The Sand Sisters

Fear The Sand Sisters

Words: Holger Potye
Photography: HBO

Jessica Henwick and Rosabell Laurenti Sellers talk about their thirst for revenge as two of the three Sand Snakes – daughters of Oberyn Martell, who was killed at the end of Season 4 

THE RED BULLETIN: Tell us about your characters …

JESSICA HENWICK: I play Nymeria Sand, also known as Lady Nym. I am Oberyn’s second daugther of the Sand Snakes. 

ROSABELL LAURENTI SELLERS: I play Tyene Sand, another Sand Snake. I am her [Nymeria’s] younger sister. There are three Sand Snakes, and I am the youngest. We are all fighters, we are all very badass.

So what are the Sand’s plans?

Uphold our father’s dying wish, I’d say. He was very clear in the last season that he wanted to annihilate the Lannisters. That they were the scorch of the earth.

RL: We definitely look up to our father a lot and grew up with his insisting on revenge, revenge, revenge! So when he dies, we are like: Okay, that’s it. We need to continue his mission!

JH: That was our bedtime story, you know: Kill the Lannisters! One day, once upon a time … we are coming in very much with that on our agenda.

RL: And nothing can stop us … in our minds!

JH: Nothing will stop us. But we have to maneuver the Martell political space, which is quite different from the Westeros idea. But it brings us three Sand Snakes together with a common goal.

Season 5 of Game of Thrones premiered on HBO on April 12 

How was your first day on set?

 We met before we started shooting and luckily we formed a bond before starting, which was very very nice.

JH: My first day was like: Here is your 8-foot bullwhip, which I had been training with. This is the actor up to his head in the sand. You can see it in the trailer. They were like, “we are going to put a bucket on his head, then we are going to take the bucket off and we are going put scorpions on him and you have to use the whip to hit the bucket and then hit him, but don’t touch him and don’t kill the scorpion. Okay, go!”

RL: And don’t kill the cameraman, and the crew and the actors around you!

JH: And don’t hit the £50,000 camera. It was so funny, they put up these riot shields, that police use, and they just surrounded the camera. Especially because Rosabell was throwing daggers as well. We were a nightmare. We were all over the place.

RL: Yeah, I hit someone. (Laughs shyly.)

So you had no prior experience with daggers or whips?

JH: I had no experience with the whip.

Did you get any kind of training?

 I learned for about six months how to catch things, how to hit things out of the air, how to sort of wrap the whip around something and pull it, how to wrap something with the whip and get it to interlock, how to crack it in various ways and how not to kill myself.

RL: Yeah, she is an expert!

JH: I wouldn’t say, I am an expert. I am a journeyman!

RL: I had no experience with daggers at all, so I did some training as well and they told me the choreography. Daggers are less dangerous, I mean the dangerous part for me was more fighting against a sword, whereas for her it was not hitting herself!


Meet the Sand Snakes

Did they do anything else to make you feel more medieval? Like forbid you to wash?

RL: They didn’t have to tell us! (Laughs.)

JH: Actually, they did tell me. Do you remember?

RL: Did they?

JH: My first day at filming I had a hair and make-up test - about ten days before shooting and they were like: “It’s really hard!” I have asian hair, so it is really hard to manoeuvre. It is quite slippery, so they were like: “Don’t wash your hair!” But I misheard it and thought they meant “Don’t wash your hair for the next ten days!” When they meant: “Don’t wash your hair until like three days before filming.” So I turned up and it was just like … grease, grease! It was awful. And they looked at me and were like: “What have you done?” That’s just an abomination!

RL: Dorne I’d say, is very lucid and inspired by various different cultures and it is kind of free in that sense. We are definitely characters who would not wash, because that would be a waste of time for us.

JH: And we had dialect training and things like that, just to get into the Dornish spirit.

“We are definitely characters who would not wash, because that would be a waste of time for us”
Rosabell Laurenti Sellers

Can you tell us a little bit about the locations of Dorne? Where did you shoot?

JH: We filmed in Belfast and Portstewart in Northern Ireland, Split in Croatia …

RL: And Sevilla in Spain!

JH: Great locations, all so different. But it is interesting how they all look on screen …

RL: Yeah, I was really suprised Portstewart looks like Spain, which is incredible. And in Spain we were shooting in the Alcazar Palace. We had this massive palace just for us, closed off to everyone. No tourists! And we could just wander through it.

JH: In Portstewart we had to stop filming because it started to rain. And in Sevilla we had to stop filming because it is too hot! But I feel really fortunate to have seen all of these places, because if you talk to the guys on the Wall, they are just stuck in Belfast all the time.

RL: Or Iceland!

JH: Whereas we got to travel around and eat tapas and drink sangrias. We had a ball! 

