Teenage ‘House of the Dragon’ Actor Thanks Intimacy Coordinator After Uncomfortable Sex Scene

The comments from Emily Carey, 19, come weeks after Sean Bean claimed intimacy coordinators have "ruined" sex scenes by killing their "spontaneity."

Teenage ‘House of the Dragon’ Actor Thanks Intimacy Coordinator After Uncomfortable Sex Scene
Emily Carey as Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon. Photo:Ollie Upton / HBO

This week’s House of the Dragon episode was all about sex, with two teenage girl characters and their vastly different experiences at the heart of it all. Emily Carey was cast as one of these characters, Alicent Hightower, when she was just 17 years old. Having watched parts of HotD’s predecessor, Game of Thrones, Carey said in a Newsweek interview that she was initially afraid to take on the role of a teenage queen married to a much older man and the inevitably uncomfortable intimate scenes this would surely entail.

According to Carey, who is now 19, having an intimacy coordinator (and, in her words, a co-star who was as much of a “joy” as Paddy Considine playing King Viserys) made all the difference. “We have an intimacy coordinator who was amazing,” Carey said. “Again, still being 17, the first scene that I read from the show was my sex scene and my intimacy scenes, that includes the scene where I’m bathing the king—anything that felt intimate was considered an intimacy scene, which I thought was great.”

Because of the coordinator, Carey said filming her intimate scenes—which, this week, included helping Viserys bathe, then an awkward sex scene—“was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be,” and created an “open dialogue” where she felt free to “talk everything through.” Carey’s comments about her experience with an intimacy coordinator are in pretty stark contrast with Sean Bean’s from last month, in which the GoT alum who played Ned Stark claimed intimacy coordinators “ruined” sex scenes and their spontaneity. Personally, I’m going to take the word of a young woman who filmed sex scenes at age 18 over a 63-year-old man on this matter!

And Carey isn’t the only young actor who’s filmed intimate scenes as a teenager to have weighed in on this. Last month, Rachel Zegler begged to differ with Bean’s comments. “I was extremely grateful for the one we had on [West Side Story]—they showed grace to a newcomer like myself [plus] educated those around me who’ve had years of experience,” Zegler tweeted. “Spontaneity in intimate scenes can be unsafe. Wake up.”

In addition to support from an intimacy coordinator, Carey also said her initial fears about entering the GoT cinematic universe, with its reputation for rampant rape scenes and casual violence against women, were assuaged by HotD’s women directors and producers. “When we got to the rehearsal room, regardless of who was in which scenes, there was an open dialogue about, ‘Look, this is how we’re approaching the show. This is how it’s going to be different from the original. … This is how we want the viewers to view the women in our show,’” Carey recalled, adding that “there were a lot of women behind the scenes.”

I’m utterly relieved to hear that Carey’s experience on the set of HotD has been comfortable and even “empowering” thanks to women leaders on the set—especially given how traumatic it sounds like the working conditions on the original show were, particularly for some of its women cast members. It’s noticeable that HotD has thus far lacked rape scenes or more overt depictions of violence against women. But it hasn’t been above criticism—namely for its highly graphic, even triggering scene of a woman dying in childbirth, her life sacrificed for her baby’s, or the show’s treatment of an Asian actor portraying a stereotypical, disempowered sex worker. Not great!

The conversation around what constitutes gender-based violence on-screen and how to thoughtfully approach it is constantly evolving. But it gives me hope that the GoT franchise is clearly doing the work to make a teenage actor feel safe doing sex scenes, rather than heeding the advice of Sean Bean.

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