*Caution: Game of Thrones spoilers ahead!*
Game of Thrones fans were overjoyed this past Sunday, July 23rd, when an onscreen pair everyone's been rooting for finally took the leap and made their relationship a bit more intimate: right hand to the Dragon Queen, Missandei, and her top general, Grey Worm.
Following the episode, Nathalie Emmanuel, who plays Missandei, sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to unpack the scene, what it was like to record it, and what it meant to the characters involved.
Emmanuel explains what she thinks draws the pair together:
"They were both suddenly thrust into freedom. It was a whole new concept: freedom of having individual thoughts, or feelings, or opinions, as opposed to being told what to do and when to do it without question. They're both thrust into this world based on their own skill and the respect of, in Missandei's case, Daenerys, and Daenerys respecting Missandei's abilities. For Grey Worm, it's the mutual respect in his ability as a soldier.
... Out of all the people who surround Daenerys, they understand where the other one has come from more than anybody else. Missandei is asked to teach him the common tongue. It grows from there. It grows from a mutual understanding, and also their vulnerability of being a little bit afraid, and also being afraid together. They clearly love each other very much, but they're also facing great danger together."
She's also grateful about how the writers have taken their time developing the relationship amidst so much heart-pounding action:
"I think it's amazing how the writers have told this story. They've given it the time it's due. These two characters, like I said, are both at least slightly nervous. This is all-new territory and slightly scary for them. To see this romance blossom so slowly over the last four seasons, it's happened when it was supposed to happen. At no point could this have been rushed in any way."
When asked if the scene was a surprise when she read the script, Emmanuel responded:
"... guess I had an inkling we would have a scene [that advances our relationship] together, because we generally do, but I didn't know how it was going to happen or what the scene was going to be. I wasn't massively surprised.
When I read it, I found it very touching. I thought it was very, very well-written. All of the moments and feelings of each of those characters was laid out so beautifully on the page already. It made me very excited about discovering more and seeing what else we could bring out of it. We had rehearsals for it when we eventually came around to filming. We played with other different ways of telling this next phase of their story. I was pretty touched by it. I thought it was so sweet. I was a bit like, 'Aw, that's really lovely.'"
The scene was obviously a hard one to shoot:
"I think you're always nervous. I can't speak for everybody, but I've always found being nude on camera or on a set to be nerve-racking. You are nervous. Also, I was doing this with my colleague and friend. That's obviously ... it can make you very nervous. But I also felt incredibly safe. I trust Jacob explicitly in supporting me and us supporting each other through the scene. I think we did that."
After the episode, many people had questions about Grey Worm's sexual abilities, since, like all Unsullied soldiers, he was castrated as a child. Emmanuel responded:
"Well, I think people are very unimaginative if that's all they can think about. It's interesting. I read an article this morning about the scene, and this idea that people who are eunuchs aren't sexual beings — these heteronormative ideas of sex of a penis going into a vagina, like it's the only way people can conceive sex and sexual intimacy. Obviously we know from the many different types of relationships in the world that penises aren't always needed. Clearly."
Some fans were disappointed that we didn't get to see more of Grey Worm's body. Emmanuel thinks there's an artistic reason for this:
"Well, it doesn't matter to her. It doesn't matter to her. Her wanting to see him isn't about whether or not he has a penis. It's about seeing all of the man that she loves. Despite everything they've both been through, all of the scars and the brutality, she just loves this man. She accepts him in his entirety. That's what it's about. It's not about whether he can perform in the bedroom. Even if he couldn't, up to this point, it hasn't stopped her from loving him any less."
As a way of saying goodbye, THR asked Nathalie what the best-case scenario for the couple would be in a world where survival is never a safe bet:
"The happiest ending would be that the Night King and his army are defeated and Daenerys becomes the queen, and she rules justly and cares about the people, the way we've seen her do already. And for Missandei, she gets to be with the man she loves, and he's safe and she's safe. That's the best we could ask for, really."