Emilia Clarke on Game of Thrones: “This season is off the shizzy”
(She would know)
With her celestial beauty, sensual aura, and capacity for mass destruction, Emilia Clarke aka Daenerys Targaryen has gained a worldwide following as one of the principal players on Game of Thrones. Oh, there may be those whose hearts quiver at the sight of Kit Harington as Jon Snow or suffer with Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister, but nothing can compare to Clarke's almost divine presence as "mother of dragons" and possible saviour of the oppressed.
Now entering Season Seven, the HBO series is set for worldwide release on July 16 and will be divided into seven as opposed to the usual set of ten episodes. This year's Game of Thrones promises to double-down on the level of mayhem and internecine warfare that is the hallmark of its apocalyptic universe and will see the three remaining major players in Westeros crossing paths: Cersei Lannister in King's Landing, Jon Snow reigning over Winterfell, and Daenerys Targaryen in Dragonstone.
Though plot specifics are being guarded more closely than anything in Julian Assange's imagination, Clarke is willing to wager that audiences will be satisfied with the level of blood, lust, and treachery. "Last season's battle was ridiculous," Clarke says. "But this season is off the shizzy. There's another battle, (but) they topped it again." She added via Instagram: "I believe this (season) is gonna be a mind blower."
In the meantime, the 30-year-old Clarke has undergone a personal evolution that may not be as wildly tempestuous as that of her GoT alter ego but which is just as profound in its own way. The wildly popular global TV series was her first test of fire as an actress, and she's since gone on to build her repertoire with major roles in Terminator: Genisys and last year's tear-jerker, Me Before You.
This summer audiences will also get a chance to see Clarke in a dramatic thriller, Voice From the Stone, set in Tuscany, and next year she'll be starring in the new Star Wars prequel film alongside Alden Ehrenreich as the young Han Solo, taking over from Harrison Ford. She was recently named the new face of Dolce & Gabbana's The One fragrance.
You've said in previous years that your time on Game of Thrones has paralleled a deep personal evolution. Can you elaborate on that?
Success forces you to change. After playing Danaerys for the first couple of seasons and making a name for myself in show business, I was still plagued by self-doubt and anxiety. Coming to terms with yourself and knowing what you want - that's not easy for anyone, and especially not if you happen to be very sensitive. But it was during those difficult times and low moments that I started to figure out my life and evolve into the woman I am today. And I want to keep learning and never stop working on myself so that I can be more open and engaged in whatever I do.
Season Seven promises to be a spectacular one for Daenerys and all the major players in Game of Thrones. Why do you think that your character has proven to be such an intense source of fascination for audiences?
Daenerys is a strong and powerful woman. She's a leader and fighter and survivor. One of the most compelling aspects to her is that she combines the strength of a man with the sensitivity of a woman. She also sets herself apart from the other main characters because her ultimate goal is pure and noble - she wants to rule over a world where all people are equal.
Do you see her as a role model?
She's a great example for young women. Daenerys possesses a level of self-confidence that is empowering to young women. Her journey throughout the series is that of a girl with low self-esteem who transforms herself into a powerful and resilient young woman. I think she's a brilliant role model and I've personally gained a lot of confidence and determination simply from playing that kind of character and learning from her experience.
What has been one of the unforeseen benefits of playing a character like Daenerys and getting your big break with a series like GoT?
It was just bonkers that I got known for a role that, on a day-to-day basis, was so far removed from myself.
Is it at times staggering for you to realise that you're part of arguably the greatest series in the history of television?
It's scary to even think about it! [Laughs] I've been very lucky and I certainly never imagined while working at this terrible call-centre that one day I would be getting part in a massive series like Game of Thrones. I would have been thrilled just with a small role and I never expected that I would become one of the major characters. This has meant so much to me and I'm immensely grateful.
Are people still surprised when they see you in person and you don't have the blonde hair?
[Laughs] They're more surprised that I'm smaller than they expect [She's 5'2"]. I would love to try going blonde in real life and every once in a while I promise myself that I'm going to do it but then I chicken out. I still have terrible memories of dyeing my hair as a teenager and the results were disastrous. I think I'm destined to remain a brunette. I love putting on the blonde wig, though. It changes my look completely and it helps me get into the character and throw myself completely into Dany's world.
Do you ever tease your friends my speaking in Dothraki?
No, because it's very difficult to remember and just as hard to pronounce. In Season One, I had a lot of trouble memorising my Dothraki lines and I would put all these Post-It notes all over my apartment with different expressions and lines written on them. Valyrian is much easier because it has a more melodic quality to it. When you're speaking Dothraki it's more like you're choking on your words.
During Season Six, I was starting to really get back into it but it's something you forget almost as soon as you leave the set. One time though I played a joke on one of the actors right in front of him doing my lines and I just spoke in some kind of Dothraki gibberish and he had to keep a straight face!
You seem to be a very upbeat person. Is that your natural way of being?
I've had a lot of good fortune in my life and I feel so happy and excited to have been able to spend so much time working on such an incredible series. The first day I arrive on the set for the start of a new season is such an exciting moment for me and it's like beginning another great adventure. I've made so many wonderful friendships with the cast and I'm so proud of the work we've done and the thousands of people who have worked very hard on this show over the years.
Did you always have the feeling that you would be successful?
I believed that if I worked hard good things would happen. I've been blessed with a strong work ethic that I get from mother especially. She started out as a secretary and now she's the vice president of marketing for a global consulting firm. My mother worked very hard to get to where she is and I've always had that same kind of drive and determination.
But I also know that a lot of luck is required to get a role in a play or film no matter how much talent you have. My parents were worried at first when I told them around 17 or 18 that I wanted to pursue acting as my profession because they knew that the odds are stacked against you. But once they know how determined I was, they were very supportive.
When did you first know that wanted to be an actress?
I was just three years old. My father worked as a sound engineer at the theatre and often took me to the performances. What triggered things for me was when I saw the musical Show Boat and from that moment on I knew I wanted to become an actress. As long as I can remember, I've always been watching plays, films, or reading stories. And performing is something that feels very natural and creatively satisfying to me.
Apart from Daenerys, what is another favourite role of yours?
I loved playing Lou (Louisa) in Me Before You. I got to be myself and do all the things I love in London which is my hometown. Every single part of that movie was tick, tick, tick on all boxes. Plus, the movie had fewer dragons, fewer swords, fewer beards in general, fewer deaths, and fewer people are trying to kill me!
Over the course of your GoT days, is it becoming more and more difficult to walk around London unrecognised?
It's not as easy as it used to be, but I can still move pretty freely in public, which is very important to me. I have it so much easier than Peter Dinklage who is immediately recognized as Tyrion Lannister even if he is wearing a swimsuit and walking along the beach. Or Kit Harington as Jon Snow. I remember well how one time I was walking with Kit on 5th Avenue in New York and a whole horde of Game of Thrones fans descended upon us.
What are your goals once Game of Thrones comes to an end?
I want to continue working in theatre because that helps me improve and I love performing in front of an audience. I would also like to do a musical at some point because I enjoy singing. We'll see. I'm probably going to make my fair share of good and bad choices but fate and luck are all part of the game. I'm going to simply trust my instincts and see where that takes me.
Game of Thrones Season 7 airs on Showtime on July 16.
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Buro 24/7 Selection