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EMILIA CLARKE | PUT A RECORD ON, WATCH THE WORLD GROW.

Emilia Clarke, the 32-year-old English actor at the epicenter of one of the biggest, highest grossing, most culturally significant and revered shows on the planet: Game of Thrones.

17.4 million people around the world tuned into the final season premiere episode of the show, making it the most watched screening in HBO’s history. Memes have been flying across social feeds, passionate debates have ensued on who will take the Iron Throne, and bubbling excitement-meets-a saddened unwillingness to really, truly accept that the eight season-long fantasy epic has finally come to a close, has sunk in.

Game of Thrones, and the original Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin, is a cultural phenomenon of insurmountable proportions. It holds six Guinness World Book of Records entries, is the most awarded series in Emmy history, and has won 308 awards out of 596 nominations to date. It’s been quoted in speeches by politicians. Referenced in shows from The Simpsons to Sesame Street. Children have been born and named after its characters. Its fans are said to be the most devoted and dedicated of all, exceeding Bieber’s “Beliebers,” Gaga’s “Little Monsters,” and Star Trek’s “Trekkies.”

And now, after eight long years of the show and franchise, it’s ending. Chants of ‘Winter is Here’ float across countries, time zones, social media platform of your choice, and into the canon of entertainment history.

Escaping to fantastical worlds such as Westeros is cleary a favoured pastime of our generation. “It hit at a time when, culturally and socially, people were interested in power,” explains Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen, one of the warring heirs to the epic’s Iron Throne. The original story was inspired by the War of Roses that took place in England during the 14th century. “You’ve got power, which is really fascinating, and how our world is still run to this day, then you’ve got incredibly beautifully written complex characters and sensational intrigue.” “When I watch telly or a movie, it’s escapism. I just want to not think about my fucking life for a minute. I want to sit there, and be transported,” says Emilia Clarke, the 32-year-old English actor at the epicenter of one of the biggest, highest grossing, most culturally significant and revered shows on the planet: Game of Thrones. 17.4 million people around the world tuned into the final season premiere episode of the show, making it the most watched screening in HBO’s history. Memes have been flying across social feeds, passionate debates have ensued on who will take the Iron Throne, and bubbling excitement-meets-a saddened unwillingness to really, truly accept that the eight season-long fantasy epic has finally come to a close, has sunk in.

Game of Thrones, and the original Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin, is a cultural phenomenon of insurmountable proportions. It holds six Guinness World Book of Records entries, is the most awarded series in Emmy history, and has won 308 awards out of 596 nominations to date. It’s been quoted in speeches by politicians. Referenced in shows from The Simpsons to Sesame Street. Children have been born and named after its characters. Its fans are said to be the most devoted and dedicated of all, exceeding Bieber’s “Beliebers,” Gaga’s “Little Monsters,” and Star Trek’s “Trekkies.”

And now, after eight long years of the show and franchise, it’s ending. Chants of ‘Winter is Here’ float across countries, time zones, social media platform of your choice, and into the canon of entertainment history.

Escaping to fantastical worlds such as Westeros is cleary a favoured pastime of our generation. “It hit at a time when, culturally and socially, people were interested in power,” explains Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen, one of the warring heirs to the epic’s Iron Throne. The original story was inspired by the War of Roses that took place in England during the 14th century. “You’ve got power, which is really fascinating, and how our world is still run to this day, then you’ve got incredibly beautifully written complex characters and sensational intrigue.”

I meet Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clarke, who is as English and lovely as her name sounds, in the other-wordly floral interiors of Annabel’s private member’s club in Berkeley Square, just behind Green Park Tube station in London. It feels like a fitting place to have coffee with the Queen of Fantasy. Clarke has dyed her short hair back to her natural brunette tone—it couldn’t be more different from the long platinum locks of her character in the show. We talk about the perils of constantly dying hair, how in love we are with BBC Radio 4 interview show Desert Island Discs (Tom Hanks and Judi Dench are her favorite episodes), battling self-doubt, her family, admiration for Olivia Coleman and Emma Thompson, and the first home she’s just bought and decorated in the London borough of Islington. Obviously, we also talk Thrones.

