The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Domain


Interview with Emilia Clarke

Continuing our series of interviews from the press junket in London that we attended at the end of February—just one more left after this—is with one of the actors who has gotten the most attention from the success of Game of Thrones: Emilia Clarke, the actress who’s brought Daenerys Targaryen to life.

She was as charming and cheerful as you can imagine, meeting with us and fielding questions about her work. Topics range from various aspects of her performance, her familiarity with the novels (on the face of it, she’s probably read them more times than I have!), and a whole lot more. It was a pleasure speaking with her!


Q: What it’s like filming in Dubrovnik?

“It’s absolutely amazing! I can’t believe we could find a place that genuinely come from A Song of Ice and Fire. I love having days off there, too. It was really good.”

Q: Is the second season a Daenerys season? In the second book, her story is smaller.

“What you see in season 2 is that she’s in a very frustrating place. When you last saw her, she was on a borderline spiritual level. Now she’s dealing with being back to earth and trying to figure out what’s to come. It’s a frustrating season for Daenerys.”

Q: For those who haven’t read the books, Daenerys is quite surprising—she starts as a very naive girl and then grows into this queen, and you have been dubbed queen of the series. Did you feel a similar journey for yourself, on an acting level?

“I think I was in another world when I was filming. I didn’t have a chance to step back and take in the scope. It was pretty much the first thing I’d ever done, and I had to deal with new situations a they were arriving. It’s only now I’ve been able to really look back and think on that.”

Q: What’s it like being so followed by fans?

“I try and stay away from the internet! Stupidly, when we first started I looked up something on the internet and it was bad. So I’ve taken a step back. If there’s anything people are or aren’t happy with, you kind of end up finding out about it some way anyways.”

Q: But you’re the queen of dragons!

“Yes, this is true!”

Q: Fans can be a notoriously obsessive lot. Have you had anything like stalkers or anything like that?

“No, no! No stalkers. Not that I know of! My biggest aim when we filmed season 1 was to keep fans happy, to come up with something that people would like. There’s divided opinion about Dany among fans, and so I just wanted to stay as true to the books as possible as well as to myself. If I managed to achieve that, that’s absolutely glorious and wonderful. I love acting, I love Game of Thrones, and I love Dany.”

Q: How do your friends and family feel about this huge success? Has it changed your life?

“Yeah, kind of. Friends and family are happy that I’m happy, that’s the biggest thing. And yeah, my life now is utterly unrecognizable to what it was. It can be quite dangerous to take too many steps backwards to see it all like that. Better to take it as it comes, be true to yourself, and work as hard as you possibly can.”

Q: Do you get other offers now in the industry?

“It’s definitely open doors for me! Things have definitely changed, and that’s wonderful. I’m incredibly grateful But no, Spielberg hasn’t called yet—”

Q: Is that the director you most want to work with? If you had to choose one, who would it be?

“There are many. But if I had to choose one? Darren Aronofsky, that’s probably the biggest. We’ll see, Game of Thrones first.”

Q: How far have you read?

“I’ve read to book four, and I stopped there, I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself. And I don’t just read them, I read them like nineteen times. I’m trying to get it into my blood.”

Q: What was it like to work with the CG dragons?

“Amazing. In the camera rehearsals we had these kind of, sort of toys, that I could hold and feel, basically a replica of what they were. But during the filming, there was nothing there at all. I got very maternal and kind of obsessive about them. It was wonderful to feel like a mother.”

Q: Was it hard?

“Definitely, definitely. But at the same time it was sort of a gift, because you could use your imagination to see what they were doing.”

Q: Given the early scenes—her wedding night in particular—was that hard to do, and are you glad to have moved on to her being stronger?

“It was a baptism by fire in more ways than one. It was petrifying and horrifying and everything else you can imagine to do these things for the first time, but I had Dany with me the entire time and she helped me to step away from myself and be in her shoes. It wasn’t like she was enjoying it, so it was fine for me to use what I was feeling myself and it was essential for the audience to see this huge, traumatic event. So it was an enormous hurdle to climb, but at the end of it she was who she was because of what she overcame.

“Luckily, for season 2 I have clothes on the whole way through!”

Q: What was it like working with Nonso Anozie?

“Amazing! He’s so lovely. He’s gorgeous—really, really good. It was lovely to have new characters and actors to work with. I mean, I miss Jason like you can’t even imagine… but yeah.”

Q: I loved your impersonation of him on the commentary for episode 6.

”[Laughs] Yeah… yeah, Jason… He was sadly missed this season.”

Q: With such a long contract for a young actress, were you nervous about that and the possibility that it might not work out?

“From the first audition, I knew it was something special. So it was just having faith in it, in David and Dan, and in HBO. That it’s cherished by so many people, the books are so good… so that helped. If I just—as I do with everything—close my eyes when my bits come on, I can see it’s incredible. It’s just finding the maturity to be able to step back to see that what is done is done.”

