Note to readers: This article contains a spoiler about the series finale of "Game of Thrones."
When Emilia Clarke finished reading the scripts for the last two episodes of "Game of Thrones," she went for a long walk, wandering the streets of London in a stupor, trying to process the shocking fate of her character, Daenerys Targaryen, and whether she had the strength to play it. Shortly afterward, plagued by self-doubt, Clarke called her mom, the most pragmatic person she knows. She needed someone to talk her off the ledge.
Mom's advice: You're good and, if anything, you get to do some wicked acting. So enjoy it. "The boys 1/8showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss3/8 gave me a gift this season with Daenerys," Clarke says. "They gave me a gift just giving me the part in the first place. To get the opportunity to play a girl who goes from being a naive, frightened creature to a dictator with genocidal tendencies is amazing. That's a pretty big arc!"
Over lunch around the corner from her home in Venice and, later, in a phone call from her London residence, Clarke talked about that journey, the finale and how she handled the frightening brain aneurysms that beset her while making the show.
Q: How did you feel when you read the finale script and you came to your last scene, when Jon Snow stabs you?
A: When I first read it, I read past it three times. Because what actually happens is all in the stage directions. I was reading the script and I was like, "What? Did I choke on something? What am I? Ill?" Then I read back and I'm like, "Oh. Oooooh no. Right. Brilliant. So he did it. The bastard." It was a huge amount to digest and my response was complete shock.
Q: What were your emotions when it came time to film it?
A: I don't know what I was expecting, but it was difficult and enormously emotional. It isn't just something I sat with for nine months. It's a woman I lived with for a decade. And the relationship she has with Jon Snow is, I still believe, the truest, most real love she experiences in her entire life. So for that to be the way that it ends ... obviously there's a poetry to it, but there's a huge amount of pain that comes with it. There was also something weirdly cathartic and full of closure about her journey being one of complete finality. Maybe the show goes on. But for her it absolutely doesn't. For her, there's an absolute full-stop. And there's a release to that after all of the madness that happened before.
Q: The Daenerys we see in that last scene feels like the woman we've known for years, not the person who just murdered thousands of innocent people.
A: I just wanted the audience to have a little reminder of who she was in the beginning. And I wanted that kind of justice for her, if I'm really honest. I wanted the person that he kills to not be a tyrannical dictator. It should just be a girl. It should be a human thing. And I think there's an enormous amount of that person left. She's had every opportunity to recover from what happened in King's Landing. There's a certain amount of her that thinks she'll recover from it and everything will then just carry on.