Clarke was raised in a small village an hour outside of London where she lived with her mother, father, and older brother. There was a stream at the bottom of the garden with ducks waddling about. It was an idyllic and loving environment, but completely sheltered. “I remember very vividly seeing, at around nine or eight years-old, two men kissing in the street. I was like, ‘WOW!’”, Clarke explains. The proximity of London to this insular world, its diverse community and magnetic pull to its immortal art scene, meant moving there was “always inevitable”.

She describes her school in Oxford as “posh.” Most of the people there were from Conservative backgrounds, which meant she and a few friends often felt like outsiders. “It was confusing. Why on earth would you think like that? I earn a certain amount of money, so yeah—tax the shit out of me. I deserve it, that’s how it should work,” Clarke says.

Clarke is a Londoner through-and-through. Although she bought her first home in California, which she still owns and loves, she admits she can only handle it in short bursts before coming up for air. “London is my hood, this is where I’ll always be. I’ll have kids and raise them here,” she says. “I’d get so bored if I stayed in California. How many more hikes can a girl go on? Jesus!”

David Benioff and Daniel Weiss, Game of Thrones writers and Clarke’s best friends (“they’ll be at my wedding”, she says), have described her as goofy. She’s expressive, incredibly friendly, funny, enthusiastic, and someone who unapologetically wears her heart on her sleeve—right by the tattooed dragons on her wrist. Clarke’s eyebrows endearingly turn down when she smiles, and she manages to balance real warmth with uncompromisingly strong views. She’s petite, standing at around 5 ‘2″. Despite her fame, there’s zero ego.

She’s also smart, highly charismatic, and thrives on engaging with the world. It’s easy to see why Brad Pitt bid $120,000 at a charity auction just to get a shot at watching an episode of Thrones with her. Clarke refers to podcasts she’s constantly listening to, what she’s read and is reading, and politics. She talks about the Time’s Up movement’s transformative effects on the industry, and cuts through the bullshit-side of fame: “This is not real, this is photoshopping, this is four hours in hair and makeup, this is a dress that I didn’t buy, this is a stylist, this is a professional hair and makeup person whose entire job is to make people look beautiful. I’ve been the person who measures their self worth on those images, and it’s hell.”

Clarke knew she wanted to be an actor from the age of three, when she was too young to understand what acting was. She applied to every drama school in the UK as soon as she could. After a raft of rejections, she moved to the capital to continue chasing her dream, earning money through bartending and waiting tables. She eventually landed a place at Drama Centre at the University of the Arts London—otherwise known as art powerhouse Central Saint Martins—when someone dropped out after breaking their leg. That’s right, the Mother of Dragons got into acting school because a fellow actor ‘broke a leg.’ The school’s alumni includes Pierce Brosnan, Russell Brand, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Michael Fassbender, and fellow Game of Thrones star, Gwendoline Christie.

She remembers her years at drama school as happy. She met some of her best friends there, people she still hangs out with to this day. “As soon as I get back home I want to hang out with them. If someone knows I’m free and says, ‘Come to the pub!’, I can’t say no.”

Her first acting break was landing a one-off role in BBC daytime TV show Doctors in 2009, and a Samaritans TV commercial the same year, which is still on YouTube—an early flash of her acting brilliance.

Clarke’s acting credentials don’t end at Game of Thrones. In 2015, she played Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys, and in 2016 she starred in surprising box office hit Me Before You.She joined the Star Warsfranchise, playing Qi’ra in 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. She’s even voiced characters on Futurama and Robot Chicken, and performed on Broadway, too, as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. You’ve also probably seen her as the face of Dolce & Gabbana’s fragrance, “The One”. “When I watch telly or a movie, it’s escapism. I just want to not think about my fucking life for a minute. I want to sit there, and be transported,” says Emilia Clarke, the 32-year-old English actor at the epicenter of one of the biggest, highest grossing, most culturally significant and revered shows on the planet: Game of Thrones.