Q: The series has gone well beyond the fans of the books. What is so captivating about this series?

“It goes beyond any other fantasy show around. It’s representative of real life. It has things everyone can relate to—family… You take the magic out, and it’s still stands alone as this incredible show you can watch and enjoy. It deals with things that are hard to watch—things small children can’t watch—and it’s weirdly addictive as well. It leaves you wanting more, but it’s still incredibly satisfying. And they hire amazing, remarkably talented people to work on it.”

Q: Do the actors get to talk to George and ask him questions?

“Yeah, George is definitely around. We can e-mail him, ask him whatever we’d like, but at the moment he’s working so we don’t want to disturb him! I think he’s happy.”

Q: Has he given you any critique about your character?

“He really lets us get on with it. If there was anything that we were doing that’s incredibly wrong, I think he’d let us know. I think that he’s happy, so that’s good.”

Q: Do you have a favorite character besides Dany?

“There are too many! In season 1, it was definitely Arya—she was my girl, and she still sort of is. Brienne is incredible, fascinating. It’s always the women.”

Q: Have you met Gwendoline Christie?

“Yeah! We want to the same drama school. Not in the same year, but she’s amazing.”

Q: The transformation we’ve seen so far is ridiculously good.

“Astonishing, absolutely astonishing. She’s trained so hard.”

Q: When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die—are you that sort of girl in your own life?

“I’m incredibly scared of that sentence, because it implies that you’ll do anything to get what you want. You know, step on your own mother, that sort of thing. Like Dany I have a moral compass but I definitely feel that it’s weird how much our lives echo one another. We’ve both started as naïve young girls with absolutely no experience and just a lot to prove. I think that HBO and Game of Thrones have given me a huge body of experience and mistakes that I’ve learned from. In that sense, we’re similar and try not to make the same mistake twice.”

Q: Is it hard to get out of character, playing someone who’s a queen?

“Dany never leaves me, genuinely. This isn’t me trying to be a wanky actor. She’s incredible and brilliant and so easy to get into, and so much a part of me that I don’t spend hours trying to get into the role. And it’s also I continually do research and read the books and know her inside out, back to front, upside down. It’s easier being on set with the crew and be Dany at the same time.”

Q: Do you have any say in the costume design?

“Definitely! It’s always a discussion. You’re the character at the end of the day, so you deal with the costume department who has to deal with all the characters, while you just deal with your own. So there’s a dialog—where you say this is good or maybe she’d wear this or she’s going to be riding a horse, is this practical?”

Q: Is it comfortable?

“Uhm…. jeans and t-shirts are much more comfortable! Anything’s helpful. Sometimes it’s good to wear something restricting, because you feel like yourself.”

Q: Did you know that Helmut Lang unveiled a collection at New York Fashion Week which they said was inspired by Game of Thrones? One of the looks was distinctly Dany inspired.

“Seriously? Wow. Michele Clapton is such a talent. And I’m personally very much into my fashion, so it’s interesting and lovely to see a crossover. Though I don’t think Karl Lagerfeld will be calling up!”

Q: What part do women play in this world?

“A hugely strong one. You’re in an environment where men dominate and where it’s bizzare to see a strong woman. Season 2 will see that in many, many more ways than one. I’m fortunate in that all the strong men in Dany’s life have pretty much died now, so it’s just me. Throughout the other characters—Cersei, for example, you’re seeing a huge struggle with the fact that her son Joffrey is turning into this stronger, male person. It’s an interesting power play between many women and men. I think women always have the harder path, so it’s more interesting.”

Q: How does the relationship between Dany and Jorah develop?

“That’s a discussion point for season 2. You know how Dany sees him—as her advisor and the only person she really has left, she’s very much left alone with her dragons. To have that relationship be in jeopardy is a turning point, and you start to see cracks.”

Q: Do you think she has any doubts about her destiny or purpose?

“The situation she comes up against forces her to question it. It’s a destiny she has absolutely no control over. She just knows in her blood it’s something she’s destined to be and destined to do. The things she comes up against force her to question that’s really the path she has to go down… but she always comes back to it, it’s just that the struggle gets bigger.”

Q: When will you start filming season 3 if it goes forward?

“I think… June maybe? I’m really amped for that.”

Q: Are you then just relaxing until then, or?

“I’ve got a couple of film things that I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about. They are completely different from Game of Thrones, though.”

Q: How loyal is the series to the books?

“If you took character for character, they’re completely loyal. From how I see it, Dany in the books is definitely on screen. But you get to the point where George R.R. Martin’s imagination is just too huge and so epic. Peter Jackson’s budget couldn’t handle it. So there’s things you have to do to get around that. And also you’re dealing with everyone’s individual imagination, and it’s hard to keep everyone happy.”

Q: Do you play around with the wig?

“I’d get told off! It’s a very expensive, not-to-be-played with thing.”