AS the glamorous yet terrifying Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, she sleeps with her brother, massacres enemies – and strips off repeatedly.
But today Lena Headey, who plays divisive Cersei Lannister in Game Of Thrones, reveals she HATED the backlash from going nude on screen.
The Brit mum-of-two also tells how she channelled anger over the end of her first marriage into her ruthless screen character, battled post-natal depression on set and cried when the hit series ended.
In season five Lena, who was pregnant at the time, had to rely on a body-double for a scene where Cersei was forced by a cult to walk naked through the streets.
Lena said about using a stand-in: “Some people thought I was less of an actress. It was a bit shocking.
“She found it very difficult, obviously. It’s not a natural thing to do.”
But Lena, 45, is unfazed by her risqué scenes, saying they push her to work harder. She says: “I’ve done nudity. I’m not averse to it.
“I’m a very emotional actor and get really driven by that. To do my job, I allow myself to be really vulnerable. I don’t know any other way.”
A messy divorce from husband of six years Peter Loughran, in 2013 gave Lena ammunition for playing her brooding GoT character.
“We got through it,” she said. “I tried to put into Cersei in a way that was cathartic for me, otherwise I would have had a meltdown.”
Cersei will be at the heart of the show’s final series which starts tomorrow, with ten million from the UK alone expected to watch the Sky Atlantic show.
Such fame is like nothing Lena could ever have imagined when she decided to try acting as a young girl, living in humble surroundings near Huddersfield.
She says: “All I remember was pubs, loads of pubs.
“It was a big mining community that got shut down, all the work fell away. It was simple, honest living with lots of laughter.”
She took elocution lessons in the hope it would help her get work but it gave her an “almost regal” accent and got her beaten up.
She says: “I remember asking this boy where the playing field was, and he was like, ‘Where are you from?’ Then he smacked me on the head with his cricket bat because I was different.”
But Lena was a rebel teen, sneaking boys into the family home and getting tattoos.
She says: “We lived in a tiny house with a little landing and one night my boyfriend got up to have a wee and found Mum sitting naked on the toilet.
“She was screaming, he was screaming, and my dad comes out of the bedroom and chased him out of the house, naked.”
She got her first tattoo at 17. Lena recalls: “I started young. I used to sneak into the house with long sleeves on.
“I have three on my arms and my back is covered. I love my tattoos, they are my story.
Lena is now happily married to film-maker Dan Cadan, 44, a childhood friend, but it follows tumultuous times in her love life.
She met first ex-husband Peter, an Irish musician, in 2007 and they wed soon after.
They set up home in LA with son Wylie, now nine.
Following their 2013 divorce, she was then linked to GoT co-star Jerome Flynn before the fling also ended badly, amid reports that they refused to film scenes together.
Lena later struck up with Dan after moving back to West Yorkshire.
They married last year and have a three-year-old daughter, Teddy.
She says: “I always said to him, ‘Don’t ever ask me to marry you, it’s a disaster’. But it actually feels really wonderful.”
On moving back to her roots, Lena says: “I’m a Yorkshire lass in my heart.
“I would’ve stayed in LA and played the game but I want my kids to have a bit of grounding.
“I moved back to the town where I was raised and bought a big, old Georgian manor house that was knackered — not very Queen Cersei at all, really.”
Lena does find her GoT character a tough ask.
She says: “I’m a nerd, quite shy and suffer massive anxiety.
“So for me it’s a real challenge to play Cersei. I always shatter at the end of a season because I give it everything.
“Cersei’s got this storm inside — human pain that we all identify with.
“I don’t want to say I’m, like, hilarious, but obviously Cersei’s sort of permeated everything.
“So there’s a preconception of who I am. That follows you weirdly in this industry, even with professionals who are like, ‘Oh God, you’re funny and nice’.
“Where I sit naturally as a person is more relaxed and nerdy than playing wicked queens.”
Game of Thrones by numbers
- 175: Number of countries show is broadcast in
- 50 million: Views of final series trailer
- 1 billion: People set to watch series eight first episode
- 2am: Time on Monday the first episode goes out
It has not always been plain- sailing for Lena while filming GoT — now on its eighth and final series.
During series one, whiches, which aired in 2010, she was battling personal troubles.
Lena says: “It was horrendous — I had post-natal depression but I didn’t know it.
“I saw a doctor for the medical check and I just burst into tears.
“I did the first year (of GoT) in that space, figuring out motherhood and going through a weird time personally.
“It was tricky.”
But now Lena — who thinks she would be “a florist or a baker” had her acting career not taken off so successfully — has become more content with life.
She says: “I’m happier now I’m older, playing women who aren’t expected to be beautiful. That pressure has gone for me.”
But one thing she will not miss about GoT is her character’s iconic cropped wig — which she calls “the itchy turnip”.
Lena says: “I hated that thing. I would have liked to burn it.
“Everyone keeps asking me if I took anything from the set — but I didn’t take anything.”
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Recalling her last day of filming for GoT, Lena says: “I thought I wasn’t going to let myself get to that point because I had the last day to get through — and then, when I left and I got in the car, I broke down in tears and I was devastated.
“It’s been nine years and it’s been amazing, and I’m happy to go and find new things.”
Need a Game of Thrones catch-up?
VIEWERS are set to watch the final series of Game Of Thrones (2am and 9pm tomorrow, Sky Atlantic).
The last series seven ended with the feuding factions in Westeros seemingly uniting against a common foe.
But ruthless Cersei (Lena Headey), wants to wipe out those she sees as threats to her throne – Dragon Queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and King of the North Jon Snow (Kit Harington) among others – so betrayal, as ever, is in the air.
Meanwhile the Night King and his white walkers, emboldened by the destruction of the Wall with the help of the zombie dragon, march to a final, apocalyptic conflict.
Winter is here.
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