Gemma Whelan almost missed her chance to be an Ironborn.
Whelan, who joined the HBO fantasy hit in its second season in 2012 as Yara Greyjoy, didn’t know that she was supposed to keep mum on all things Game of Thrones. As a result, she posted her latest role online to her resume, causing a frenzy among fans and nearly preventing her from playing Theon’s (Alfie Allen) sister and the wannabe queen of the Iron Islands.
“The first lesson I learnt was when I first got the job. No one told me to keep quiet about it,” she told the U.K. Times. “I just thought it was normal to pop it in my Spotlight entry, so I wrote on my CV, ‘This summer, Gemma will be playing Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.’ And the internet went nuts. One of the lovely, lovely producers on Thrones called me into his office and said, ‘This is very serious. We almost can’t employ you because of this.'”
She learned her lesson — and so did the show. Back then, the drama’s security protocols were very different: Before the show became a phenomenon, George R.R. Martin would even post casting announcements on his LiveJournal and wait for the internet to catch up. Now, producers and cast keep a notoriously tight lid on news of any kind to combat the inevitable leaks and paparazzi photos that spoil the seasons to come.
And Whelan, of course, has gone on to play Yara for four seasons. In the upcoming seventh, she’s allied her fleet with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and will likely face off against Pilou Asbæk’s Euron Greyjoy, her charismatic uncle chasing the Iron Throne.
Game of Thrones returns July 16 on HBO.