Game of Thrones’ Keisha Castle-Hughes on Swordplay, Nipplegate, and Chasing Myrcella

Photo: C Flanigan/Getty Images

Everyone wants Myrcella — Cersei wants her back safe at home in King’s Landing, dad/uncle Jaime wants to rescue her (with the help of new BFF Bronn), Prince Doran wants to keep her under his protection, and the Sand Snakes want to use her to start a war to avenge their father Oberyn Martell. And so the race is on to kidnap the princess, with Ellaria and the Sand Snakes ambushing Jaime and Bronn. Keisha Castle-Hughes, who plays Obara Sand, chatted with Vulture about sending selfies to Pedro Pascal, fight training, and the Nipplegate controversy sparked by her character’s armor.

Not that he has any responsibility toward his “daughters,” but have you had any interaction with Pedro Pascal?
No, not face-to-face interaction, but it’s so bizarre … When we were shooting, over the course of shooting, we sent him a lot of pictures, through David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss], and through Indira [Varma, who plays Ellaria Sand]. We sent him selfies, “Daddy, we miss you!” selfies. [Laughs.]

Pedro said that the way he practiced his spear work was with a curtain rod he got from Home Depot. He’d twirl it around in his apartment.
We also both trained in the martial art of wushu, and that was really important for the fundamentals. I’m so grateful to him — actually, we all are — because he really set everything up for us, in terms of the sound, the way that he moved … So much of it was just following him. I watched so many videos of Pedro Pascal training and his final fight, so the movement was really similar. Because of the nature of the shoot and because it’s in between so many places, it was so spread out. I was going back and forth to New Zealand a lot, and so I was lucky enough to work with a wushu master in New Zealand, using a spear, and I worked with someone in Belfast, using a spear, and then I had my retractable … I guess it’s like a walking cane? Because obviously I couldn’t have taken a seven-foot spear on the plane. [Laughs.] Can you imagine?!

So in this episode, Jaime and Bronn are trying to rescue Myrcella …
And in my opinion, they’ve got what’s coming to them! Those two, more than anyone else, know that you can’t just go into someone else’s place and take something that you think is yours, especially under these circumstances. When they see the women approaching, Bronn’s like, “Aw, for fuck’s sake!” He thinks they’re just going to be a nuisance. “What are these pests?” And then we learn that actually, these pests can fight, and Obara Sand is absolutely a match for Jaime Lannister.

What was it like to stage that fight scene?
Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau] has been playing Jaime Lannister for five seasons now, so he’s actually quite good with a sword. I’d been rehearsing and training with the stunt team, and Nikolaj’s stunt double that I had been rehearsing with is a ginormous Bulgarian man, and while I was learning, I would hit him, accidentally, and he wouldn’t even flinch. And so I was like, “Oh, I’m not really that strong.” But then all of a sudden I was fighting Nikolaj, who looks like he’s been drawn as Prince Charming and he’s also on one of the biggest shows in the world, and there was so much pressure. I was like, “What happens if I accidentally hit Nikolaj?” and everyone was like, “No, no, no, you can’t hit him, you can’t hit him!” And I was like, “Oh. I don’t know if I’m that good.” [Laughs.] But he was really fun to work with, and we had a really great time. He’s got a really great sense of humor.

What did you think about Nipplegate? The mini-controversy because it looked like the Sand Snakes would have nipples on their breastplates …
I mean, the costumes are designed to be worn and to be moved in, and working with [costume designer] Michele Clapton, it was like one of the most important things as an actor, especially when you’re playing a character with huge physicality, to have a costume you can move in. I was like, I can’t do six months of wushu training and spear training, and then on the day, not be able to move because I’ve got a costume that doesn’t move. So we broke it down together, we trained a lot in the armor, and we made a lot of adjustments. I still haven’t seen it, but when the image came out, and the whole Nipplegate saga started — it sounds so much more interesting than it is! — I was like, Oh, okay! Well…

Michele said the effect was more pronounced by how the light caught the armor
Oh, totally! I wore that costume over the course of six months, and never once in my life did I go, “Hey, guys? Is anyone concerned about my nipples on my armor?” It didn’t bother me at any other time. I think it was totally a case of the light hitting the armor in a certain way in that picture. It wouldn’t make any sense for the armor to be nippled. And of all the characters, of all three Sand Snakes we meet this season, Obara is the least likely to even have nipples! I’m not even sure if she has sexuality at this point. Which is totally fine! But it’s so funny, because when you enter a show like this one, obviously, the first question my brothers asked was, “Can I watch it? Because you’re not going to get naked, are you?” [Laughs.] And I was like, “Yes, you can watch it! Surprisingly, I’m playing a woman who doesn’t get naked.” And there are plenty of women who don’t get naked on the show. But it lends itself to the world that we’re portraying. That’s the thing — that’s what happened back then!

What do the Sand Snakes hope to do with Myrcella? Have they decided? Because as you know from the books, there are two schools of thought on how to use her for revenge — hurt her, or crown her.
Yeah, that would totally work in their favor as well. I don’t think they’ve come to a decision yet, because they’re under strict orders from Prince Doran, who won’t see her hurt. He’s like, “No, Trystane and Myrcella are deeply and madly in love,” and Trystane — the Sand Snakes’ cousin — is the heir to the throne in Dorne.

Do you think Myrcella would make a good queen? Would she be a good choice?
No. [Laughs.] No. I think the problem is, Dorne is so far removed from the rest of Westeros, it’s like living in Fantasyland. It’s always sunny! The Sand Snakes have the same issue. There’s a bit of naïveté about how much power they would have in the outside world. They were in a really lovely position, in the sense that they’re part of the royal family, so they can get away with running around and doing whatever they want to do, but they don’t have any commitments pending, because they’re bastards, so they don’t have any right to the throne.

And as you can imagine, Oberyn wasn’t the strictest father in the world. He probably encouraged them to go and find various things to play with, and by play with, I mean, torturing with and toying with people to practice their weapons. [Laughs.] Plus, no curfews! Although his sexuality is the one thing Obara didn’t inherit from Oberyn. There’s a lot of interesting theories about why he has so many bastard daughters, from all over. In the show, we’ve been cast to kind of look like half-sisters, but in the books, they’re of varying races, creeds, colors, and hair colors. So I know there are lots of theories that this was Oberyn’s way of taking over.

Speaking of theories, there’s one that the original snake-o-gram wasn’t from Dorne, since there was at least one other Lannister necklace in circulation, no longer being worn by its owner. And Doran, as you say, wouldn’t hurt Myrcella. Who do you think really sent it?
Ellaria! [Giggles.] Without a doubt.

GOT’s Keisha Castle-Hughes on Nipplegate