Body doubles in TV and film don't receive a lot of attention — by design, of course. Such is the case in Game of Thrones. Given the grand scale of some of the show's dramatic events, it already features one of the largest casts in modern television. As a result, body doubles have a major part to play in an often stunt-heavy series like Thrones — including one of the biggest scenes in season five.
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In the season five finale, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is forced by the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and his religious sect to atone for her sins of incest and adultery by, essentially, going through a walk of shame across the streets of King's Landing. It's a gruesome scene, with Cersei (sporting her newly shaven head) mercilessly abused by the commoners of King's Landing by means of dirt, food, sewage and bodily fluids. All the while, a Septa rings a bell and repeatedly chants, "Shame."
Once she makes it to the Red Keep, her feet are bloodied and she's visibly shaken. The lasting effect on the audience is immediately clear. For some viewers, even after all the horrible things she's done and being one of the most hated characters on the show, it's hard not to sympathize with someone whose primary powers of influence — namely, her royalty, entitlement and beauty — are stripped from her.
It was a fantastic, emotional performance by Headey, which helped her earn an outstanding supporting actress nomination at the Emmys last year. Yet similar praise should be heaped on Cersei's body double for the scene, Rebecca Van Cleave. Van Cleave's nude body was used in the scene, according to Entertainment Weekly, while Headey's face was digitally added in the editing process. (She also performed the walk, but wore a beige shift.)
According to Entertainment Weekly, the show didn't use Headey's body because she was pregnant at the time. They wanted to focus on the emotions of the scene versus the nudity.
Van Cleave, for her part, said it was the hardest thing she'd ever done. "Particularly moments when I got all kinds of stuff thrown at me, with the chamber pots [being dumped out]," Van Cleave said, according to Entertainment Weekly. "Then on the last day, there was a well of emotion when she's finally getting to the end and I was getting to the end too — not in a bad way, it's almost like being one with the character."
Similarly, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) had a body double last season, likely for the scenes in the fighting pits of Meereen. Her body double — model and actress Rosie Mac — does bear a striking resemblance to the Khaleesi when dressed in a similar garb with the character's iconic silver hair.
Interestingly, the body double for Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) — Dany's protector and current love interest — and Mac might have taken the fictional characters' romance to a new level. Ignacio Blanco, Huisman's body double, reportedly told the Daily Mail in August that the two began dating after meeting on the set of Thrones. "We are so committed to the show that we followed the steps of Michiel's and Emilia's characters," Blanco told the Daily Mail.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly where Mac and Blanco can be seen as body doubles in season five of Thrones, but that's exactly the point. They're not going to be in the spotlight on the show, as is the case with most shows and films. Yet they're a necessary, underappreciated element of the production process. Whether or not viewers notice, they'll likely see more of them in season six.