17.4 million people around the world tuned into the final season premiere episode of the show, making it the most watched screening in HBO’s history. Memes have been flying across social feeds, passionate debates have ensued on who will take the Iron Throne, and bubbling excitement-meets-a saddened unwillingness to really, truly accept that the eight season-long fantasy epic has finally come to a close, has sunk in.

Game of Thrones, and the original Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin, is a cultural phenomenon of insurmountable proportions. It holds six Guinness World Book of Records entries, is the most awarded series in Emmy history, and has won 308 awards out of 596 nominations to date. It’s been quoted in speeches by politicians. Referenced in shows from The Simpsons to Sesame Street. Children have been born and named after its characters. Its fans are said to be the most devoted and dedicated of all, exceeding Bieber’s “Beliebers,” Gaga’s “Little Monsters,” and Star Trek’s “Trekkies.”

And now, after eight long years of the show and franchise, it’s ending. Chants of ‘Winter is Here’ float across countries, time zones, social media platform of your choice, and into the canon of entertainment history.

Escaping to fantastical worlds such as Westeros is cleary a favoured pastime of our generation. “It hit at a time when, culturally and socially, people were interested in power,” explains Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen, one of the warring heirs to the epic’s Iron Throne. The original story was inspired by the War of Roses that took place in England during the 14th century. “You’ve got power, which is really fascinating, and how our world is still run to this day, then you’ve got incredibly beautifully written complex characters and sensational intrigue.”

I meet Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clarke, who is as English and lovely as her name sounds, in the other-wordly floral interiors of Annabel’s private member’s club in Berkeley Square, just behind Green Park Tube station in London. It feels like a fitting place to have coffee with the Queen of Fantasy. Clarke has dyed her short hair back to her natural brunette tone—it couldn’t be more different from the long platinum locks of her character in the show. We talk about the perils of constantly dying hair, how in love we are with BBC Radio 4 interview show Desert Island Discs (Tom Hanks and Judi Dench are her favorite episodes), battling self-doubt, her family, admiration for Olivia Coleman and Emma Thompson, and the first home she’s just bought and decorated in the London borough of Islington. Obviously, we also talk Thrones.

Clarke was raised in a small village an hour outside of London where she lived with her mother, father, and older brother. There was a stream at the bottom of the garden with ducks waddling about. It was an idyllic and loving environment, but completely sheltered. “I remember very vividly seeing, at around nine or eight years-old, two men kissing in the street. I was like, ‘WOW!’”, Clarke explains. The proximity of London to this insular world, its diverse community and magnetic pull to its immortal art scene, meant moving there was “always inevitable”.

She describes her school in Oxford as “posh.” Most of the people there were from Conservative backgrounds, which meant she and a few friends often felt like outsiders. “It was confusing. Why on earth would you think like that? I earn a certain amount of money, so yeah—tax the shit out of me. I deserve it, that’s how it should work,” Clarke says.

Clarke is a Londoner through-and-through. Although she bought her first home in California, which she still owns and loves, she admits she can only handle it in short bursts before coming up for air. “London is my hood, this is where I’ll always be. I’ll have kids and raise them here,” she says. “I’d get so bored if I stayed in California. How many more hikes can a girl go on? Jesus!”

David Benioff and Daniel Weiss, Game of Thrones writers and Clarke’s best friends (“they’ll be at my wedding”, she says), have described her as goofy. She’s expressive, incredibly friendly, funny, enthusiastic, and someone who unapologetically wears her heart on her sleeve—right by the tattooed dragons on her wrist. Clarke’s eyebrows endearingly turn down when she smiles, and she manages to balance real warmth with uncompromisingly strong views. She’s petite, standing at around 5 ‘2″. Despite her fame, there’s zero ego.

