WCW: Gemma Whelan


Gemma Whelan began her career in stand-up comedy, and I wonder if that’s where she mastered the side-eye and sarcastic smirk she imbues so many of her historical roles with. Oh sure, everyone knows her as the bad-ass lesbian warrior-sailor Yara Greyjoy from Game of Thrones, but since that role in 2012-16, she’s been back at more comedic chops, often in costume. I hope she take on more frock flicks, funny or serious!


Irene Coles in Mapp & Lucia (2014)

Gemma Whelan, Mapp & Lucia (2014)

A dandy of an artist who flirts with Lucia in this second adaption (vs. the 1984 one) of the E. F. Benson stories. HAWT.


Ida Battersea in Hetty Feather (2016-17)

Gemma Whelan - Hetty Feather (2016-17)

Then there’s this children’s series about girls at Victorian foundling hospital, which does not sound fun.


Kate in Upstart Crow (2016-20)

Upstart Crow (2016)

Gemma Whelan played aspiring actress Kate in this comedy riffing about Shakespeare’s life. It ran for three full seasons & had 2 Christmas specials since then.


Diane Fagan in Decline and Fall (2017)

Gemma Whelan - Decline and Fall (2017)

She had a small part in this Evelyn Waugh adaption set in the ’20s.


Patricia Campbell in “Marionettes,” The Crown (2017)

Gemma Whelan - The Crown (2017)

In this one episode of The Crown, she played a real person, the secretary of Lord Altrincham, who was the first major journalist to critique Queen Elizabeth II in the press.


Various parts in Horrible Histories (2017-19)

Gemma Whelan, Horrible Histories (2017-19)

Ostensibly a children’s show, but it’s just a good silly sketch comedy series about history.

Gemma Whelan, Horrible Histories (2017-19)

Featuring great actors, like Gemma Whelan, & nice historical costumes, like this gown recycled from Wolf Hall (2015).

Gemma Whelan, Horrible Histories (2017-19)

She’s played everyone from Nefertiti to Mona Lisa to Emily Bronte (shown here).


Marian Lister in Gentleman Jack (2019-)

Gemma Whelan - Gentleman Jack (2019-)

As Anne Lister’s younger & perpetually annoyed sister.

Gentleman Jack (2019)

It’s all about that face.

Gentleman Jack - Marian

She is fantastically entertaining to watch! Can’t wait to see more of her in season 2.


Miss Taylor / Mrs. Weston in Emma. (2020)

Gemma Whelan - Emma (2020)

She plays Emma’s beloved governess.

Gemma Whelan - Emma (2020)

Who gets married at the start of the story.

2020 Emma

And is still Emma’s sounding-board, even after she has a house & child of her own.



Is Gemma Whelan always Yara Greyjoy to you, or do you have a favorite historical costume movie or TV role that you remember her by?

12 Responses

  1. Gail

    “Upstart Crow” for the win … Kate and her dream of being an “actor on the stage..”

  2. Janet

    I loved her in ‘Horrible Histories’…and seen every episode, though it’s not meant for a 49 year old 😉🤣. And she is just a gem in ‘Upstart Crow’. Which has a Black Adder feel to it – which is no wonder with 😍Ben Elton holding the quill ✒️. Looking forward to more of her work.

  3. Karen B Hayes

    A new favorite. Loved her a lot in Gentleman Jack. In her plaid taffeta and curls she was unrecognizable from GOT’s Yara! (BTW, where is season 2 of GJ?!) She was delightful in Upstart Crow, and lovely in EMMA.

    • Saraquill

      I was scrolling down, wondering why she looked so familiar. It wasn’t just from GoT. Then I reached Gentleman Jack and was all “MARIAN!”

      • KayHay

        Sisters are a mystery to me (three bros), but I love her exasperation–sometimes almost affectionate, usually not! Must be frustrating vying for attention with an older, bolder steamroller of a sibling.

  4. Susan Pola Staples

    Gotta go with Kate in Upstart Crow and Marian in Gentleman Jack. Kate was always trying to act on stage and was espousing feminist ideas and Marian was what I would imagine Eloise Bridgerton would grow up to be if she was more interested in finding a mate and bossing her elder sister,, Ann, around than exposing the identity of Lady Thistledown

  5. India

    I’ve loved her in everything I’ve seen her in. She has an arresting face, full of intelligence and wry humour.

  6. florenceandtheai

    Loved her in Upstart Crow. I’d only seen her in GoT till then so the difference was startling. She’s a hoot. I enjoyed her in Gentleman Jack. I went between feeling annoyed and sorry for her. She does have a great, mobile face.

  7. Mina Van Berh

    She is amazing!! I fell in love with her in Horrible Histories and watched everything with her ever since!

  8. Lily Lotus Rose

    I watched the first episode of Gentleman Jack and the whole time I kept thinking, “oh that’s the girl from Game of Thrones in a dress.” So, for me, she’s Yara Greyjoy. She also reminds me of the actress who played Princess Margaret in A Royal Night Out.


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