"I think she is deeply, deeply fearful. She sleeps with fear in her soul. She is full of terror and paranoia and insecurity. She hides it with stillness. She does not move much and that's been a real challenge for me. I fidget. She's like a cobra, she's a snake just waiting and waiting."
―Lena Headey on playing Cersei[1]

Lena Kathren Headey (pronounced "Lee-nuh Hee-dee") (born 3 October 1973) is an English actress, who plays Queen Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones.


Lena Headey has been acting since 1990, when she was 17 years old. The first movies she appeared in were Waterland (1992), The Remains of the Day (1993) and The Jungle Book (1994), which also featured Ron Donachie. In 2001, she appeared in 'The Parole Officer' alongside Stephen Dillane. Headey's first major film roles came in the mid-2000's, appearing in the horror film The Cave (2005) and in Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm (2005), opposite Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. The infamously troubled production of The Brothers Grimm was so stressful that Headey took a year off from acting afterwards.

Headey then worked on two of her most prominent film roles prior to production on Game of Thrones, as Queen Gorgo in the movie 300 (2007) and as Sarah Connor in the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009).

Since Headey began working on Game of Thrones, she has also starred as the main antagonist in Dredd (2012), an adaptation of the Judge Dredd comic book series.

Game of Thrones

Headey stars in HBO's Game of Thrones as Cersei Lannister. She was announced as the role on 1 September 2009. She was part of the initial starring cast and remains a member of the starring cast for the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth seasons.

On Cersei in Season 5, Headey said: "I always think of Cersei as a wayward 15-year-old who's never had any real parenting. She presents herself as this image of perfection, when underneath there's deep paranoia. She has no one to trust now."[2]

Headey reprised her role as Cersei in Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series.

She was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the category Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Cersei Lannister in 2014. Ultimately she lost to Anna Gunn for her role as Skyler White on Breaking Bad. [3]

She received her second Emmy nomination for Game of Thrones in 2016, but lost to Maggie Smith for her role as Violet Crawley on Dowton Abbey. [4]

On December 12, 2016 she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the category Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film.[5]

She was recently nominated for “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series” at the 2018 Emmys for her acting in Game of Thrones.

Personal life

Lena Headey was born in Hamilton, Bermuda, because her father (a Yorkshire police cadet) was stationed there at the time. She spent the first five years of her life in Bermuda, until her family moved back to England. They settled in Shelley, West Yorkshire, where Lena grew up. By her own admission, Lena was rebellious and frequently skipped school, spending the day riding around on trains. Lena describes herself as a "Northern girl" - the irony being that in Game of Thrones, her character Cersei is one of the main enemies of the Northerners led by the Starks, who are modeled on northern England/Scotland from real-life history. She also never thought of herself as particularly good looking, saying: "I think I look slightly like a horse. Hand on heart, I think I’m pretty average. I’m a Northern girl."[6]

At the age of 17, a casting agent noticed Lena in a publicity photo for a Shelley High School drama competition at the Royal National Theatre, which started her acting career. Headey did not attend a formal drama school, but instead acts instinctively. Describing her acting process, she said: "You make-believe that you are that person and that your environment is real. That's the only way I can do it. I can’t fake it. I can't be like, 'I'll just pretend to be-' Clearly I'm not a queen. The wig and the costume all help."[6]

Lena has been suffering from bouts of clinical depression since she was 15 years old, when she was officially diagnosed. She eventually learned to manage it without taking medication, because she is extremely worried about becoming dependent on it. Lena described herself as functioning fairly well until the birth of her son in 2010 (near the end of her filming on Season 1 of Game of Thrones), after which she developed postpartum depression. In reaction, she did start taking several homeopathic remedies, but she still does not want to become dependent on prescribed medication. As Headey said,

"...Then I had postnatal depression, which I didn't realise for a long time. I went a bit nuts and eventually went to a guy who mixes Western and Eastern philosophy in terms of medicine and he put me on a course of something that changed everything. But I would never want to be dependent [on medication]."[6]

Lena Headey married Irish musician Peter Loughran in May 2007. Lena and Peter had a son together, Wylie Loughran, born in March 2010. Lena's pregnancy coincided with much of her filming for Season 1 of Game of Thrones, but the production team was so enthusiastic about her performance - and the larger scale concern of having Headey play Cersei for several years - that they didn't recast the role but instead worked around it. For example, directors in Season 1 kept the camera frame above her waist or had her sit at a table. For wide shots when Cersei was walking around, most of Cersei's costumes in Season 1 had large billowing sleeves which she carried in front of her to hide her pregnancy. At other times, body doubles were shot from behind in quick-cuts.

