Game of Woke: Non-binary stars, gendered characters and hardly any sex or nudity

Game of Woke: Non-binary stars, gendered characters and hardly any sex or nudity

When the blockbuster fantasy drama Game Of Thrones first aired more than a decade ago, it almost immediately gained notoriety for its violent bloodlust and frequent, needless nudity.

From the very first episodes of George RR Martin’s eight-season epic, there have been graphic sex scenes, stories of rape and incest, and even gory depictions of infanticide.

But 11 years later, times have changed – also in the fantasy land of Westeros. House Of The Dragon, the highly-anticipated prequel to the original series, is fully woken up, according to Hollywood insiders.

For the prequel House of Dragon, set 200 years before Game of Thrones, expect non-binary actors, a new dynasty of powerful black characters and roles that are “sexually fluid” and “androgynous.”

Gone are the daring scenes of frontal nudity and violence that shocked and delighted audiences in equal measure. Taking their place are non-binary actors, a new dynasty of powerful black characters and roles that are “sexually fluid” and “androgynous.”

In this new era, set 200 years before Game Of Thrones, two women fight for the series’ Iron Throne – the seat of power that controls the diverse regions of Westeros.

And instead of exposing female actresses to sexual violence, new post-MeToo storylines are instead meant to show the “power” of women by showing gory scenes of childbirth.

A Hollywood exec linked to the new series told The Mail on Sunday: “The original show was filmed before the MeToo era. Graphic sex and nudity had never been seen before on television. But this new series had to take into account that we live in different times. The sex is handled very differently and there is far less of it. There’s a lot more variety. Game Of Thrones only had a few black characters, and one of them was killed in chains.

House Of The Dragon, which will air on Sky Atlantic from August 22nd, is based on Martin’s book Fire & Blood and tells the story of House Targaryen and the bitter and brutal civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons.

One of them vying for the throne is Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, played by British actress Emma D’Arcy, who in real life categorizes as non-binary and uses the pronouns she/she. D’Arcy has described how the character is “afraid of being locked into motherhood”.

“Rhaenyra constantly struggles with what it means to be a woman and is a fundamental outsider,” D’Arcy said. “She is afraid of being locked into motherhood and is aware of how different her position would be if she were a man.

Actress Emilia Clarke, who played iconic character Daenerys Targaryen, the queen of dragons, on 'Game Of Thrones' has previously spoken out about her fear of nude scenes, which brought her to tears

Actress Emilia Clarke, who played iconic character Daenerys Targaryen, the queen of dragons, on ‘Game Of Thrones’ has previously spoken out about her fear of nude scenes, which brought her to tears

“I am a non-binary person. I’ve always been attracted and repelled by both male and female identities, and I think that’s truthfully playing out here.

Former Doctor Who Matt Smith plays her uncle, Prince Daemon Targaryen, a character who has been described as sexually “fluent” and “oddly androgynous.” In fact, according to the Hollywood source, one of House Of The Dragon’s main themes is “men bad, women good.”

British star Olivia Cooke, who plays Alicent Hightower, Princess Rhaenyra’s stepmother, explains: “There are times when Emma’s on one stage and I’m on the other, and we’re both surrounded by idiot male characters. And we know if all these men just fled and it was just the two of us, the empire would be fine.

This means there’s far less nudity and sexual violence than the original series – although it wasn’t entirely excised. Director Miguel Sapochnik explained the decision that while the new show “retracts” the number of sex scenes, one “cannot ignore” the violence men have perpetrated against women throughout history. However, he adds, “It should not be glorified.”

In its place are some graphic birth scenes – which still make audiences cringe. “The crib is our battleground,” the source said.

And referring to the original series’ infamous “Red Wedding” massacre, which saw several main characters die in a legendary bloodbath, the source added, “This does for childbirth what Game Of Thrones did for weddings.”

But in today’s film industry, production crews must address a larger problem that didn’t exist in 2011, when the original drama first aired — that actresses no longer want to appear in nude scenes that could be seen as gratuitous. The Hollywood source said: “Since MeToo, actresses have been far less willing to do graphic sex scenes. This series had a sex scene coordinator who made sure everyone was comfortable. But there’s a lot less sex.’

Cooke has admitted she “wouldn’t feel comfortable” being part of a series that uses “enormous graphic violence” towards women just to “irritate viewers”.

“I was lucky enough to read the script before, and it’s changed a lot since the first few seasons,” she said. “I don’t think they would be in their right mind to record any of that.”

Actress Emilia Clarke, who played iconic character Daenerys Targaryen, the queen of dragons, on ‘Game Of Thrones’ has previously spoken out about her fear of nude scenes, which brought her to tears.

Former Doctor Who Matt Smith plays Prince Daemon Targaryen, a character who has been described as sexually

Former Doctor Who Matt Smith plays Prince Daemon Targaryen, a character who has been described as sexually “fluent” and “oddly androgynous.”

“I was fresh out of drama school,” she said, “I’ve never been on a movie set … and now I’m completely naked on a movie set with all these people.” But Clarke said her co-star Jason Momoa whose character was Khal Drogo ‘virtually raped Daenerys’ on their wedding night, said she was ‘so kind and considerate’

“He used to say, ‘Can we get her robe?'” she recalled.

Carice Van Houten, who starred in numerous nude scenes as Red Priestess Melisandre in the original series, is now thinking differently about those days.

“Looking back, I thought, ‘Why did this scene have to be nude? Why was that normal?” I questioned things [after MeToo] and it wasn’t so much that I blamed anyone, but that’s how we evolved and that’s how the movement influenced me.

Other notable changes that audiences can expect include the introduction of a new influential black family, House Velaryon, led by Lord Corlys Velaryon.

Known as the Sea Serpent, he is played by veteran British Hollywood star Steve Toussaint.

There’s also Asian representation in the form of Japanese-born British actress Sonoya Mizuno, who plays the wily Mysaria.

According to the show’s official website, “Mysaria came to Westeros with nothing, has been sold more times than she can remember, and could have withered, but instead rose to become the most trusted and highly unlikely ally of Prince Daemon Targaryen, heir to, on throne.’

It also stars Notting Hill actor Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King.

So far, only creator Martin has watched all ten episodes of the new series.

While Game Of Thrones ended in controversy — the eighth and final season was panned by critics and fans alike — Martin says the prequel is “powerful, visceral, dark… like a Shakespearean tragedy.”

And although it will air just two weeks before Amazon launches its £400million Lord of the Rings series The Rings Of Power – the most expensive TV show ever – Martin is philosophical that life isn’t its art will imitate.

“This isn’t a deathmatch,” he says. “I wish you much success.”