Why This Game Of Thrones Actress Is Speaking Out About Treatment Of Refugees

Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic.
Most know Lena Headey as the wry, goal-oriented queen from Game of Thrones, Cersei Lannister. Off-camera, though, the actress is an activist who doesn't mince words when it comes to issues that matter to her. In early April, Headey sent tweets upon tweets about the damaging effects of anxiety and depression. Now, just weeks later, she's opening up about a more external issue: immigration reform.
"I get it, [immigration] is a crisis with so many levels, but we have also lost sight of the fact it’s not a ‘problem’, it’s people, it’s other human beings. And we’re dehumanising them," Headey told The Guardian regarding the current system in place for processing refugees in the UK. The actress isn't herself a refugee or directly involved in the process, but the role she takes on in her new film The Flood stoked her convictions. In playing an immigration officer, the actress earned a closer look at the "horrendous" experience of European refugees.
"[The experience] woke people up — it woke me up — to the injustice of something that is happening now, right under our noses. This film is about the horrors of what is happening every day to the refugees coming to Europe, and how appalling and frightening it is to sit by while it goes on,” Headey explained.
Based on a true story, The Flood chronicles the fate of Eritrean refugee Haile, played by Ivanno Jeremiah. Headey plays Wendy, the immigration officer responsible for the decision. The cast also includes Game of Thrones actor Iain Glen as Wendy's boss. According to ScreenDaily, Headey also serves as executive producer of the film. Reportedly, principal photography began in April of this year, so we shouldn't expect the film until 2018.
The topic of immigration has been particularly salient recently, with last year's Brexit vote and President Donald Trump's failed "immigrant ban," not to mention the millions of refugees dislocated by the crisis in Syria. For a while, headlines like "The Refugee Crisis Is Humanity’s Crisis" dominated the newspapers. But the news cycle doesn't allow for much discussion of such topics — and Headey believes we've let this conversation fall by the wayside.
"I hope [the film] will provoke similar kinds of conversations. It’s amazing how quickly it seems to have died down even though it’s as a bad as it ever was," she added. Headey is now calling for a "shift" in the way the United Kingdom treats people seeking asylum.
She continued, “If we don’t have a shift where we recognise these people for who they were before they were forced to leave their countries — people who are educated with family values, who had careers and homes — then we are going to be in trouble, we really are. We are going to grow an absolute fury, you could feel it."
Headey also has some choice words for anyone thinks actors ought to keep their nose out of politics.
"There are a lot of people who are saying ‘it’s all right for you, you champagne socialist’ but that’s fucking bollocks, I’m just a human being with a conscience," she said. She may sip wine and glare at her enemies on HBO, but Lena Headey is still a citizen of the United Kingdom, which means her voice and her opinion matter.

More from Pop Culture

R29 Original Series