Performer of the Week: Lena Headey

Lena Headey Performance Game of Thrones

THE PERFORMER | Lena Headey

THE SHOW | Game of Thrones

THE EPISODE | “Mother’s Mercy” (June 14)

THE PERFORMANCE | If we hadn’t recognized Lena Headey for her devastating turn in Game of Thrones‘ fifth season finale, we would’ve deserved a walk of shame of our own. During the course of the episode, Headey took the Queen Regent — already at a personal low after weeks held in the High Sparrow’s prison — to Cersei’s nadir. Headey elegantly wove her character’s haughty nature into even the most groveling of confessions; though Cersei admitted to sinning, the actress’ face showed that the royal clearly thought she’d pulled one over on the priest by keeping the worst stuff to herself. Headey’s just-got-slapped reaction to the High Sparrow’s ominous mention of “atonement”? Perfection.

Thus began Headey’s subtle, beautiful portrayal of a woman burning with thoughts of revenge. Sure, the naked (via body double) walk through King’s Landing is what got people talking, but everything worth remembering happened above the shoulders, playing out in Headey’s eyes. We saw embarrassment, fury and disgrace seething behind the actress’ regal carriage, which Headey held together — even through chamber-pot dumpings! — until the gates of the Red Keep. Only there did Headey allow Cersei’s tenuously maintained façade to dissolve into angry tears. Bravo to Headey for conveying so much while saying — and, in a sense, wearing — so little.

AnnaHONORABLE MENTION | As American Odyssey’s Sgt. Odelle Ballard faced her most psychologically damaging crucible to date — staked down in the middle of the dessert and fed a hallucinogen that found her “confronted” by those killed by her or because of her, in the name of self-preservation — Anna Friel showed us every bit of her character’s remorse and, in instances, horror. Week after week, it is through Friel’s fearless performance that we root hard for this hero to get home, if not avenge those who left her for dead and then tried again and again to silence her.

leaHONORABLE MENTION | Orange Is the New Black inmate Carrie “Big Boo” Black is very comfortable in her own skin, and always has been. But, as we learned in Episode 4 of the Netflix dramedy’s third season, Carrie’s lifestyle has made everyone else around her uncomfortable — resulting in years of homophobia, particularly from her parents. During Carrie’s heartbreaking backstory episode, Lea DeLaria took full advantage of a rare opportunity to let her character’s guard down. We could practically feel the exhaustion rolling off Carrie when, even at 42 years old, she was met with her father’s disapproval over her wardrobe choices. “I refuse to be invisible,” Carrie told her dad, after he begged her to put on more feminine attire before she visited her ailing mother. Thanks to DeLaria’s astonishing performance, we’ve never had a clearer picture of who Carrie really is.

JLDHONORABLE MENTION | She may be the leader of the free world, but that hasn’t changed the petty, profane (and incredibly hilarious) ways of Veep‘s Selina Meyer. In the show’s Season 4 finale, “the eight-month president” spent election night in a Maryland hotel suite fretting over poll results, snapping at staff, even sharing in some uncomfortable one-on-one time with her milquetoast daughter — and Julia Louis-Dreyfus found the dark, comic underbelly in every moment of the roller coaster ride. The episode culminated with Selina smugly backing out of a concession call to her rival candidate after learning that pundits had miscalculated polling data from Pennsylvania. But her celebration was short lived when it became clear that an Electoral College tie might wind up handing the presidency to her more popular running mate (Hugh Laurie). Louis-Dreyfus allowed us to see Selina in a rare moment of vulnerability — weeping uncontrollably into her estranged campaign manager’s arms — and then channeling all of her complicated emotions into blind rage. “I might lose this election to my f—in’ vice president?” she seethed, face streaked with mascara, before a final, brutal rebuke of the people she governs. “The rule book’s been torn up now, and America is wipin’ its nasty ass with it!” Just like that, the foul-mouthed heart of Veep leaped back to life — and we can’t wait to see where she goes in Season 5.

Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments! 

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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34 Comments
  1. Mr. Tran K says:

    Lena Headey definitely deserve the honor this week. Having her hair trimmed and walking naked. Truly an Emmy worthy performance.

    • Jimmy says:

      And she wasn’t even the person actually exposing herself.

      • DL says:

        People are way exaggerating this. Yes, she used a body double in some shots, but not all of them. And her performance was still outstanding. Give credit where credit is due.

        • DL says:

          For clarity: the walk was a double, but as far as I know she didn’t use the double for the hair cutting scene.

        • Isobel says:

          Agree and most times when you see an actor naked in film it’s actually a body double, I don’t see the big deal

    • KCC says:

      I think people are getting an actor’s performance confused with the hair and wardrobe departments. While her performance was outstanding, it wasn’t because she got her hair cut or walked naked through the streets. It was more for her performance before and after the walk of shame. The impact of the walking scene was produced more from the efforts of the director and editing choices than Headey’s facial expressions and whomever’s body. All she had to do was not smile and the scene would have had the same impact. Watching someone endure what she did, no matter what her reaction was, is what got my begrudging sympathy for the character.

  2. Debbie says:

    Lena is outstanding each and every week on Game of Thrones. She gives Cersei such depth. I hope Emmy voters recognize her talents this year.

  3. Beckers0505 says:

    Thank you for picking Lea from OITNB! She is so amazing this season and always seems to get over looked! That was an amazing episode.