There are very strong female characters on the show. Dou you feel you have tough competition in that realm?

JH: There are lots of strong females on the show but this is the first time, I think, we are really seeing strong females working together. That’s so different. And it is really rare on tv, not just fantasy. I mean, we buck horns sometimes…

RL: … but we don’t really compete. We are all on the same side, fighting for the same thing. That is really nice.


The Sand Sisters

Rosabell Laurenti Sellers plays Tyene Sand in season 5 of Game of Thrones 


Do you think about the show differently, now that you are playing in it?

Yeah, I am a big fan of the show. So when I got the episodes, on the one hand you are like: “This is massive! I am so happy, I am in Game of Thrones!” On the other hand you are like: “Oh no! Now I get spoilers!” So I only read my scenes. I didn’t read the other scenes. So I am going to watch the show like the rest of the audience. But it didn’t really work as I pretty much know what happens, because theses guys (points at Rosabell) spoiled everything.

RL: (Laughs.) We read it.

JH: Well I mean I have read the books as well, so I knew what we were getting into, but the TV series is very different.

RL: I didn’t know Game of Thrones that much before getting the part. So I watched it, knowing that I was going to be in it. So I already saw it through a different perspective.

Why has it become such a phenomenon?

 I think it filled a hole in the market. People were sort of wanting something of that scale. TV has been on the rise for a long time and it came out at just the right moment. And it feels like you are watching a film.

RL: And everything - the crew, the sets, the costumes, the acting - everything about it is beautiful.

JH: I remember the first time I watched it and I was captivated.

RL: Yeah, and you can’t tell that it’s different directors. It is very very beautiful.

Who is your favorite character?

 In season 1 my favorite character was Littlefinger, and then he went and ruined everyone’s lives. So let’s be honest, if he hadn’t done what he did, everyone would be better off. My favorite characters now are Tyrion and Arya.

RL: Yeah, for me the same. Arya is awesome. And Tyrion.

JH:  I like Varys as well, he is cool. I am interested in seeing where he ends up. Because you know, he knows more than he is letting on.

The Sand Sisters

Obara Sand, played by Keisha Castle-Hughes is a formidable warrior 


Do you know anything about the future of your character?

Well, you know what Game of Thrones is like! Everyone comes in, knowing that you could be off any moment. That is another reason why Game of Thrones is awesome, and why fans like it.

RL: It is unpredictable.

JH: It is so unpredictable. I mean, gosh, the beheading at the end of the first season. Like, no one saw that coming!

RL: I just hope, that if we die, we die in a really cool way. Something grand.

You guys seem like sisters already, the way you sit here and talk?

RL: Awesome! We kind of bonded right away. And Keisha (Castle-Hughes) as well.

JH: We did. Everyone said that to us. At first we were going onto set and I thought I was embarrassing myself in front of some of the other cast members. And then Keisha and I realized it must be really overwhelming meeting the three of us together. Because within one week we were finishing each others sentences. We realized that people were overwhelmed by meeting the three of us.

RL: We had the most of energy and were like wild cats all over the place.

“I just hope, that if we die in the show, we die in a really cool way. Something grand”
Rosabell Laurenti Sellers

Is there a character in Game of Thrones that you wish you could have worked with?

I would have loved to work with Oberyn, played beautifully by Pedro Pascal. I would have killed to have a scene with him. There could be flashbacks, you never know. Who knows what will happen. Maybe he will rise from the dead. Maybe I meet him in the afterlife. It’s Game of Thrones, no rules!

Lady Stark was supposed to rise from the dead …

JH: Yeah! She has not.    

In the book there were about eight sisters. What have you done to the other five

We ate them. The first scene you see us and we are out to feast, and we are eating the remains of our younger sisters.

RL: And there is blood all over the place. Fake spoilers!

JH: Sarcasm is really hard to read, so I am gonna say: “That’s a joke!” I mean, they are in the show, because in the last season Cersei asks Oberyn how many daughters he has, and he does say: “I have eight kids.” But here we are focusing on just three and in the books these are the three, that really have the main POV storylines.

The others are just out of the scene?

JH: Well, they are kind of younger, I imagine them as babies and toddlers. Oberyn was very sexual. He has been knocking them out.

RL: We come from three different mothers. We grew up with different mothers in different parts of Dorne.

When will the shooting start again, if you are back and still alive?

Filming starts in the summer, usually around July. It is so popular, it has already been picked up for another two more seasons. So it is going to be filming this summer until Christmas and next summer until Christmas. Who knows, I guess it depends on how the reaction is.

RL: I hope we make it. That might be dangerous. Like me thinking: “No this is big, I am not gonna die!” Even more of a shock!

JH: I just hope that if it happens, they give us a warning in advance. Doom and gloom!

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04 2015

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