Curtain Call: Nathalie Emmanuel


Nathalie Emmanuel first appeared as the mild-mannered translator Missandei in Game of Thrones season 3, a slave to the cruel Kraznys mo Nakloz of Astapor. From the start, she seemed smart and sharp. She was the first one in Kraznys’ camp to notice that Daenerys Targaryen could actually speak Valyrian, and allowed herself just the smallest smile when she realized what was about to happen to her vile master. Right then and there, Daenerys secured Missandei’s loyalty. She wouldn’t give it up to the day she died.

Unfortunately, that day came in the most recent episode of the show, “The Last of the Starks,” in one of the most brutal scenes the show has had in a long while. Missandei’s execution scene recalled those early days in Astapor. Once again, Missandei was held prisoner by a cruel ruler, and once again, Daenerys was here to get justice for her, one way or another. But this time, Missandei had spent long years growing in confidence, working through the trauma of a life spent in bondage. Emmanuel delivers her last word — the final line of the episode — with a steely conviction that sends chills down the spine: “Dracarys.” It portends dark things ahead, but thanks to Emmanuel’s performance, it lands with crushing power.

Missandei /

But these kinds of vicious moments are the exception for Missandei, who was usually quiet, reserved and mild. Missandei is an introvert, but Emmanuel was excellent at suggesting her inner life over the course of the series, using subtle eye movements and facial cues to let us that know that even though Missandei didn’t say much, she was always thinking. We already talked about her tiny smirk when she realized what Daenerys was going to do to Astapor. We get another moment like that the previous episode, when Daenerys, who has just taken Missandei into her service, warns her that she might die in war. “Valar Morghulis,” Missandei says. “Yes, all men must die,” Daenerys replies, “But we are not men.” Again, Missandei allows herself just the smallest smile. From the start, she likes her new boss.

Missandei would go on to give Daenerys advice throughout her journey, as when she told her to trust her instincts following the death of Barristan Selmy, when the lot of them were navigating the quagmire of Meereen. But we got the biggest look into her humanity through her relationship with Grey Worm. Both of these characters had spent much of their lives forcibly stripped of their humanity, but slowly, they brought each back. By the time they consummated their relationship in “Stormborn,” it had turned into something tender and true, a mutual respect and love that managed to flourish despite the odds being stacked against it.

In retrospect, we should have known it was never going to last.

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I wish we had gotten more of Missandei between “The Last of the Starks,” but I’m thankful for what we have, and for Emmanuel, who played the character with grace and grit from start to finish.


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Outside Game of Thrones, Emmanuel has had a lot of success, snagging a recurring role in the Maze Runner series of movies and, most notably, the Fast and the Furious films. Those movies are among the most successful int he world, so she’s doing just fine. She’s also scored a lead role in Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral miniseries, which drops July 31.

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