Esme Bianco on Being at the Forefront of Game of Thrones’ Sexposition Revolution

Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

“Sexposition” — the reveal of plot points during explicit sex scenes — is a word that’s become part of the TV vernacular, in large part thanks to Game of Thrones. We ran into Esme Bianco, whose former GoT character, Ros, started the sexposition revolution, at the Society of Camera Operators award show in Los Angeles. We asked Bianco about her thoughts on the “sexposition” concept, and how she feels being at the center of this storytelling trend:

I look back and think it was a very clever coining of that phrase. People tell her secrets; they reveal a side of themselves we wouldn’t otherwise see. I think the best example is with Theon, who obviously — now he’s gone on to become weak and we have seen this amazing character arc. But in season one, it would be very easy to see him as arrogant, very self-confident, a bit of a twerp. But we see him with Ros and see he’s a vulnerable guy who has insecurities, and there’s more about him than first meets the eye. I think that’s such a great tease for what goes on later when he becomes weak and a totally humiliated shell of a person who’s brainwashed, and becomes a slave — it shows a great character arc. It might have seemed improbable if we hadn’t seen in the beginning that Theon had this vulnerability underneath.

Ros’s scenes with Tyrion similarly revealed more depth to his character. “Early on, we realize Tyrion is a guy who really cares about people. He’s very tender,” she said. “When Ros gets accidentally captured because they think she’s Shae, he really shows he’s concerned; he’s angry about it. He’s not just like so many people in the show, out for himself.”

And just how difficult was it to film those intimate scenes? Bianco recalled how the GoT crew made it easier for her:

When you’re shooting a scene like that, the whole crew is far more considerate and careful than maybe they necessarily are. So people treat you with a bit more bedside manner than usual. The thing that was great about the directors I worked with for those scenes — Dan Minahan shot the scene with me and the other girl in the brothel — was that when sexposition got coined, that scene was pretty out there! He was very careful to spend extra time and have extra rehearsal time the day before, which never happens. He spent extra time with us talking about the angles and the blocking and how things would work so that I didn’t feel vulnerable or exposed. So I was very clear about what the camera could see and wouldn’t see. I think the camera ops and the crew and everybody is just considerate of the fact that you’re in a very vulnerable place, and they’re very courteous. I never felt uncomfortable, which is weird, because you really ought to feel uncomfortable, but because nobody acted like they were uncomfortable, that helps you. Everyone’s just like it’s fine, we’re professionals, let’s just get on with it.

Bianco — whose arc ended on the show in 2013 — remains an avid GoT fan, and has her own theories about who will occupy the Iron Throne. One of the more provocative hints dropped in the recently released season-five trailer was Varys’s line alluding to a female occupying the throne. Bianco, however, isn’t convinced that Dany/Khaleesi is the automatic choice:

I think Varys is very unconventional and he’s a supporter of the underdog. Khaleesi would be too obvious a choice for Varys. I think he’s going to go for someone no one would think of, like Arya or Sansa even. [Last season] this dark, forceful woman appeared out of this little girl and I think possibly she could be in the running. I don’t know if she’d want to be. I [also] think Littlefinger is tailoring [Sansa] and shaping her into a woman in his own image, so possibly Sansa.

Game of Thrones returns April 12 on HBO.