She’s also smart, highly charismatic, and thrives on engaging with the world. It’s easy to see why Brad Pitt bid $120,000 at a charity auction just to get a shot at watching an episode of Thrones with her. Clarke refers to podcasts she’s constantly listening to, what she’s read and is reading, and politics. She talks about the Time’s Up movement’s transformative effects on the industry, and cuts through the bullshit-side of fame: “This is not real, this is photoshopping, this is four hours in hair and makeup, this is a dress that I didn’t buy, this is a stylist, this is a professional hair and makeup person whose entire job is to make people look beautiful. I’ve been the person who measures their self worth on those images, and it’s hell.”

Clarke knew she wanted to be an actor from the age of three, when she was too young to understand what acting was. She applied to every drama school in the UK as soon as she could. After a raft of rejections, she moved to the capital to continue chasing her dream, earning money through bartending and waiting tables. She eventually landed a place at Drama Centre at the University of the Arts London—otherwise known as art powerhouse Central Saint Martins—when someone dropped out after breaking their leg. That’s right, the Mother of Dragons got into acting school because a fellow actor ‘broke a leg.’ The school’s alumni includes Pierce Brosnan, Russell Brand, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Michael Fassbender, and fellow Game of Thrones star, Gwendoline Christie.

She remembers her years at drama school as happy. She met some of her best friends there, people she still hangs out with to this day. “As soon as I get back home I want to hang out with them. If someone knows I’m free and says, ‘Come to the pub!’, I can’t say no.”

Her first acting break was landing a one-off role in BBC daytime TV show Doctors in 2009, and a Samaritans TV commercial the same year, which is still on YouTube—an early flash of her acting brilliance.

Clarke’s acting credentials don’t end at Game of Thrones. In 2015, she played Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys, and in 2016 she starred in surprising box office hit Me Before You.She joined the Star Warsfranchise, playing Qi’ra in 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. She’s even voiced characters on Futurama and Robot Chicken, and performed on Broadway, too, as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. You’ve also probably seen her as the face of Dolce & Gabbana’s fragrance, “The One”.

But it’s her character in Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen, affectionately named ‘Dany’, —the show’s most loved and arguably most important character— that Clarke will forever be remembered as. Deep inhale for the official title: Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and, of course, Mother of Dragons.

The character has evolved from a girl in her teens, dependent on an abusive older brother, stripped of her innocence and married to a war lord at the centre of a world of savagery, to a brave young woman suffering incomprehensible loss, rising out of the ashes, literally, with dragons in tow, building an army, freeing slaves, fighting injustice, and claiming what is rightfully hers: the Iron Throne. Inspired by the likes of Joan of Arc and Boadicea, Daenerys Targaryen is one of the most powerful and dynamic female roles ever written and performed for TV.

Clarke admits that it took her a long while to grasp international stardom. “To really understand how lucky I was, I think, genuinely: Season Seven,” says Clarke, explaining the moment when the reality of playing Daenerys hit. “We’ve grown together. She’s part of who I am. Obviously, I don’t have dragons and I can’t walk on fire, but there have been so many parallels in our lives that I have drawn upon, so each season has been so much me, and so much her. I doubt I’ll ever be able to see her objectively.”

The role has at times, alongside other female leads in the series, been at the center of the debate on female representation in entertainment and media. Commentators, including female politicians, denounce the show for glorifying violence towards women, bias in showing female nudity over male, and using glamorized versions of rape as plot devices. Clarke’s decision to shoot nude for scenes is often heavily scrutinized. “I’ve put so much of my brain into this character, and it comes down to that. And you’re just like, ‘What? Why?’ It’s not an issue at all. It’s not in anyway something that needs to be discussed. And it’s all anyone wants to talk about. It’s not interesting, it’s boring.”

Clarke scored the leading role after a decision to recast Daenerys post-pilot. HBO bosses were looking for a one-of-a-kind actor with the emotional variation and depth to carry the character’s complexity. “Throughout the show I’ve always fought for a sensitivity in her, which they’ve written in. I was like, ‘This is great that she’s getting stronger, but you have to know why. You have to know how much it is costing her.’ I’ve always tried to show that it costs [to get stronger], and it’s not easy. I think that’s as much talking about myself. There’s collateral there.”

