White Queen's David Oakes: 'I was delirious after 'drowning''

Star of The White Queen, David Oakes has revealed how the scene in which his character, George, Duke of Clarence, met a sticky end in a barrel of wine was filmed. 

As with many Medieval tales, there isn't really enough evidence to prove conclusively that this is how Edward IV's younger brother met his maker, but the legend has thrived over the years and historians are quite certain that George was not beheaded (the method of execution customarily used for nobles at the time).

One person who's convinced the story is true is David, who played the Duke of Clarence in the sweeping BBC One series. But he says that didn't make shooting the scene in question any easier!

"The drowning was one of the main reasons I took the role," he explains. "I'm more than happy to do my own stunts because I've done plenty of that with The Borgias, but this was a tough one!

"I went to the director and the writer with a picture of a wooden carving by Philip Poteaux which showed George being held by three men and dunked backwards. They agreed that we should do it like that, but instead of wine we used diluted grape juice. It would have been quite dangerous to heat, so after being dunked a dozen times I was pretty cold."

"I was wearing a back support on so they could pivot me over the edge of the barrel safely, but I had my hands bound so there was no way I could pull myself out! I was just hoping that they wouldn't leave me in there too long!"

"The first time we went back for about five seconds to see what it was like. Because you're going backwards, everything goes straight up your nose. I soon learned then that I needed to breathe out of my nose as I went under.

"I also had to keep my eyes open because we had an underwater camera, so the sugar was getting really painful - by the end I was quite delirious! What's more, the grape juice also mixed with my ear wax and my ears were all blocked up too - I had to get them syringed afterwards.

"A make-up artist was looking after me and she said I was wobbling around, not knowing what was going on and babbling complete nonsense to her."

'We did about 16 dunks in the end - by the end I felt like I'd drowned a couple of times at least!"

So will David ever be able to look at a glass of grape juice in the same way again? "I'll never touch the stuff again," he laughs. "It's disgusting!"


Sean Marland
Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV, TV & Satellite Week and whattowatch.com

Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are The Great British Bake-Off, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.