It was May of 2010, and House Gatewatch was in need. We’d been stewing for over a month with the news that the role of Daenerys Targaryen was being recast. We’d heard nothing but conflicting reports, had experienced the Elena Satine Twitter debacle, and had seen more “butterface” comments regarding Dany’s former actress than might be considered polite in any neanderthal-run society. To say moods were foul would be putting it lightly.
On May 21st, Maureen Ryan broke the news: an unknown actress named Emilia Clarke had been cast in the role. Some furious Googling followed, digging up an IMDB page as well as a heartbreaking Samaritans advert…
Most of us were immediately charmed. It’s no small thing to say that ASoIaF fans, for the most part, welcomed the news of Emilia’s casting with open arms and hearts. (Compare it to some of the vitriol experienced in the Catelyn recast, and it was a virtual Love-In.) Hopes were high.
To say she delivered is understating things just a tad.
Emilia Clarke has been a revelation from the word go. I still remember sitting with Winter (Phil) in a small room in Pasadena, one night before the TCA’s—packed together with various HBO reps, GRRM, Mo, Jace Lacob and others—as one of the fortunate few to be shown a 15-minute preview of season 1. There was a reverential quiet to the room, respectful and spellbound…
Up until they unspooled that pivotal scene where Dany lashes back at Viserys, striking him across the cheek with a bronze belt, drawing blood and an utterly gobsmacked look from Harry Lloyd.
Most in attendance gasped, the scene was so strong. It felt as though half of the air had been sucked from the room, because after months of waiting, here we finally had it: the moment we knew the series, with so much riding on it, could deliver sharp, emotional drama. Not only that, this was the moment in which we knew she could deliver it.
Daenerys Targaryen—our Dany, the Mother of Dragons, so very vital—and to our immense relief, so excellently cast.
Emilia Clarke was not always khaleesi, of course. Emilia was born in London in 1986 and grew up in Berkshire, England. She was educated at Oxford’s St. Edwards, as well as Rye St. Anthony, before moving on to the prestigious Drama Centre London, graduating from there in 2009. A brief appearance on the British drama Doctors was followed by a role on the SyFy (Sci-Fi Channel) movie, Triassic Attack. In 2010 she was featured in UK International’s UK Stars of Tomorrow alongside her ‘Thrones sibling Harry Lloyd.
Game of Thrones has won her rave reviews. Emilia was nominated for the IGN Award for Best Television Actress of 2011, and won both the EWwy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama and the Scream award for Female Breakout Performance for her role as Daenerys.
Oh, and we love her, so there’s that.
Game of Thrones is not all she’s doing these days, of course. It was in the midst of filming a production titled Spike Island that the intrepid FaBio (that stands for Fire and Blood, Targ fans!) caught up with her.
And so, brought to you by a very game and gratified Emilia Clarke, and conducted with the blessing of HBO, I invite you to enjoy the interview that follows.
And by “you” I mean Johan, specifically.
Fire And Blood: Hi, Emilia! Thanks for taking the time to talk to Winter Is Coming!
Emilia Clarke: It’s a pleasure – thank you for asking me.
FaB: So let’s kick this off with a never-before asked question about how you felt doing nude scenes in Game of Thro—–wait, I think I recall one or two people having asked you that one before. I suppose I’ll lead with a costuming question instead, if that’s alright.
EC: Haha, yes that is more than alright – music to my ears in fact!
FaB: The costuming for season 1 was fantastic. I re-watched Braveheart a few weeks ago and was taken aback by how cheap the costuming looked compared to Game of Thrones, which means we’ve basically been spoiled. Is there a particular costume you really liked during season 1? Also, is there one from season 2 that you can’t wait for people to see?
EC: Well, actually the fact of wearing a costume at all in Season 1 got my vote! But from Season 1, my favorite was the dress I wore to be introduced to my Khal. It was such a beautiful fabric and I felt very much like a princess wearing it! The costume department on GoT are all quite brilliant and Michele Clapton is a genius and very character orientated, so it was easy to discuss [costuming] ideas with her. There is clear costume development reflecting the growth of Dany as a character, You will see that even more so in Season 2, as she really begins to develop her own badass yet beautiful style! I particularly like the blue dress that was picked for the EW photoshoot that has just been released, the colour is gorgeous.
