Emilia Clarke interview: the Game of Thrones star on leaving Westeros behind to tackle the West End
Clarke, who now stars in Chekhov’s The Seagull, tells Louis Wise that the HBO fantasy series made her feel like a ‘small cog in a big machine’
PHOTOSHOOTS & OUTTAKES > 2020 > 2020 The Sunday Times
MAGAZINES > 2020 > 2020 The Sunday Times Culture Magazine – March 15
The Times: Emilia Clarke says she views herself primarily as a stage actress, which is a little weird when you consider that she has only appeared in one play professionally before, and it was an absolute turkey. Or, as the 33-year-old star of Game of Thrones says, in her jolly British way, it was “terrible, awful, awful! Bad! That was a bad show!” The piece was Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Broadway in 2013, and it’s safe to say Clarke’s Holly Golightly did not enchant. “I’ll never forget, someone said to me after press night the only thing they liked was the cat.”
If Clarke relays this with surprising good humour, this is part temperament, part experience. For one thing, in person she is relentlessly chipper and pukka. Whereas on HBO’s mega-fantasy series Game of Thrones, she grew in stature as Daenerys Targaryen, a still, dignified stateswoman (until that end), in real life she is a goofy motormouth chatterbox, always eager to catch the joke at her expense. And she is no stranger to what we shall politely call “the mixed review”. She has known some drubbings, whether for that Broadway show, or films such as Last Christmas or Terminator Genisys, or indeed the final series of GoT, which — euphemism alert! — didn’t quite turn out the way everybody wanted.
Luckily she never reads reviews. “Because if it’s really, really good, someone will tell you. And if it’s really, really bad — some f***** will tell you.”
We are meeting today, though, at a rehearsal space in south London, because she is chucking herself back into the fray. For only her second stage appearance, Clarke is going straight into the West End, in Chekhov’s The Seagull, and taking on the prestigious role of Nina. If she is nervous, she’s handling it in the usual way, which is to say with huge blasts of good cheer.
Two clichés about meeting starsis that they are a) smaller than you thought, but b) their features are stronger than expected. Both are true of Clarke. She is tiny, proper Kylie-tiny, nicely decked out in a gauzy beige-cream knit, some fashionably frayed jeans and pointy, well-worn white cowboy boots. Yet her eyes and grin look extra big: if she stays still, she’s a dainty doll, but as soon as she moves it’s Looney Tunes. To be clear, she never stays still.
This energy feels helpful, as we have a lot to pack in. After all, Clarke’s past decade has been particularly wild. Not only did she rocket suddenly to fame in GoT (until then, her only screen credit was an episode of Doctors), she also lost her father to cancer in 2016 and, as she revealed in 2019, had suffered a sequence of brain haemorrhages in her early twenties, just as the madness of GoT was kicking off.
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