The past seven years, since Game of Thrones first aired, have been a game changer for the British-born Clarke, 30, who jobbed around in random television gigs before winning the role of Daenerys in 2010. Talking about her rise to stardom she said: “It’s scary to even think about it! I certainly never imagined while I was working at this terrible call centre that one day I would be getting a part in a massive series like this. I was petrified auditioning, but for some odd reason they decided to give this unknown girl a shot. “I was literally so over the moon to have an audition, just an audition, let alone for HBO,” she recalls. “I was doing a million jobs and thinking it would never happen. Not a chance. Not. A. Chance.” That was then but Clarke still gets a kick out of the spectacle of it all now. “That’s my face; it’s on that television. It’s not TV, it’s HBO!”
Since landing the role she has becomes one of the most sought-after names in Hollywood and her days of relative privacy look to have gone forever having now established a name for herself. In 2015 she played opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Genisys – a film that grossed $400 million worldwide and last year she starredas the female lead, opposite Sam Claflin, in the movie adaption of the best selling book Me Before You, Talking about the recognition fame now brings she said: “It’s not as easy as it used to be but I still have it so much easier than Peter Dinklage, who is immediately recognised as Tyrion Lannister, even if he is wearing a swimsuit andstrolling along the beach. “I remember one time I was walking with Kit Harington on 5th Avenue in New York and a whole horde of GoT fans descended upon us. It happens.”
So, are her fans always surprised when they see her in person to discover she doesn’t actually have blonde hair? “They’re more surprised that I’m smaller than they expect,” says the 5ft 2in star, “I would love to try going blonde in real life and every once in a while, I promise myself that I’m going to do it, but then I chicken out. I still have terrible memories of dyeing my hair as a teenager and the results were disastrous. I think I’m destined to remain a brunette. I love putting on the blonde wig, though.”
One of the most compelling aspects to her is that she combines the strength of a man with the sensitivity of a woman. She also sets herself apart because her ultimate goal is pure and noble – she wants to rule over a world where all people are equal.”
19 million viewers an episode, beating HBO’s previous cultural capstone The Sopranos. There are Daenerys Targaryen dolls and key rings, and scores of fans who chant “Khaleesi!” (Clarke’s queenly moniker) like a mantra so what does she see as the appeal of her character to such a global audience? She said: “I think it is because she’s a strong and powerful woman. One of the most compelling aspects to her is that she combines the strength of a man with the sensitivity of a woman. She also sets herself apart because her ultimate goal is pure and noble – she wants to rule over a world where all people are equal.” Since finding fame Emilia admits she has been able to indulge in her passion for fashion, something she’s always loved since being a child. She said: “When I was 11 or 12, people would say, ‘Do you promise? Cross your heart, hope to die?’ I would be like,
‘I swear on Chanel,’ and everyone was like, ‘Oh, shit, she means it.’“ Chanel was everything to the young Clarke, and still is. “My mom had a Chanel lipstick that was bright red. My granny was really chic and really just brilliant. When I describe her, I’m sort of describing Coco. She was right on it.” While she loves fashion, Clarke is far from a fashion person. “I get one thing I love and I wear it to death. I am so not a fashionista. I walk into those parties, and I’m like, ‘Hey, guys!’ Everyone’s looking really cool, sipping on some mental cocktail, and I’m like ‘Can I have a cup of tea?’ Such an idiot.
“But I love dressing up. I especially love sexy underwear. If you’re feeling like you’re having an off day, put on the sexiest underwear you have underneath your clothes and it makes you feel really like – ‘Ooh, I’ve got a secret that you don’t know!” Given the regularity that Clarke strips off naked in Game of Thrones it is little wonder she has built up a fan base of millions but those nude scenes are something she says she is sick of having to justify.
In a blog for Huffington Post UK‘s month-long project All Women Everywhere, which celebrates International Women’s Day she wrote: “If you’ve watched Game of Thrones then, spoiler, you will have seen me in the nude. “There are plenty of ways in which people want me to respond to questions about this fact. And plenty of reasons why I do not feel the need to justify myself.” “The roles I’ve played have given me an insight into what it feels like to be a woman who stands up to inequality and hate, and stands out as a feminist,” she continued. “It has forced me to stand by my actions and be OK with the consequences.” So what next after Games of Throne, for the English rose, who has fully blossomed into an international superstar?
“I want to continue working in theatre,” she says, “I love performing in front of an audience. Even a musical. I’m probably going to make my fair share of good and bad choices, but fate and luck are all part of the game.”.