A resilience of character is something that Clarke truly understands. Days after our interview, Clarke published an essay in the New Yorker disclosing that she’d suffered two life-threatening brain aneurysms—the first in 2011, at the age of 24, after filming Season One, and the second in 2013 after Season Two.

During recovery, Clarke couldn’t speak. She didn’t know what her name was. She couldn’t see properly, it was so bad she wanted to die. For a spirit that thrives on communication and self-expression, how could she go on without the ability to be herself? Against the odds, she pulled through, averting serious brain damage. Clarke had to learn to trust her brain again. To cope with the overwhelming pain that the aneurysms inflicted, she attended press photoshoots and filmed with a morphine bottle by her side.

To clarify: Emilia Clarke filmed Season Two of Game of Thrones overcome with exhaustion and cerebral damage after a second aneurysm in her brain. It’s a story of survival. She admits the terror she felt at the time, a terror she sometimes still feels, but demonstrates the power of self-resolve that has rocketed her and Daenerys to fame.

It’s hard to imagine the strength and determination required to pull through such impossible circumstances, juggling the demanding requirements of a high-profile acting career whilst secretly recovery from a life-saving procedure . “Maybe it’s because my Dad was a crew member as his job, but I see it as my job to never ever let anyone know if you’re having a shitty time. I just don’t think it’s helpful, at all,” she explains.

“When I do get the two o’clock terrors and feel like I’m the biggest failure on the planet and I don’t know how to breathe, I pop on Judi Dench’s Desert Island Disc.” Everyone has a balm to alleviate anxiety; for Emilia, lying in bed, picturing her loved ones and local environment brings her peace of mind. “I imagine myself in my room at home, I can hear my Dad in the garden, my Mum and my Brother and my family, and just hear those noises and I’m reset. That’s my happy place.”

It was Clarke’s father, a sound designer for the theatre, who was responsible for her love of acting. He worked alongside Emma Thompson in a production of Me and My Girl. “My Dad always fancied her! They used to go swimming, but my Dad was short sighted, so he’d just swim in circles and bang into things,” Clarke fondly reminisces.

From a young age, Clarke would run around backstage and watch the shows he was working on in London. “I got to see the magic of it because of him,” she says. “He was incredibly encouraging but, also like, ‘Darling, if you want to do this, you’ve got to know that fame ain’t going to happen. Success may not happen. You’ll go a little bit crazy. You will work in a restaurant, you do know that?’”

She admits that this brand of reverse psychology works all-too-well on her. In the final season of Game of Thrones, Clarke earned a salary of $500,000 per episode, the same as her male counterparts, and has amassed an eye-watering net worth of $13 million during her career to date.

Saying goodbye to a job that’s spanned a decade, the safety net of HBO, and a film crew that’s become a family to her has been “weird”, “scary”, and “sad” Clarke explains. “It’s such an enormous amount of your life. Everyone has grown. If you think about how much life happens in 10 years… Sophie and Maisie were children when they started filming, and now they’re beautiful grown women, and you’re like, ‘What?’. We lived our twenties on the show. The slightly older generation had babies. It’s so surreal.”

In a bittersweet moment, Clarke laughs as she recalls re-shooting takes of a final scene with an actor who had to say goodbye ten times until they were actually done. “As soon as the first one went I was like, ‘What do you mean, you’re not coming back?? OK, we’re saying that it’s done, but we’ll all be at work tomorrow, and you’ll start to piss me off again, like you always do?”

As this decade of her life comes to a close, Clarke reflects on the next chapter of her life: “I’m an achievement junkie. I’ve got my goals, and I go get them. Turning over a new leaf for me is like, ‘Yeah, let’s do another thing, let’s change!” Clarke has set up her own production company based in Los Angeles with multiple projects already in the pipeline. She recently finished filming Last Christmas with Emma Thompson and Crazy Rich Asians-stars Michelle Yeoh and Henry Golding, due for release later in the year.

Where does the Queen of Fantasy go from there? In a nod of noble solidarity, Clarke has launched a charity, SameYou, to transform care for survivors of stroke and brain injuries. “I’ve always wanted to help people. I helped my family first, I helped my friends, and now I want to help as many other people as I can,” she tells me.