FaB: Some fans were irked at the news that the Qartheen fashion of leaving one breast exposed was not being adhered to, as it was in the books. And speaking as a heterosexual male, I suppose that’s a shame… yet I also think, visually, it would have been extremely distracting to the eye. Was this ever discussed?
EC: This was indeed discussed! I remember when I was filming in Croatia seeing a copy of book 2, and the front cover picture was of Dany in the ‘traditional Qartheen fashion’ and you could say that I was rather taken aback. There are lots of things to bear in mind when adapting a book for the screen, and yes we all agreed that if this was kept as a visual reference, it would take away from the drama and integrity of Dany’s storyline as she grows into such a strong Khalessi.
FaB: I was just watching the Game of Thrones season 1 Blu-ray, reliving all the great moments. Being able to zip through five episodes at a time makes the story flow even better, and makes Dany’s transformation all the more remarkable. It seems as though you made a physical transformation as well: Daenerys was curvier and fair-skinned to begin with, leaner and tanned at series’ end. Was this purposeful?
EC: You mean you noticed the results of my gym membership then?? Actually when we first meet Dany she is completely innocent and naïve, and she had been living in comfort for some time. Then when she marries it all changes and she has to endure the hardship of “life on the road” and become like her new people, so we had to visualize that change in her.
FaB: The final scene of the final episode of season 1 still resonates so strongly. It’s literally one of the most powerful moments I can ever remember seeing on television. George R.R. Martin seems like he saves some of his most cinematic scenes for Dany. You have to be excited by some of the potential scenes Dany has in front of her in season 3. Not to mention the stuff beginning on April 1st!
EC: Oh you literally have no idea what’s in store in Season 2! I am incredibly excited as I have already seen two episodes from Season 2, and I promise you will not be disappointed! Season 2 is incredible from start to finish. And then Season 3… if it gets the green light, oh my, ever since I read the book I have dreamt of filming it, I can’t wait!
FaB: Good to know you read the books! It’s a commonly asked question. Back to the season 1 finale scene, what did you think of the music? Ramin Djawadi supposedly arranged Dany’s theme with a full-on orchestra and chorus in Prague. I’ve heard it described by many people as “shiver-inducing,” and that’s not too far off the mark. Did the music have an impact on you?
EC: When we were filming the final scene there was an eerie silence only broken by the sound of the wind blowing, but as I stood up I remember feeling incredibly empowered. It really was a special few days filming, and certainly could be described as epic, but when I watched it on screen for the first time, the music took my breath away. I think that all Ramin Djawadi’s music for the series is so appropriate, powerful and haunting.
FaB: Agreed. I geek out over Djawadi’s music. Actually, I should warn you, I am a local nerd celebrity due to the fact that Dave and Dan awarded me a No-Prize (which basically means I win absolutely nothing) for coming up with a reason why the Targaryens have dark eyebrows that are—sometimes but not always—tipped in silver. Tell me you are DYING to know the answer!
EC: Haha! Yes! I love it! I can’t wait to hear your “Eyebrowgate” answer which I may be forced to steal. I don’t read anything about myself on the net, but my mother does, and she says that my dark eyebrows have been the topic of quite a lot of discussion on WiC … to say the least!
FaB: I’m not sure whether to be impressed or frightened, the fact that you know about our many “gates.” Anyway …
It’s commonly known Targaryen hair is extremely fair, which gives them creepy looking pale eyebrows, making them seem to lack expression. The Targs have been living with this for hundreds of years. Naturally the ones who cared about appearing expressive would know how to combat it.
So what they do is darken their eyebrows, using kohl or whatever makeup they have on hand. It’s when they are out in the wilderness that the darkened eyebrow colour begins to fade, and therefore you see the tips turning silver again. Brilliant, right?
EC: Pure magic, WiC I salute you – so now I have to give you a Targaryen Prize. Silver eyebrow dye anyone?! I will put it in the post…
FaB: I will certainly accept a bottle of silver Targaryen eyebrow dye. Speaking of witnessing, you mentioned on the DVD that your mum is a huge Mord fan. I’m glad to see Ciaran Bermingham getting some love! He was excellent.
