Lena Headey on “Game of Thrones” and the IRC

“Game of Thrones” is about to return for its eighth and final season, and anticipation is high. Lena Headey plays Queen Cersei Lannister, one of the few original characters to have survived the show’s many violent episodes. Headey also is a prominent campaigner for the International Rescue Committee; she recently visited refugee camps in Greece and is calling for better mental health care there.

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LENA HEADEY, ACTRESS, “GAME OF THRONES”: I went to Lesbos three years ago with the IRC, which I am a voice for.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: International Rescue Committee.

HEADEY: Committee, yes.


HEADEY: And we went back to look at their mental health program that they’re running. And also, to go inside the reception center, Moorea, which is a government run place —

AMANPOUR: Run by the Greek government?

HEADEY: Yes. And no one’s really been in there before.

AMANPOUR: What did you find?

HEADEY: It’s appalling. It may — it was unforgivable. I spoke to a lot of people who were in there, who are stuck there. It’s unthinkable. I mean, it’s horribly unsafe for women and children. The women don’t use the toilets at night, there’s no lighting after dark.

AMANPOUR: Because they’re afraid of getting attacked just —

HEADEY: I mean, rape is an everyday occurrence and —

AMANPOUR: Are you serious?


AMANPOUR: Rape is an everyday occurrence?


AMANPOUR: That is shocking.


AMANPOUR: Why do we not know?

HEADEY: I don’t know why we don’t know this. It was horrendous to listen to stories.

AMANPOUR: Did they give you any assurance that they were going to help people in this regard, that — I mean, is there any security that they can put there to make sure the women are safer?

HEADEY: I mean, the camp is manned by police and military. They also have six psychologists on the site. I don’t know how often that is. You hear very different tales from the officials, tales from the people that are in there. The medical team come and go. I think they find it overwhelming, they don’t have a place to work from. There’s a lot of illness in the camp. And people are just told, “Well, just go to the chemists.” So, nothing is diagnosed. So, people get ill and that spreads, it’s deeply unsanitary.

AMANPOUR: And it’s been going on for years now.

HEADEY: For — yes.


HEADEY: The last kind of six years. And at Christmas, it was full of 9,000 people. Now, it’s at 5,000. The past year is 3,000. So, I dread to think —

AMANPOUR: What’s going to have next. Look, I mean, it must be really different and very strange for you to come from, I mean, a fairly privileged environment —

HEADEY: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: — where you’re a Hollywood movie star, where you’re on “Game of Thrones,” where the whole world knows you, you have, you know, money and fame and all this, to go there and see that. I mean, how much of a total culture shock was it for you?

HEADEY: I mean, before I got famous, because I’m sort of a Yorkshire lass, you know and I never expected this happens to me. I’ve always had an interest in humanitarian work. I travel to India as a backpacker for six years, running. So, I was obsessed with it. But I’d never seen anything like the refugee crisis, I’ve never seen such a lack of humanity and sort of carelessness where people are concerned that need it most.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal & Debbie Dingell about ‘Medicare For All;’ and actress Lena Heady about her work with refugees. Walter Isaacson speaks with Drew Faust, the first ever female president of Harvard, who helped steer the university through a time of change.