She’ll continue her work as an Ambassador for the UK’s Royal College of Nursing, and keep spreading the love for the National Health Service and other causes close to her heart through her 19.5 million (and counting) following on Instagram. It was the NHS who first cared for Clarke after her brain injury, and who looked after her father before he passed away in 2016 after a short battle with cancer. Clarke was in a London airport when she found out he’d passed, right after landing from the States on her way back home to visit him. She talks about the family home she and her mom are building, with a dedicated ‘Dad’s Office’ in his memory. It’s an incredibly painful loss for her, and a defining moment in her adult life. “I cannot describe how much I would give everything I’ve done, everything I’ve made, everything, I’d just give back, just for one cuddle from him.”

Emilia Clarke and Daenerys Targaryen are individuals who refuse to back down and refuse to run away when faced with adversity. Television may be escapism and Game of Thrones may be a fantasy, but in their respective worlds, action and tenacity are the matter that bond them. Clarke will forever be a woman on a mission.

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Emilia Clarke Will Be A Poet In Let Me Count The Ways


As we write this, we don’t yet know whether Emilia Clarke‘s Daenerys Targaryen will end up sitting on the Iron Throne in Game Of Thrones or deciding to say stuff it with all the battles and politicking and taking a job at the King’s Landing Starkbucks Coffee. But we do know at least one job that Clarke herself will be taking now the show is ending: she’ll play poet Elizabeth Barrett in Let Me Count The Ways.
Set in the mid-19th century, the based-on-truth film follows Barrett as she is living in the family home with her siblings in an affluent part of London. She has gained fame and recognition for her poetry but, weakened by a mysterious illness, lives as a virtual recluse, reliant on laudanum. The youthful, impulsive Robert Browning comes into her life, awakening a passion she had previously only ever written about. But the closer she and Browning get, the more her father fights to keep control over her.
Björn Runge, who last directed The Wife, is behind the camera for the film, working from Paula Milne’s script. Clarke will next be seen in Paul Feig‘s Last Christmas, headed our way on 15 November. 

Source: Variety

Filed Game Of thrones News

Emilia Clarke on Why Game of Thrones Is the Perfect Form of Escapism

As Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke created a warrior queen for the ages. Her legend can be told on the walls of caves or on T-shirts at Comic-Con. But behind the Valkyrie wigs and very testy dragons, Clarke has an inspiring origin story of her own.

A valley sprawls before her, rich with every color of green in the kingdom, reaching out to a twinkling city, which borders the infinite sea. Her hair (tinted not with peroxide, but tiny flecks of actual gold) glows with a radiance that makes the setting sun so jealous it hides behind the surrounding mountains, and the evening sky blushes. She is Daenerys Targaryen, Queen of the Andals, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea. Everything in sight belongs to her.

Just kidding! She is Emilia Clarke, sitting high above Beverly Hills in a glass mansion rented for a magazine cover shoot. So high up that passing aircraft rattle the bones of the house and those inside it. So high up that you can see Santa Catalina Island in the distance, peeking out from behind a curtain of fog. She laughs about something the makeup artist says, and the last of the evening light bounces off of her cheekbones and shoots into the camera lens.

We are in the sky to talk about Clarke’s reign as one of the most preeminent television actresses of our time, as Daenerys on Game of Thrones. But first, I have a few questions about her abandoned career as a jazz singer.

Clarke’s default emotion is joy — her resting heart rate seems to be just below that of someone seconds after winning a medium-expensive raffle prize — but it quickly congeals into theatrical horror when I reveal that I know that she is a casual but talented singer of jazz music.

When she was 10, Clarke was an alto in a chorus that she describes as “very churchy.” Then a substitute teacher introduced her class to jazz. “I just innately understood it,” she explains. “I was always sliding up and down the notes. Every time, the [chorus] teacher would be like, ‘Quit sliding, just sing that note and then that one and that’s it. Stop trying to fuck with it.’ Then this [jazz teacher] was like, ‘Fuck with it. That’s the point.’ ” Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Clarke was singing “The Way You Look Tonight” at the American Songbook Gala in New York, honoring Richard Plepler, erstwhile CEO of HBO. Nicole Kidman was there, too, and that is the story of Emilia Clarke, a very famous singer.