EC: Absolutely right! Yes my mum is a fan, but she is far more a fan of the series [as a whole], I think she could in fact be Game of Thrones’ biggest fan.
FaB: I will arm-wrestle her for the right to that title. But let’s talk Targs! We started a “Curtain Call” series of articles at Winter Is Coming honoring the dead, in no small part due to Harry Lloyd’s astounding performance, playing your brother. He literally took a completely unlikeable character from the books and made the audience feel for him. Viserys became completely believable. You really can’t garner better praise. Tell us about the first day you met him, and your impressions of him that day.
EC: Oh Harry is one of the best people I know, and one of the most talented, getting to work alongside him was a dream. He is incredibly dedicated and hardworking but also a complete giggle, we had a lot of fun filming! I actually first met him at my screen test in LA, where he was not only amazing to act with but also was pretty amazing at helping me calm my nerves as I had to audition in front of a large number of HBO executives, I think we just instantly hit it off from then!
FaB: Do you still keep in touch?
EC: We speak really often, I am privileged to call him one of my closest friends. Harry is the one I turn to when I need solid advice, he is a pretty special person. And it’s wonderful that he is getting so much recognition for the great work he did on GoT and the other excellent films he has done since.
FaB: I love that on the DVD commentary track you reassured him he could be a geek. The geeks of the world cheered.
EC: Of course!! Geeks run the world, man, calling someone a geek is a big compliment! I am trying hard to be one myself, I think by the end of Season 3 I may get there!
FaB: You also (on the commentary track) politely pleaded for Dany’s life, when King Robert said you had to die—which was strangely adorable. Do you think if Robert had listened to Emilia Clarke’s disembodied voice, his fate might have gone better for him?
EC: Um… I would like to think so, but Robert was a pretty stubborn King – I think it would have taken more than that to change his fate… although I do think that Dany and Robert would have got on had they met, he did like blondes after all.
FaB: It could be argued Robert liked anything on two feet. Of course fans love cast commentaries. And we learn various things from them that we might not have known before, such as the fact that you can actually be bribed with Pick ‘N’ Mix.
EC: That’s true! In my view Pick ‘N’ Mix is a food of the Gods… I have a huge thing for sugar. And jellybellybeans. I have a large jar of sweets in my flat for friends. I blame not being allowed sweets very much when I was a child. One night when I was about 3, my mother found me tucked up in bed where she had left me, clutching an empty bottle of children’s vitamins which I had chewed my way through every one as they were delicious – she called the doctor!
FaB: I am personally addicted to the “Flintstones” variety. They’re like candy-flavoured gold. Speaking of gold, “Dothraki hybrid gold” was a nice line.
EC: Thank you – I am hoping David and Dan’s incredible writing skills may one day rub off on me! They are two of the funniest people alive.
FaB: I met them in person last year in Pasadena. Their humour is very sly; Dan especially will have some dry comment to offer, with just the faintest smile, and you’re just not sure if he’s having a go at you or not. Dude’s got mad ninja skills. Speaking of skills, we learned Jason Momoa actually had to tolerate your hair laying across his naked eyeball without blinking… which is basically awesome. What was it like meeting Jason for the first time? First impressions must have been interesting.
EC: Haha! Ah Jason, he is a total legend. Yes, our first ever meeting in the lobby of a Belfast hotel did start by him rugby tackling me to the floor yelling “WIFEY!!” it was quite an introduction and the fun has not cooled since! We like to call him Tigger – he has more energy than I do after 3 bags of Pick ‘N’ Mix, and he is a good foot taller than me and can also bench press me with one hand. But he is also very talented, and very kind. He is a complete gentleman and has the most beautiful family on the planet who I am very lucky to know. You can’t get much better than Momoa, It was brilliant to have him as my on screen hubbie!
FaB: He was a legend at Comic-Con too. He whipped those shades off and was rocking the Drogo guyliner. It was exceptional. Were there any Dany scenes from season 1 that were left on the cutting room floor? Ones that you wish were shown?
EC: Actually no… I don’t think so! I was very lucky!
FaB: Not only did you get to work with some really fantastic actors from season 1—like Iain Glen, Amrita Acharia, Roxanne McKee—but you now have a whole new group you got to work with, like Nonso Anozie, Ian Hanmore, and Laura Pradelska. What was it like having not only an expanded cast, but an entire city (Qarth) to play in?
EC: Just brilliant. Getting to work with the new cast, and I hope this shows on film, felt really natural, like they had always been with us because they were all great to work with. The Game of Thrones family is ever expanding! It was also very fitting to have a new city to play with them in!
FaB: Were there any pranks played on the newbies?
EC: Not that I heard of! People just continued to play pranks on the oldies…!
But speaking of pranks I would like people to know that I am not on Twitter, never have been, never will, it’s not my thing. Someone pretended to be me a while back, now someone else is doing it, and posting a lot, and it’s important that the fans aren’t tricked. Isn’t it weird that someone would be bothered to do it?
FaB: Seriously, I have always found that to be a completely bizarre phenomenon. It’s like this vicarious thing where they want to take on the life of someone they wish they could be. Like they want the attention, no matter that it’s not even for them. I find it slightly sick. And It’s not just attention for themselves; they’re desperate for any sort of attention! I liken them to very horrible reality show contestants. Like, “Who cares what people think about me, so long as I’m on the telly!” But worse. These are also the kinds of people I imagine would break into Brad Pitt’s house and try on his underwear.
(So there you have it, Twitterbaters: EMILIA CLARKE IS NOT ON TWITTER, NOR WILL SHE EVER BE. End speculation! I will hitherto strive to verbally crush every pretender I see. Fire and Blood!)
Back to the questions! Season 2! Were there any “dragon malfunctions?” They couldn’t have misbehaved as badly as the wolf pups in season 1.
EC: You mean my babies? I am proud to say they were actually very well behaved and didn’t let me down once! But I am afraid there were a few Dany malfunctions when I was asked not to forget how much they weighed when I was holding them!
FaB: Sounds to me like they’re just trying to make you look bad. Draconic glory hounds!
I think one of the things the fans love about you is the enthusiasm you have for the series as a whole–not just for Dany’s parts, but the entire story—which comes across in your interviews. Was there a sense of justification once the series received so many accolades? I mean, you never really know how something is going to be received, right? It could have been like Triassic Attack Part 2 or something.
EC: My enthusiasm for Game of Thrones and expecially Dany is just something I can’t realy control! I felt it from the first time I read the sides I had to learn for the auditions. When I like something I tend to find it hard to hide my feelings and so when the fans’ response from Season 1 was also positive it just added to my happiness! But in all honesty, if the response had not been as overwhelmingly lovely as it was, it still wouldn’t have taken anything away from how I feel about Dany and the entire series. It has flipped my world upside down and inside out and I count my blessings that I am involved in something I love this much.
FaB: Filming Game of Thrones takes up half of every year, which leaves the other half for you to pursue other projects… but sometimes the timing of those other projects can be off, and you’d have to pass up on stuff. Is that a concern for you? Obviously you’re young, and you have your entire career ahead of you, but if the series moves past 6 seasons (our fingers are crossed since there will be seven books) do you see yourself continuing on for more? That has to be a see-saw in any actor’s mind: pursue new projects or finish a story arc. On one hand you could have Steven Spielberg calling. On the other hand you have a performance that will go down in the annals of history. Daenerys is legendary.
EC: Dany, Game of Thrones and HBO are the reason why I am even getting to be thought about for other projects. However long this ride continues Dany and I are happily in this together. (I hope!) Everyone is great about flexibility for the actors and for projects they might want to do outside of Game of Thrones, so I am positive it would work out for the best. I am filming [Spike Island] right now as it happens. I am also planning on being an actor forever and ever, so yes I do believe I could have more than 6 seasons of GoT in me yet!
FaB: Obviously you can’t go into any real detail about season 2. But can you give us one of your favourite lines from this upcoming season? Just a taste!
EC: Not so much a line, but the idea of trust is what I would say. Trusting in people and herself, it makes a pretty big impact on Dany in Season 2…
FaB: One of the latest issues of Rolling Stone has a photo of you paired with Kit Harington; he’s giving you a rather passionate kiss on the temple, which of course just stokes the fires of fans who want to see Jon and Dany brought together by story’s end. Have you thought of where you would personally like to see Dany, when all’s said and done?
EC: Well, that’s an easy one, On the Iron Throne of course. Surrounded by my dragons. And Pick ‘N’ Mix.
FaB: Ha! Maybe with the skulls of her enemies used as candy bowls. I like the visual! Okay! Time for some quick hits! Favourite television show—besides Game of Thrones?
EC: Ooh… has to be I Love Lucy! Lucille Ball is my idol…
FaB: That’s a nice career to emulate too! Three songs in your iPod that get regular play!
EC: Only three?? That’s tough. This is what’s getting played right now:
“Deeper” Wild Beasts.
“Summertearz” Little Dragon
“Sally Cinnamon” Stone Roses
“Whadda Man” Salt N Pepa
“Don’t think twice, it’s alright” Bob Dylan
I realize that’s 5 but music is much too important a part of my life for me to be able to limit to only 3!
FaB: There’s no such thing as too much music. I should have asked top 10! I’m digging Summertearz! Weirdly hypnotic. Best movie you’ve seen thus far in 2012?
EC: It would have to be The Iron Lady. (Harry Lloyd strikes again.)
FaB: More Lloyd! Streep’s not bad either. Coolest dragon name: Viserion, Rhaegal, or Drogon?
EC: Drogon for sure!
FaB: On to a bizarre little tradition we started back at the 2011 TCA’s, when we asked you for your phone number (so we could call you in request of silly things). At the time you responded, “Maybe,” which was fair enough! The “Maybe” was then moved up to a “Probably” when I asked you again at Sand Diego Comic-Con over the summer. Are you willing to take the next bold step up to “Definitely someday within the next 45 years?”
EC: Definitely! That only seems fair!
FaB: Actually, we have two readers who are currently contesting the right to your phone number—Night’s King and Johan—so perhaps, once the FINAL EPISODE of the VERY LAST SEASON comes to an end, we could arrange a contest between them (a joust with pillows perhaps) to see who might earn the right to court your number. We can then buy a prepaid limited-minutes mobile phone and send it to you, and you can take a call from one of these two drooling fans for 5 minutes. What do you say to that?!
EC: What a tremendous idea! Could Jason referee? Actually my mum tells me that Johan says some really nice things and sticks up for me when others are a little less than complimentary! So thank you Johan, I don’t know about Night’s King but I will thank him too as well!
FaB: (Good on you, Johan!) We are full of WIN here at Winter Is Coming. Clearly you are impressed by my professionalism.
EC: I am impressed by your love of all things GRRM!
FaB: Fevre Dream was okay. Last question, and this one is near and dear to my heart. I am in the midst of a personal crusade, which is to remove the colour INDIGO from the seven-colour spectrum on the basis that it makes no sense to be there. Like why not also include TEAL or BURNT ORANGE? Really. Thus far in interviews I’ve done with GoT cast members, three remain pro-indigo (Sophie Turner, Lena Headey, and Aimee Richardson) whilst John Bradley has boldly stepped forth to stand behind me in this very important crusade. (He even recommended I take the issue up with Obama.) So my very important question to you is… yea or nay? Go Go Indigo, or No No Indigo?
EC: I think I am with the ladies on this one, Indigo is an absolute Go Go colour and “Mood Indigo” is one of my all time favorite jazz songs, so I would be doing Duke Ellington a huge disservice by agreeing to banish it from the spectrum… sorry!
FaB: My valiant and logical quest takes another hit. The girls will never let me hear the end of it! Well, thank you once again for taking the time to talk with us, Emilia!
EC: Thank you for such funny questions! It was great to be asked. I love WiC that’s for sure!
Fire and Blood: And we love her too!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the amazing Emilia Clarke. I want to thank Emilia and her people, as well as HBO’s publicity rep Mara, as usual, for helping this lovely interview come to fruition.
I also want to thank Emilia’s mum, who is clearly awesome.