The actor behind Yara Greyjoy discusses girl power, playing the game, and her first impression of Daenerys Targaryen.
HBO: What was your response when you learned you’d have a scene with Dany and Tyrion?
Gemma Whelan: Oh my goodness – I was so excited when I saw that I had a scene with those two.
HBO: What is Yara expecting when she goes in to talk to Dany?
Gemma Whelan: She feels enormous trepidation when Theon and Yara first approach Dany; they don’t know what to expect. Theon and Yara have heard about this woman with dragons, but they don’t know much more than what Euron told them.
I think Tyrion is quite mistrusting of the two of us and much more cautious, but Dany goes on instinct and emotion in that scene. I think she likes Yara. I get some approval from Theon as well in terms of, “Let’s make this happen.” Her trepidation is followed by quite an interesting turn of, “Ah, I quite like the cut of this lady’s jib.” She knows they could be a team.
HBO: Can you describe the dynamic between the two women?
Gemma Whelan: It’s clear as the scene plays out that Yara quite likes Dany. We share a lot of little looks and there’s some playful language in how we talk to one another – Dany asks if the Iron Islands ever had a queen, and Yara says, “No more than Westeros.” They recognize the girl power undertow between the two of them.
HBO: What does it mean for Yara to sacrifice her Ironborn lifestyle?
Gemma Whelan: I was surprised at that and how quickly she makes a decision. I think at that moment, Yara knows that she’s got to cut something that means a great deal to her for the long game. Yara recognizes that her whole way of life has changed anyway. As it stands, she’s not welcome back at the Iron Islands, so sacrificing that way of life possibly isn’t that big of a deal. She’s taking a leap and teaming up with someone who’s got other ways of doing things. In a very quick amount of time, she has to play that chess game and say, “OK, no more.”