Just kidding, again! That is the story of Emilia Clarke, extremely famous actress, and it is not even the beginning. Game of Thrones, the HBO fantasy epic that has captured the global zeitgeist for most of the past decade, has entered its ultimate season. Since the show premiered in 2011, Daenerys’s searing platinum blonde has been branded into the brains of every living person with cable access, so much so that she has become as recognizable an action figure as Princess Leia. Every autumn, legions of Americans don Grecian-style dresses and carry stuffed dragons to Halloween parties in homage. Kristen Wiig even appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in a full Daenerys getup. This phenomenon exists in part because it’s a relatively easy costume to assemble, but more likely because Game of Thrones is the most popular TV show in the history of TV shows.
It’s also just one of three popular entertainment franchises Clarke has participated in. Last year: Solo: A Star Wars Story, as a paramour of Han Solo. Two years before that: the fifth Terminator movie, beside Arnold. She was also Holly Golightly in a short-lived Breakfast at Tiffany’s production on Broadway. None of those projects were particularly successful — but none of that matters, to a remarkable degree, because what matters is: The people love Daenerys.
They love a character whose series arc begins with her indentured servitude as a warlord’s concubine and ends, most recently, with her fighting for sovereignty over a league of nations and for a throne made of swords. They love how fictional languages drift from her mouth like dancing smoke, and how her searing-white mane retains a fearsome curl, even in or near battle. They love the whole dragons thing.
The people would love Emilia Clarke, too, if only they knew who she was. During the first few seasons of Game of Thrones, Clarke was able to fool the general public into believing she was very regular civilian Emilia Clarke, because Daenerys was blonde, and Clarke was not. Now, she says, recognition happens more frequently. Particularly Stateside.
For reasons I cannot fathom, Americans feel more entitled to command the attention of celebrities. “People are like, ‘UH-melia CLORK!’ ” she says, in perfect American. In London, people are prone to whisper about her as she passes by. “ ‘Was that Emilia Clarke?’ ”
“I move like a shark when I’m in public,” she says. “Head down. I think I’ve got quite bad posture because of it, because I’m determined to lead a normal life. So I just move too quickly for anyone to register if it’s me or not. And I don’t walk around with six security men and big sunglasses and a bizarre coat. I really try to meld in.” It gets worse when the show is being promoted, but otherwise, she says, it’s not so bad.
“I move like a shark when I’m in public. Head down…I’m determined to lead a normal life, so I just move too quickly for anyone to register if it’s me or not.”
Her best efforts aside, anonymity may be a pipe dream. The show is as decorated as a Christmas tree in a craft store. Game of Thrones has won a Peabody and 47 Emmys, the most of any television drama in history. The show marries critical praise with popular success, then it mercilessly slaughters those who have come to celebrate this union and receives even more acclaim (“The Rains of Castamere,” season 3, episode 9). The plotlines are famously convoluted. Luckily, we have an entire web’s worth of episode explainers, encyclopedias designed specifically for the Westeros universe, and a self-explanatory Funny or Die segment called Gay of Thrones, starring Jonathan van Ness.
When Mad Men first aired, television bloggers dutifully unpacked its symbolic elements, and millennials celebrated the show’s style with Mad Men–themed parties that were really just ’60s-and-one-red-wig-themed parties. Game of Thrones is basically an economy of its own. Since the show premiered, tourism to Croatia, whose coastal port Dubrovnik stands in for the fictional city of King’s Landing, has nearly doubled. Game of Thrones–themed weddings are so popular that it is almost impossible not to attend them — in 2016, Clarke accidentally walked into one that was occurring at the same hotel where she and the cast were staying during filming. (It was not a canonical wedding, and no guests were harmed.)
Game of Thrones has also earned one of the most important pop culture accolades of the century: The attention of Beyoncé Knowles. I believe it is her favorite TV show, and this is why.
