Hannah Waddingham Will Always Be Iconic in This Role


The Big Picture

  • Hannah Waddingham’s “Shame Nun” role in
    Game of Thrones
    is iconic and unforgettable.
  • Septa Unella’s presence drives Cersei’s storyline and highlights themes of power and morality.
  • Despite violent and cut scenes, Waddingham committed to her role, solidifying it as a significant one.

Emmy Award-winning actor Hannah Waddingham is widely known for playing the biscuit-loving team owner of the Richmond Football Club in Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso. But before she became Rebecca, Waddingham played a much smaller, more serious role in the HBO series Game of Thrones. Septa Unella, better known as the “Shame Nun,” made a striking appearance in Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 7 when Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) was led through the streets of King’s Landing naked. Amid her walk of atonement, Waddingham’s Unella methodically rang a bell, exclaiming “Shame! Shame!” over and over again. The “Shame Nun” might only be in Game of Thrones briefly, but not only is Septa Unella a source of internet memes, but the character is one of the catalysts for Cersei’s undoing. Waddingham’s Game of Thrones role will always be an iconic one that lives on long past the ending of the show.

Game Of Thrones

Nine noble families fight for control over the lands of Westeros while an ancient enemy returns after being dormant for millennia.

Release Date
April 17, 2011

David Benioff, D.B. Weiss



Hannah Waddingham Commands the Screen as Septa Unella

The “Shame Nun” was a Game of Thrones character who said very little, but evoked one of the strongest presences in the series. Most of that has to do with Waddingham’s talent as an actor. She commanded the screen and created a character who demanded attention, her face framed by the septa’s distinct robes and habit. The “shame” scene might seem simple enough at first, but it’s Waddingham’s Unella, who treats Cersei with little to no regard and clearly gets a twisted sense of pleasure out of the whole thing, that has made the scene so memorable for Game of Thrones fans.

On top of that, Septa Unella plays a driving force in Cersei’s storyline — one that adds depth and complexity to the show’s exploration of religion, power, and morality. As a member of the Sparrows, a group known for their zealotry and their commitment to punishing those they see as sinners, Unella is one of the scariest characters in the entire Game of Thrones series. She may not hold much of a title, but the power she holds within the religious sect of the kingdom knows no bounds — at least, until Cersei has her day.

Waddingham Commits to Her Brutal ‘Games of Thones’ Death Scene

Hannah Waddingham as Septa Unella in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

Septa Unella’s demise isn’t one that’s widely talked about among Game of Thrones fans, but it’s another significant reason why Waddingham’s role is so iconic. The HBO series never shied away from graphic content, but the “Shame Nun’s” death scene was handled a bit differently. As Waddingham explained in an interview with Collider:

“She was meant to be raped by the Mountain. I think they had so many complaints about the rape of Sansa that they chose not to go with it.”

Waddingham believes showrunners made the last-minute changes to her character’s death scene when she was flying to the set. She says:

“I think they possibly changed it when I was mid-air flying to Belfast because suddenly I got sent these new sides that said that I would need a wetsuit top. And I thought they’d sent me the wrong bits. And sure enough, when I got there, I was then put in a wetsuit top, and I was like, ‘Because?’ And they went, ‘Oh, it’s waterboarding instead.’”

According to Waddingham, even Headey (whom Waddingham became close friends with during the torture scene, ironically) was uncomfortable doing the scene. Waddingham elaborates:

“And there I was strapped to a wooden table with proper big straps for ten hours. And definitely, other than childbirth, it was the worst day of my life. Because Lena was uncomfortable pouring liquid in my face for that long, and I was beside myself. But in those moments you have to think, do you serve the piece and get on with it or do you chicken out and go, ‘No, this isn’t what I signed up for, blah, blah, blah?’ ”

After the waterboarding torture, Unella’s suffering continues. However, instead of showing what happens to the “Shame Nun” on screen, the action takes place behind closed doors, leaving viewers to assume the worst. Unella’s death comes in the Season 6 finale after Cersei’s epic explosion of the Sept of Baelor, where she murdered hundreds of her enemies and innocents on King’s Landing. Amid her revenge tour, Cersei goes after the High Sparrow’s (Jonathan Pryce) right hand. She has Unella strapped to a table and pours wine over her face repeatedly. Then, a zombie Gregor Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) enters the room to finish the job. Only we don’t get to see what he does to the “Shame Nun.” All we know is that she was dead.


The 10 Best Cersei Lannister Quotes in ‘Game of Thrones’

You win, or you die.

‘Ted Lasso’s Rebecca Welton Would Not Be as Iconic Without Hannah Waddingham

Since appearing in Season 5, the “Shame Nun” has been parodied in multiple ways across pop culture, from Saturday Night Live skits to Halloween costumes and beyond. Waddingham took on the role, however minor, with grace and fervor, proving she had the acting chops to handle another iconic character — Ted Lasso‘s Rebecca Welton. Waddingham has been able to demonstrate her range as an actor by exploring the complex emotions and experiences in Rebecca’s life, which include, but aren’t limited to, owning a failing football club; watching her ex-husband find love and success in a world where it feels impossible for her to do the same; and finding herself and the things she is passionate about again.

When we first meet Rebecca, she is cold and calculated with a plan to run her team into the ground and prevent them from ever entering the Premier League as a form of revenge. But Ted Lasso’s (Jason Sudeikis) infectious positivity is impossible to resist, even for the formerly bitter Rebecca. By Season 3, she’s one of the most empathetic and relatable characters on the show — one who has become a female icon in a world otherwise dominated by men. Now that’s a true icon.

Game of Thrones is available to stream on Max in the U.S.

Watch on Max


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *