Nathalie Emmanuel: Game of Thrones “pulled me out of a slump”


One of the pleasures of watching Game of Thrones as it happened when seeing its cast members go from unknowns to household names, or at least major movers and shakers in the industry. Take Nathalie Emmaneul, who signed on to play Daenerys Targaryen’s right-hand woman Missandei back in season 3. She’d appeared onscreen before, but Game of Thrones exposed her to a much wider audience.

“That job changed my life,” Emmanuel recently told Glamour UK. “I really am grateful for that time, because it pulled me out of a slump. Suddenly, I was being thrown onto these big stages and I had to woman up to it. I had the opportunity to shape a person who had been through unimaginable things and really tell her story.”

That story, as we remember all too well, ended in tragedy when Cersei Lannister beheaded Missandei in front of Daenery, setting the stage for further slaughter to come. As the one prominent woman of color on the show, Missandei’s death came with an extra sting, something Emmanuel has had time to think through. “It sparked such necessary conversation around diversity and inclusion,” she said. “I’m used to there being only one role for the ‘brown person,’ but when you’ve got a show that has so many eyes on it, you realize she represented so many people. When you kill the only woman of colour, there’s going to be a huge reaction.”

"Hopefully there can be a discussion about representation. And, when shows of that scale are made again, that the cast looks like the world we live in."

Emmaneul had a taste of a more diverse work environment when she headlined Mindy Kaling’s reimagining of Four Weddings and a Funeral on Hulu. “When you’ve got more points of view in the room, you’re less likely to make silly mistakes that could have been avoided,” she said. “Bring those opinions in and you’ll find that you’re likely to create something that is more authentic and inclusive.”

All of this has made Emmanuel, who’s naturally a reserved person, more outspoken about what she wants, both on behalf of herself and others. For example, she now refuses to “destroy my curl crown – my beautiful hair that I was so blessed to be given – because of a role.”

"I was working alongside another mixed-race actress and they said people wouldn’t be able to tell us apart. I remember thinking, ‘Really?!’ but I didn’t have the confidence to say no then. I was much younger. Now, I’ve found my voice."

You can next see Emmanuel back as computer hacktivist Ramsey in F9, the ninth film in the Fast & Furious franchise. We weren’t kidding when we said she was leaving her mark.

Next. Visiting Emilia Clarke on the set of The Seagull. dark

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