite scenes of the episode but credit where it’s due they are well acted and executed – I just find myself cringing when I watch.

  21. The love scene (yes it was about sex, but there was a lot of love there) between Grey Worm and Missandei was groundbreaking given how rarely a man of color and a woman of color are shown having intimate relationships where both have actual agency. These two people are both former slaves. In the story they are significant advisors but frankly they are still the vassals of an upstart conqueror (who happens to be female). In this scene both are full human beings, with the full range of feelings including fear and longing and the urgency of possibly impending death. Let’s be honest, how many thousands of times have we seen this in lots of other movies and books. But how often do we see characters who have so evolved taking a stand for no one other than themselves and the person that they love. While it probably will not happen, I wish that Anderson would get an Emmy nod for his performance. When he let that one eye completely well with a tear, and the way he barely controlled the trembling of his voice, was, well, cathartic. And damn F – ing hot. Great scene folks, a really great scene.

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