House of the Dragon: Inside tragic birth scene – behind the camera

House of the Dragon: Inside tragic birth scene – behind the camera

Queen Aemma actress Sian Brooke was ‘screaming’ in the read-through (Picture: HBO)

Spoilers ahead of House of the Dragon episode 1 and content warning for references to birth trauma and baby loss.

When House of the Dragon premiered last week, marking a long-awaited return to Westeros, the Game of Thrones prequel immediately sparked conversation over a ‘horrifying’ birth scene.

The scene in question saw Queen Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke) scream in horror on the childbirth bed as she was completely rid of choice, when her husband King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) allowed attendants to cut directly into her womb to deliver their baby, resulting in her death.

Following the launch of the new series, Spoke to House of the Dragon costume designer Jany Temime and intimacy coordinator Miriam Lucia, who provided an insight into what it was like working on that much-talked-about moment behind the scenes.

They explained how the members of the cast and crew operated on a ‘closed set’ on the day of filming, with Miriam saying how while it was ‘an incredibly harrowing day’, it was also ‘amazing’ because ‘everyone was so sensitive’ .

‘I remember the first day we rehearsed that, we did a read-through, and she was screaming like that in the read-through. So Sian had found that’s how that was going to be,’ she recalled.

Queen Aemma only realises what’s going on when the maester approaches with a knife (Picture: HBO)

‘I was in the room and people were very moved by it. Very moved,’ she continued. ‘It was quite female-heavy in terms of crew. So that was a sensitive thing.’

Miriam stressed that the closed set meant that there weren’t a lot of people present for the scene, but having a ‘balance’ of women in the room meant that there was a ‘different vibe’.

The intimacy coordinator and acting coach, who recently wrapped on The White Lotus season two and worked on Emerald Fennell’s upcoming film Saltburn, said that Queen Aemma star Sian was ‘completely in charge of that scene’.

Sian has been showered with praise for her incredible performance (Picture: Karwai Tang/WireImage)

‘Physically, vocally, energy levels… and that was remarkable to see that she had committed, committed 100%, to what that experience could be,’ she stated.

‘We kind of knew it at the time, because people did go, “Wow, that was remarkable. It’s remarkable.”’

In the scene, Queen Aemma is shown losing a fatal amount of blood during the birth, which soaks her night dress and the bed as Viserys mourns the loss of his wife.

Viserys is devastated by the choice put before him which leads to his wife’s death (Picture: HBO)

Jany, whose previous work has included designing costumes for the Harry Potter film franchise and James Bond films Specter and Skyfall, revealed 14 night dresses had to be created so that they could ‘start fresh’ from the beginning of each take.

Speaking about Sian’s performance, and the fact the actress has two children in real life, the costume designer said: ‘It is not easy for a mum to fake that you lose a child. And I think she was remarkable.’

Jany addressed how the scene reflected ‘historical details’ that would have happened in the past.

‘I think that it has been shown with so much tenderness, and so much delicacy. I think it’s an incredible scene, but for the actors, it was really draining, very emotional,’ she added.

At the very start of the episode, Vicerys stands with Aemma, who’s pregnant, as he’s named the next heir to the Iron Throne (Picture: HBO)

Miriam emphasized the importance of highlighting the lack of choice women would have had in medieval times, while acknowledging that House of the Dragon is fictional and that if people have had ‘a horrific experience’ with birth in real life, they could find it ‘traumatising ‘.

‘I know that it’s fiction, but if we think about medieval times, I think it’s important to know that women had no choice and that experimental surgery like that happened,’ she said.

After episode one of House of the Dragon aired, it emerged that showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal showed the birth scene to ‘as many women as possible’ to check if it would be interpreted as ‘too violent’.

‘Unanimously, the response was “no”. Often the response was: “If anything, it needs to be more,”’ Miguel said.

He added: ‘We shouldn’t be shying away from this thing that’s happened because it’s raising a point that seems to hit a real trigger for women, which is this idea of ​​choice.’

House of the Dragon next airs from 2am on Sky Atlantic and NOW.

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