Exhibit A: Jay-Z reportedly gave her a prop dragon’s egg from the set, at great personal expense. Exhibit B: At an Oscars after-party this year, Beyoncé approached Clarke (“voluntarily,” according to the actress) to introduce herself. “I watched her face go, ‘Oh, no, I shouldn’t be talking to this crazy [woman], who is essentially crying in front of me,’ ” remembers Clarke. “I think my inner monologue was, ‘Stop fucking it up,’ and I kept fucking it up.”
“I was like, ‘I just saw you in concert.’ And she was like, ‘I know.’ ” Clarke also mentions that Beyoncé complimented her work but declines to share specifics.
Why are people (more specifically, everybody) and goddesses (more specifically, Beyoncé) all obsessed with a show about some dragons and lots of dungeons?
“The show is sensationalist in a way,” Clarke explains, in an effort to describe a TV series that features twins having sex and a child’s defenestration in the very first episode. It doesn’t matter — Clarke’s conversational style is so intimate and emphatic that basic facts feel like sworn secrets. When she smiles, she does so with every single muscle in her face. “It’s the reason why people pick up gossip magazines. They want to know what happens next…. You’ve got a society that is far removed enough from ours but also circulates around power. How that corrupts people and how we want it, and how we don’t want it.”
In other words, Game of Thrones’ value proposition is creating a rich other world for people to experience a prestige, high-production version of pure, horny, violent, unbridled drama. It is, according to Clarke, pitched perfectly: “I think it caught Western society at exactly the right moment.”
“I don’t know about you,” she says, “but when I watch something, it’s escapism. I’m feeling crappy; I’m just sad, moody, depressed, upset, angry, whatever it is. I know that distraction is what makes me get better. Distraction is what really, really helps me.” She laughs and then quickly pivots to a caveat: “I’m sure that’s not what a therapist would advise.”It is at this point that Emilia Clarke leans in very close, her breath knocking at my sideburn, and explains to me the bombastic and devastating ending to the most important TV show of the decade.
Wow — just kidding once more. But, uh, while we’re on the topic, how is this whole thing going to end?
It was not hard to root for the Breaker of Chains, until recently. Now we’re seeing the gentle unspooling of her character, and flickers of a dangerous prophecy that she will ascend the throne only to follow in her father’s footsteps and burn it all to the ground. For a while, Daenerys seemed like the Lawful Good ruler, but we have had the great pleasure of watching how power can pervert people. (Nate Jones, at Vulture, leads a thrilling discussion of this very topic.) (Also, if Daenerys were to rule the Seven Kingdoms, only to go nuts, we might at the very least have a spinoff to look forward to.)
Clarke will never say. Throughout 10 or so years in the public eye, her interviews have been peppered with the same handful of charming personal details from her career — the service jobs she worked prior to making it, dancing the funky chicken during her Game of Thrones audition — which feels a lot like walking a vast beach and finding the same series of 10 seashells.
Then, in March, some very different treasure washed ashore when The New Yorker ran the most illuminating profile of Emilia Clarke to date. It was written by Emilia Clarke.
If I am truly being honest every minute of every day I thought I was going to die.
In it, Clarke revealed that she had suffered two near-fatal brain aneurysms during the early seasons of Game of Thrones. The first hit her mid-plank during a training session, and not long after, doctors discovered a second that required them to open her skull for a risky operation. The recovery period was, to her, more painful than the aneurysms. “If I am truly being honest,” she wrote, “every minute of every day I thought I was going to die.” She also announced her charity venture, SameYou, which seeks to provide rehabilitation for young people recovering from brain injuries.
The second time we talk, it is the day before the Game of Thrones New York premiere, and Clarke is at a morning fitting, surrounded by a coronation’s worth of gowns. It’s early, and a passing cold has fried the edges of her voice. But her words still vibrate with so much joy, it’s like she doesn’t even notice. She’s just happy to be here, wherever she is.