Years ago, Emilia Clark became one of the first people to know who would ultimately emerge victorious and sit on Game of Thrones’ Iron Throne. For obvious reasons, she was sworn to keep the information secret, but now, she’s finally free to speak out about how the series played out and everyone’s sudden fondness for seeing Daenerys as a mad queen.
In a new interview with the New Yorker, Clarke opened up about her experiences working on Game of Thrones and what it’s been like to have to live in a world full of people who at times see her as Daenerys rather than herself. Clarke said that while she wasn’t aware of the fan petitions calling for season eight to be reshot, she’d become more than familiar with (and tired of) people coming up to her saying “dracarys” and needling her for spoilers about the finale.
When Clarke first received the scripts revealing that, in the end, Jon Snow would end up killing Daenerys before Drogon carried her lifeless body away, the actress was at first stunned and had to take a moment to gather her thoughts and feelings about her character’s arc because she was legitimately shocked. But Clarke explained that as surprised as she was, in the months leading up to her learning Daenerys’ fate, she’d considered whether the overall upward trajectory of Daenerys’ development compared to the ups and downs experienced by other characters. Given how things on Game of Thrones tend to play out for people, it was clear that eventually, shit was going to hit the fan for the would-be dragon queen:
“Throughout the show, there have been these glorious moments of Daenerys taking on a very strong role in a battle or in a decision to be made. There were these wonderful moments when she takes control, and it’s really liberating and beautiful. She frees people, she kills the baddies, and it feels good.
And, I must admit, I was sitting tentatively on that chair thinking, How long is this going to last? Everyone was saying, ‘Isn’t she great? She’s our savior, Mhysa.’ It’s been beautiful and amazing, but I’ve been looking over my shoulder the entire time while everyone else gets a more human—for want of a better word—story line. They do good things. They do bad things. They do silly things. They do brilliant things. They fall in love. They break hearts. Daenerys has quite consistently had this road to salvation, and she’s been sitting atop a very safe mountain.”
Clarke said that, as monstrous as many of Daenerys’ actions were in Game of Thrones’ latter episodes, she always felt a deep empathy for her and strongly believes that Dany thought she was doing the right thing. While the actress understands why some people have expressed the wish that the final season had been longer, she insisted that at least some of the character development folks have asked for can actually be seen in the finer details of the cast’s performances. In Daenerys’ final moments, Clarke said that she wanted to emphasize the wonder the queen felt at finally having accomplished her goal, a wonder that doesn’t stem from any sort of madness:
“There’s always a thousand reasons why anyone comes to any conclusion or says anything. We are the product of the experiences that we’ve had, and so with all of these moments when they’re kind of, like, ‘She’s just brutal, she’s cold,’ I really tried to bring a kind of lightness.
I wanted to play a game with what the scene was about. It’s not that I wanted to show her as ‘mad,’ because I really don’t like that word. I don’t enjoy fans calling me “the Mad Queen.” But she’s is so far gone in grief, in trauma, and in pain. And yet our brains are fascinating in the way that they find a fast route to feel O.K., whether you’re relying on a substance or you’re mildly deluded.
If you see abuse in someone young, they often are able to mentally leave the room. I wanted Daenerys to be there. I wanted to show her as we saw her in the beginning: young, naïve, childlike, open, and full of love and hope. I wanted so much for that to be the last memory of her.”
Regardless of how you feel about the way Game of Thrones’ finale played out, it’s likely that Clarke’s feelings about HBO’s upcoming prequel to the series are somewhat similar to yours. As much as everyone enjoyed watching the Seven Kingdoms narrowly avoid getting iced by the Night King and his army, the already building hype for the prequel feels, at least partially, like an attempt to keep the original series’ momentum going, which isn’t exactly the best thing. The new series, Clarke said, deserves the chance to be its own discrete thing:
“I just think that it would be lovely to just let this lie for a minute before doing anything else. But then it’ll be something completely different, and it won’t be Game of Thrones It won’t be called Game of Thrones. It will be inspired by Game of Thrones characters, a fantastical series, set in a similar time.
I can’t speak because I don’t know the script. But I would just like a bit more time between Game of Thrones being cold in the ground before something else comes along. Because isn’t everyone already up to their eyeballs with Game of Thrones? . . .
I’m of the mind-set of, like, ‘Leave while the party’s still going,’ because then you’re going to leave with some good memories. But you’re talking to somebody who’s been living in this character for ten years, so I’m, like, ‘What other story is there to tell?’”
Spoken like a true queen. Oh well.
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