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Game of Thrones : an interview with Emilia Clarke

Fri, Jun 13, 2014

Three years ago 26-year-old Emilia Clarke had barely appeared on British daytime television. Propelled by her role as dragon-toting Games of Thrones minx Daenerys Targaryen, the London-born actress has gone from a bit part in Doctors to charming Jude Law in 2013’s Dom Hemingway in the blink of an eye. Clarke, who will soon appear as Sarah Connor opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the next Terminator film, is leading the pack of rookie Thrones actors in showing there’s life beyond the Seven Kingdoms.

Cast member Emilia Clarke attends the HBO panel for the television series "Game of Thrones" during the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, California January 7, 2011.  Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Cast member Emilia Clarke attends the HBO panel for the television series “Game of Thrones” during the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, California January 7, 2011.
Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

It’s not just the fresh-faced cast feeling the impact. Game of Thrones changed the way TV is made and consumed. Since its 2011 bow, HBO has ploughed a fortune into making the adaptation of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series the world’s biggest TV show. Three Game of Thrones seasons down, each episode boasts the production value of a major film and the show’s monumental success has inspired the equally ambitious True Detective, among others.

Game of Thrones is also considered the most pirated show ever, with illegal downloads exceeding TV viewers for two years running in the US. Season three finale Mhysa had six million downloads alone. Director David Petrarca recently said the show thrives on the “cultural buzz” of pirates, but Sky Atlantic (Britain’s home of Thrones) is attempting to curb the tide by airing season four as it goes live on HBO in the US.
Game of Thrones returned in late April, boasting more firepower than even the mightiest White Walker. Clarke’s Khaleesi is still vying to rule from the coveted Iron Throne. Here, The Big Issue gets its geek on as Clarke reflects on cult fans and auditioning to become the Queen Across the Sea…

At the start of the books Daenerys is only 13, but they made her a little older for the TV show.
In the books she’s 13 but we made her around about 16. The books are harking back to medieval times, where children really weren’t the children we know today – they had to be adults quite quickly. The beauty of the character is she’s got such a huge arc. She comes into her own, starts making her own decisions, becomes a bit of a badass. She goes on this massive journey to womanhood.

Even though Dany’s the Mother of Dragons, can you relate to her?
I completely relate to her on many levels. When it comes to acting, for me, the more of a challenge and the more I can get my teeth into a role, the more I enjoy it. It’s a dream come true being able to play her.

How did you get the part in the first place?

Really boring: I auditioned and I got it. I went to LA for a screen test, which was beyond petrifying, but for some bizarre reason they thought, let’s give this random girl nobody’s ever heard of a shot. I started my career with a lovely little guest lead in Doctors.

You played a girl who had quite a strange relationship with her father. Is that right?
Yeah, my dad stalked me. It gave me some camera experience, which gives you no end of confidence because you don’t get that much during drama school. Then I did this little thing for an American TV channel.

Yes, the wonderfully titled Triassic Attack.
Again, an amazing experience, just learning on the job, which is the best way. Then I did an advert for the Samaritans and then I did Game of Thrones. So it was quite a leap.

Why did they hire so many British actors for the show?
Maybe because it harks back to a medieval age. I genuinely couldn’t tell you, except England is older than America.

Do you pay much attention to what the fans say about the show and your role?
No, I choose not to. I know that there is an enormous fanbase and when I started this all I wanted was to do them proud and make sure they were happy. I tried to do that and I think me looking at the comments – good or bad – probably isn’t the best thing for my brain. So I’ve chosen to avoid looking at them. Hopefully they’re pleased. That’s all I can say.

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Steven MacKenzie
The Big Issue UK

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