It's known for its bloody violence and risqué sex scenes, so it's no surprise that the stars of Game of Thrones are all in favour of the show's X-rated content – so long as it serves the story.
Dutch actress Carice van Houten, who plays the enigmatic Red Priestess Melisandre, has defended the amount of bare flesh in the show and called for more male nudity in the HBO series.
Asked whether there should be more male nudity, she said: "Hell yeah! Of course it has to be functional and it mostly is. But in general that's what I like about the show, not the sex per se but the nudity is part of life."
She added: "We can see machine guns but we can’t see f**king – sorry – people? I really don’t get, I have to make a point here. Who sleeps with their bra on? I mean, sorry if that’s a Dutch approach but I think we need to get used to it. It’s part of life."
Van Houten has shed her character’s flowing red robes on more than one occasion, most notably when Melisandre gave birth to a dark spirit in a cave. The actress wore little more than a bulging, prosthetic pregnant belly while going into labour.
In another scene that played out like a medieval version of 50 Shades of Grey, Melisandre bared all to seduce a young man before chaining him to bed and sticking leeches on him.
Van Houten has appeared naked in other projects including Dutch film The Happy Housewife, and while she is all for it, she said that the prospect of doing a nude scene makes her "nervous" and she tries to alleviate the tension on set in a novel way.
"I'd rather just show everyone this is the material, like very plain and clean. This is the body, your mother has them, let’s not make a big fuss out of them and then they get used to it. I don’t do it for them, I do it for me because I pick up on tension in the room and I just want people to be fine with it."
Co-star Liam Cunningham also defended the sex scenes in the show, arguing they were not demeaning to women because of the strength of the female characters.
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Speaking at a press event in London, he said: "If there wasn't a hugely strong female character in this, like [Melisandre], then it would be sexist. It's just gratuitous. But some of the most dangerous characters in the show are women - there's Cersei. They are extraordinarily well-drawn."
Cunningham, who stars as Davos Seaworth in the medieval drama, has had dangerous dealings with the priestess and bore witness to the shadow baby. The pair have a tense relationship in the story and it is often a battle of wits with Melisandre usually getting the upper hand.
"I think there's a level of intelligence required by the viewer or whoever watching this and it doesn't patronise, it shows the dark side and the bright side of humanity in this.
"It's inclusive and it's not just the strong man and the women as the stay-at-home wife or she’s there to be the hostage. She's not functional. She's f**king dangerous in this show and has to be watched," he added with a laugh.
An extended preview for Season 4 was released yesterday on YouTube, giving fans a tantalising taste of what they can expect this year.
Speaking about her story strand in Season 4 van Houten said: "Stannis has a light season this year but we have a few meaty scenes. [...] Our storyline is going to move somewhere else and it's going to be interesting because it's going to collide with a world which we also know, and what's going to happen there."
Cunningham said: "One of the differences this year from reading the scripts is that, generally speaking, over the three seasons there's been a slow and gradual build up with magnificent stories up to the big episodes which is usually episode 9. It's not like that in this season. It's kicking off very early on, it's really dramatic and as opposed to the one big climax of the other season, there's going to be several. It's bigger, bolder, brassier - and I'm dying to see it as well".
The new season will be airing in April this year.
' Game of Thrones': The Complete Third Season is out on Blu-ray and DVD from HBO Home Entertainment from 17 February
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