Emilia Clarke: Daenerys is empowering
EN Interview 1 - Emilia Clarke is still flabbergasted by fame. She never expected HBO’s Game of Thrones to turn into a global TV sensation, and she certainly didn’t anticipate the adulation that has come with her performance as Daenerys Targaryen, aka The Mother of Dragons.
Now, however, the ethereally beautiful Clarke is about to be put through a media gauntlet that would shake even Dany’s resolve. Her starring role as Sarah Connor in the summer blockbuster, Terminator Genisys, the reboot of the legendary franchise co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jai Courtney, is without doubt her passport to Hollywood stardom.
“It’s been awesome working with Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Clarke says. “This is such an amazing project and I’m proud to become part of the legend that is already in place and be able to create something new… Every day, you’re like, ‘OK. It can’t get any more insane, or big, or epic, or exciting,’ and it just does.”
Much of Clarke’s magnetic appeal stems from her implacable tenacity as Daenerys as well as from her willingness to do nude scenes. Early on in GoT, she established herself as the kind of actress who is as fearless as she is extraordinarily talented. Clarke’s brazen attitude further showed itself when she was willing to disrobe on Broadway during a 2013 production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her fabulous physique saw audience members regularly reach for their cellphones to capture Clarke entering a bathtub as Holly Golightly. “Bonkers,” is how she recalled the experience.
Interestingly, the 28-year-old British actress turned down the part of Anastasia in Fifty Shades of Grey because she felt that she had already been so closely identified with her naked appearances in GoT that she didn’t want to be “labelled for doing it again.”
Emilia Clarke lives in London and is currently single. Although she cuts a very elegant and gorgeous figure whenever she steps onto the red carpet, the native of Oxford is keen to remind fans that she’s not as perfect as she might look: “There are no captions on red-carpet photos that say, 'This girl trained for two weeks, she went on a juice diet, she has a professional hair and make-up person, and this dress was made for her.’ I just wish they’d say, It ain’t the truth.’”
Q: Emilia, how do you feel about taking on a major franchise like Terminator Genisys?
CLARKE: It’s very daunting in a way but also very exciting. This is the kind of iconic story that everyone grows up watching and ever since I was a little girl I’ve dreamed about making films like this.
Q: How intensive was the training involved for the film?
CLARKE: It was pretty gruelling. I did a lot of weapons training and you need to be strong to lift those guns and everything. I also did a lot of weightlifting and kickboxing that got me into the best shape of my life. I may not be as tough as my character, but at least I felt that I could handle the physical demands of working on the film.
This is the most physical transformation I’ve ever done. But I haven’t done anything before this - I’ve done Game of Thrones and that’s about it. With Dany, it’s all CGI dragons, so not much training is needed.
Q: You’re also back for Season 5 of Game of Thrones. Even though you’re a major star of the series, but do you ever worry that Daenerys will meet an ugly fate at some point?
CLARKE: You never know who’s going to get killed! (Laughs) It’s part of the intrigue and mystique of the series that it surprises you and shows you what a dangerous world she lives in. You get very caught up in the constant sense of menace and the kind of threatening environment that is constantly providing audiences with all sorts of shocks.
Q: What do you appreciate most about Daenerys?
CLARKE: She’s very inspiring and empowering. George has written a story about a girl who evolves into a strong woman and leader. I’ve grown with her as the series has gone on and I’ve loved being able to play such an engaging character. Every year I find more and more interesting layers to her.
Dany’s also a survivor, a woman who has taken on overwhelming adversity and always finds a way to go forward. She learns from every mistake and she has his natural instinct when it comes to her destiny. She’s a magical figure who’s been put through the most severe tests and she’s been able to transform herself from a girl with low self-esteem into a formidable woman who has gained the confidence to take on the world around her.
Q: What do you make of the criticism that Game of Thrones demeans women or that it has a misogynistic streak?
CLARKE: It’s nonsense… The women (in GoT) are living in a time where they make use of the means at their disposal. They are able to take their femininity and draw strength and confidence from their sexuality.
Strong women can have such a great impact because they can combine the determination and boldness of a man with the heart and sensitivity of a woman. They don’t hide their feminine side, they embrace it and are empowered by it.
Q: Does the long, blonde hair give Dany an added advantage in terms of adding to her aura?
CLARKE: It’s part of her sense of empowerment. She can appear so feminine yet she can be very badass when she needs to be!
Q: One of things which is part of Daenerys’s aura is her blonde tresses. When you walk around in public in your normal brown hair, do people still recognise you?
CLARKE: I don’t get recognised as much as you might think. It’s lovely to remain as normal as possible… In London I can still go about my life without people staring at me.
I still remember a moment when we were filming (GoT) in Croatia and there were a couple of fans outside my trailer. I walked in wearing the wig and Dany’s costume and then inside I took the wig off and walked out and they had no idea who I was. (Laughs)
I enjoy being able to fly under the radar and even when people do recognise you they’re very friendly and appreciative.
Q: How do you account for Game of Thrones’ massive international appeal?
CLARKE: It’s such an epic story. I like to tell people it’s all about dragons and boobs and blood! (Laughs) The sets are massive and mysterious and when I’m on the set it’s very easy for me to feel that I’m a part of that world. You feel swept away by the scenery and landscape to such an extent that it doesn’t take much to get into your character. I look so forward to coming back to Belfast each year because it’s become a second home to me.
Q: What’s the best thing about your success?
CLARKE: (Laughs) Not having to work as a waitress and bartender, for a start. Working late nights was terrible because I like getting up early. But I was lucky because I had finished only a year the drama school in London when I auditioned and was given the role of Daenerys. I also hated working in a call centre and I remember how thrilled I was that I didn’t have to do that job anymore.
Q: Do you have any female role models you look up to?
CLARKE: I love Lena Dunham. I’ve been a huge fan of Girls ever since it started and I think of her as a true female warrior.
Cover Media/Viva Press