Gwendoline Christie: How Nudity Launched Her Career

Gwendoline Christie starred in Game of Thrones but a nude photoshoot early in her career helped with her own body image.

By Rick Gonzales | Updated

Gwendoline Christie is known for a few big things. Game of Thrones, for one. Star Wars, for another. But the actress, whose training includes school at the Drama Centre London, is also known for one more big thing. Her size.

It is a trait that has served her well in securing (and crushing) some of her most famous roles. But it wasn’t always such a benefit. In fact, Gwendoline Christie had issues with it. Let’s take a look at her career, how it continues to shine on Netflix, and how body image (including nudity) has played a part.


Gwendoline Christie clocks in at a lengthy 6 foot 3 inches tall, and while today Christie obviously feels comfortable with her size, it wasn’t always that way for the actress.

She told Stylist, “I think it’s important to shake up the norm and people’s perceptions of what beauty is. But it’s not always been amazing. I found it so frustrating, particularly at the beginning, because I would be told, ‘Sorry love, you’re too tall.’ At one stage I was like, ‘I’ll give this another six months and if this persists, I’ll become a nun.'”

Gwendoline Christie’s candor on the matter of becoming a nun definitely made sense. “You don’t need to worry about wardrobe options in the morning; you don’t need to worry about make-up. Food is slops and it’s supplied for you. All they ask for is a dedication to God.”


But it was also Gwendoline Christie’s size that caught the eye of noted Australian photographer Polly Borland. In 1998, it was Christie’s height that Borland saw as a positive when he convinced her to pose mostly nude for what was then called Bunny.

This series of nudes, according to Gwendoline Christie via Stylist, was a way for her to come to terms with her body and everything that went along with it. “At the time it was exciting, it was the opportunity to share my ideas and for that work to be realized by someone.”

“And I felt that it would help me come to terms with my body. It’s only in retrospect that I’m shocked I did it. It was giving so much of one’s self and I wouldn’t want to do that now.”

Gwendoline Christie
Gwendoline Christie

Her size got her some positive publicity. Question was, what would she do with it?

Her thought behind the Bunny shoot had merit. Gwendoline Christie was a young lady coping with her physical appearance, a struggle many have faced.

She says, “I was at drama school and it was the first time I had an awareness of my size and the negative connotations. Before then you experience bullying and whatever, you experience all those things, but you’re not aware that the way you’re born and the way you look could inhibit your opportunities of achieving your ambitions and desires and dreams. I also wanted to challenge notions of femininity and what it is to be a woman.”

Early in her career, in fact, as a youth, Gwendoline Christie wanted to be a dancer and gymnast. But a spinal injury derailed that notion. She was 11 years old when the injury occurred, to what she says was over-coaching. She says, “I was growing really, really fast. My body decided that was it; no more. And I was told I could never dance again.”

Sometimes life has a way of taking you on the path you were meant to take all along.


Gwendoline Christie

Gwendoline Christie quickly turned her passion toward acting. Her time at the Drama Centre London was most difficult for the budding actress. “It was really tough, but I received a lot of education and it married the two things I’d always loved; classical work with the method approach.”

“It was hard though; 12 hours a day, seven days a week, I wasn’t getting any sleep. I was told I was rubbish all day, every day; I wasn’t going to work, I was too tall, etc. But really that prepares you for the amount of rejection you get on the job. It’s relentless.”

Her time at the school paid off. Gwendoline Christie spent much of her early career on stage, appearing in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline as the Queen, Lucifer in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, and Mag Wildwood in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. These roles would eventually get her roles on the big screen.

Gwendoline Christie’s first role came in the short film, The Time Surgeon. She was then seen in the feature The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, in a bit role, but work is work. She appeared in a few more shorts, then found herself on the British series Wizards vs. Aliens.


Game of Thrones

Brienne of Tarth is the role Gwendoline Christie was born to play. “Oh my god, it’s what actors dream of; to find a part that fits like a glove, that you can totally connect with.” She said again via Stylist.

“But also, as we discussed, it’s the most extraordinary opportunity to portray this kind of outsider that hasn’t really been explored much, particularly on mainstream TV.”

Gwendoline Christie was able to take her own personal experiences and give them all to her Game of Thrones character. She completely changed her physical appearance (“I was even developing a bust”) to get the role. She quit drinking, started working out and doing yoga, and eventually lost a stone (14 lbs) in weight.

Gwendoline Christie
Gwendoline Christie on Game of Thrones

But Christie knew what she needed to do to make Brienne of Tarth resonate. “Not just lose myself but expose myself as well. It was frightening. Imagine; I used to have really long blonde hair, always wearing heels, lots of make-up. I had been someone who was highly feminised and had chosen to look that way, partly because I was 6ft 3in but also I was into that aesthetic.”

She continues, “I knew it had to be stripped away. I knew this would be an important part not just for my work but in terms of my own development because I would be confronting elements of myself that I didn’t want to confront. It was actor’s vanity and personal vanity. To see yourself displayed as unattractive, large, masculine, it’s quite tough…”

Gwendoline Christie pulled it off. And then some. Her character as Brienne is one of the more popular to come from a show which has produced many fan-favorite characters.

Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth

Simply put, Gwendoline Christie loved the storytelling aspect of the series, including the violence and sex. “It’s got so many elements that I love; not just the violence and sex. It’s a brilliant political thriller. It’s full of really extraordinary characters in situations where the stakes are very high, and they’re desperate to achieve what they want by whatever means possible. Plus I just love the blood and guts of it.”


Captain PHasma

It’s not just Game of Thrones for Gwendoline Christie on the big franchise resume. She can list The Hunger Games as another. She was in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 as Commander Lyme and then also grabbed another role in a high-profile franchise, Star Wars.

Gwendoline Christie first appeared as Captain Phasma in the 2015 Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and then reprised that role in the 2018 Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.

Those two movies wouldn’t be the only time Christie would portray Captain Phasma. She also voiced the role in the video games Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Battlefront II.

She also lent her voice as Captain Phasma to the animated series Star Wars Resistance.


Gwendoline Christie in The Sandman

To say that Gwendoline Christie is a sought-after actress at this point is an understatement. Since Game of Thrones ended and her role in Star Wars is no more, there have only been other series and franchises calling. Netflix has a couple of them.

For starters, she has a major part in the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. There she plays Lucifer, in a much different look for the character than we’ve seen in the past. Showing she can play a more evil character is definitely something in Christie’s acting wheelhouse. The show was a top performer on the streamer and will be returning for a second season.

Gwendoline Christie in Wednesday

And speaking of Netflix hits, there’s also Wednesday starring Jenna Ortega as the titular character. The show is an Addam’s Family spinoff and was among the most-watched programs ever for the streamer.

Gwendoline Christie played Larissa Weems, Nevermore Academy’s principal. Without going full spoiler here, suffice to say that Weems was a major character in the show’s first season and that Christie was perfectly cast as a complex antagonist here.