Lena developed postpartum depression after the birth of her son in 2010, compounded by her predisposition to bouts of clinical depression. She separated from Peter Loughran in 2011 (during or near the end of production on Season 2), and they formally filed for divorce in July 2012 (at the beginning of production on Season 3). The divorce was finalized a year and a half later in December 2013 (just after production on Season 4 finished). She also turned 40 in October 2013, which she described as "a bit of a shock", which made her reflect on her life and career. Lena described the divorce as "difficult", saying:

"I've done it without falling into bitterness or engulfing anger. I remember being on my knees in the middle of it because you're really alone – as much as people offer help, only you know how painful it is on so many levels. Even though there were times when I wanted to do terrible things, I kept thinking, 'I've got to do it with a bit of grace because I want my son to look back and be proud of me.'"[6]

During the long proceedings from 2012 through 2013, a dispute arose over the division of a joint tax refund, which resulted in Lena telling a court that she was broke. By March 2014, however, she said that she was financially stable, and while she had been renting homes for the past two years (in Hollywood Hills, California) she was now looking to buy a permanent home in the San Fernando Valley/Hollywood Hills region.[6]

Lena hated the public scrutiny surrounding her divorce, including what she called "a fascination with my bank account" (as multiple news outlets reported on her financial difficulties during her divorce). She also found the general prying by the media about her divorce to be very insensitive, and said: "I just thought, 'You f— faceless t—. Just meet me in an alleyway and then I will be graceless.'"[6]

Lena received some happier news in July 2014, when it was announced that she had received her first Emmy Award nomination, for Outstanding Supporting Actress in A Drama Series, for her role as Cersei Lannister in Season 3 of Game of Thrones. Ultimately she did not win the award when the winners were announced two months later in August 2014.

On February 15, 2015, Lena announced in People magazine that she is pregnant with her second child, due in summer 2015. She did not say who the father was.[7] In an interview with MORE magazine in April 2015, she explained that after the media focus around the divorce that ended her first marriage, she doesn't want to publicly reveal details about her current relationships, such as who the father of her second child is. Lena said, "I like to keep my personal life private."[8]

On July 10, 2015, Lena announced the birth of her second child via Twitter, exclaiming "Just fallen in unconditional heartbreaking divine love for the second time."[9]

Multiple reports have described Lena Headey as both extremely foul-mouthed and very funny.[6]



Season One credits
Winter Is Coming The Kingsroad Lord Snow Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things The Wolf and the Lion
A Golden Crown You Win or You Die The Pointy End Baelor Fire and Blood
Season Two credits
The North Remembers The Night Lands What Is Dead May Never Die Garden of Bones The Ghost of Harrenhal
The Old Gods and the New A Man Without Honor The Prince of Winterfell Blackwater Valar Morghulis
Season Three credits
Valar Dohaeris Dark Wings, Dark Words Walk of Punishment And Now His Watch Is Ended Kissed by Fire
The Climb The Bear and the Maiden Fair Second Sons The Rains of Castamere Mhysa
Season Four credits
Two Swords The Lion and the Rose Breaker of Chains Oathkeeper First of His Name
The Laws of Gods and Men Mockingbird The Mountain and the Viper The Watchers on the Wall The Children
Season Five credits
The Wars To Come The House of Black and White High Sparrow Sons of the Harpy Kill the Boy
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken The Gift Hardhome The Dance of Dragons Mother’s Mercy
Season Six credits
The Red Woman Home Oathbreaker Book of the Stranger The Door
Blood of My Blood The Broken Man No One Battle of the Bastards The Winds of Winter
Season Seven credits
Dragonstone Stormborn The Queen's Justice The Spoils of War
Eastwatch Beyond the Wall The Dragon and the Wolf
Season Eight credits
Winterfell A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms The Long Night
The Last of the Starks The Bells The Iron Throne

Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series

Telltale Game Series credits
Iron From Ice The Lost Lords The Sword in the Darkness
Sons of Winter A Nest of Vipers The Ice Dragon

See also


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