  4. kirads09 says:

    Totally 100% on board for Lena. I would like to give my personal HM to Doona Bae in Sense8 as Sun. She is mesmerizing! I love Naveen as Jonas, but Sun def has become my favorite character in the series.

  5. The Beach says:

    So glad you recognized Lea DeLauria. He character of Boo on OITNB was really touching underneath her tough exterior and that’s two eps in a row for her. Last week she was hilarious and great convincing Pennsatucky how she actually did the world a favor by ending all her pregnancies. I understand DeLauria is also quite a good jazz singer. I’m gonna check that out.

    • ZisforZombie says:

      Yaaaaas I just watched Boo’s episode. Lea was great. I actually teared up a bit when she was having the convo with her pops. And, I laughed so hard at her chat with Pensatucky!

    • dan says:

      Lea is great and episode four was on of my favorites so far this season (of the seven I’ve watched).

    • DL says:

      Yeah, I actually saw her as Eddie during the revival of the Rocky Horror Show at the Circle in the Square theater in NYC years ago. She’s a fantastic singer.

  6. Maggie says:

    Cersei ALMOST made me feel sorry for her!!!

  7. J says:

    Wasn’t it a body double with her face digitally added during her naked shame walk?

    • greg says:

      Yes. It was. And that is why I don’t agree with her getting this honor. Don’t get me wrong, she was great but she used a body double for the ENTIRE walk. That matters because a lot of the scene was more body language than actual acting from Lena. Just my opinion though.

      • cjeffery7 says:

        i think theres an underlying assumption in that argument that if one does not personally bare all, their performance is somehow less than. that concept reeks of exploitation – coercing someone to do something they might not be comfortable with “for the sake of the performance.” that said, i dont believe this was a case of Headey refusing to go nude, i believe she was pregnant at the time and maybe she already had a nudity clause in her contract. whatever the case, while nudity tends to be more of a “LOOK AT THOSE BOOBS” type of occurrence on GoT, Cersei’s naked body was the last thing i was watching during that sequence. i was watching her facial expressions and her body language, and was later amazed at how seamlessly the CGI composite was done. the men and women behind the computers, the body double, AND Lena Headey all deserve credit for the performance. at the end of the day Lena Headey is the face of that performance, literally. in my opinion she wasn’t just looking sad, she was looking absolutely MISERABLE, beaten, embarrassed, mortified, terrorized, etc. and i just don’t think the body double gave that same kind of performance, simply because it wasn’t part of her job. doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve credit, i dont disagree with you there, but Headey is the one who ultimately brought it all to life.

      • A.M says:

        There seems to be a misunderstanding, Lena did make that walk..though not naked, and she had stuff thrown on her in exactly the same format as was the body double walk. All that emotion came through from when she walked herself – even though clothed – and then her shoulders up were then integrated with the body double. And to be honest it was not the nakedness that sold that shot…it was Cersei breaking down and the humiliation on her face.

  8. Ron says:

    Just for the collective of the season, how does Lena Headey NOT win the Emmy for supporting actress in a drama?!?! She was fantastic from start until end this season. She masterfully played the emotional roller coaster that Cersei went on this season, from her high of highs to having the Tyrell’s imprisoned and manipulating Tommen, to her low of lows to being imprisoned herself and taking that shame walk.

  9. slowsmallbrain says:

    Lena gets credit for having her head digitally pasted onto some other woman’s body?…

    okay.

  10. Badpenny says:

    Performer of the week for standing in front of a green screen and making various faces that where then put onto someone else’s body via CGI? I guess we will have animated movie performers of the week next. :)

    • ScottJ says:

      No green screen. Headey did the walk first. However she did it in a thin smock. The body double then duplicated the walk but naked.

    • A.M says:

      She did not stand in front of a green screen, Lena made that walk as well and had stuff thrown on her just like it was with the body double only that she was not naked. All that emotion came through from her own walk-of-shame take!

  11. HAP says:

    Glad to see American Odyssey getting some recognition. I agree that Anna Friel is a great actress. So, why is it that Peter Facinelli gets billing above her in the credits?

  12. LAwoman says:

    Lena and Julia were definitely two of my faves for the week. Nice call!

  13. A.M says:

    Thank you TVline for recognizing Lena Headey’s performance. She’s been spot on since the episode she drank that water from the filthy black cells floor. Even after Cersei has been such a B since episode 1 of GoT…in that moment my heart broke a little for her..and that was all thanks to Lena. I’m hoping the Emmys recognize her as well.

  14. Sean says:

    Ms. Lena Headey’s performance was utterly brilliant. I stand in amazement of her capability of an actress. In particular with her “walk of shame” in this season’s finale, I cannot imagine the emotional preparedness she went through to pull that scene off so well and with such bloody awful gravity. Well done!

  15. Cee says:

    That scene was uncomfortable to watch in the best kind of way. All the kudos to Lena Headey for doing it so perfectly.

  16. kirads09 says:

    For those complaining re body double:
    TV Line makes the point it was Lena’s performance over all – not just THE walk.
    I am sure body doubles are used all the time in various performances for many different reasons. I don’t think that means the actor or actress should be considered “less than”. This instance may have been more publicized GoT being one of the biggest shows ever.

    Just my .02 I do feel she deserves the honor regardless.

  17. Lisa says:

    If Heady doesn’t get nominated for something after that GOT finale then I will never take an awards show seriously again.

    Her performance was incredible.