As Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke created a warrior queen for the ages. Her legend can be told on the walls of caves or on T-shirts at Comic-Con. But behind the Valkyrie wigs and very testy dragons, Clarke has an inspiring origin story of her own.
A valley sprawls before her, rich with every color of green in the kingdom, reaching out to a twinkling city, which borders the infinite sea. Her hair (tinted not with peroxide, but tiny flecks of actual gold) glows with a radiance that makes the setting sun so jealous it hides behind the surrounding mountains, and the evening sky blushes. She is Daenerys Targaryen, Queen of the Andals, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea. Everything in sight belongs to her.
Just kidding! She is Emilia Clarke, sitting high above Beverly Hills in a glass mansion rented for a magazine cover shoot. So high up that passing aircraft rattle the bones of the house and those inside it. So high up that you can see Santa Catalina Island in the distance, peeking out from behind a curtain of fog. She laughs about something the makeup artist says, and the last of the evening light bounces off of her cheekbones and shoots into the camera lens.
We are in the sky to talk about Clarke’s reign as one of the most preeminent television actresses of our time, as Daenerys on Game of Thrones. But first, I have a few questions about her abandoned career as a jazz singer.
Clarke’s default emotion is joy — her resting heart rate seems to be just below that of someone seconds after winning a medium-expensive raffle prize — but it quickly congeals into theatrical horror when I reveal that I know that she is a casual but talented singer of jazz music.
Allure’s cover star Emilia Clarke tries nine things she’s never done before, from playing a trumpet to sharpening a dull meat cleaver.
At this point, the Game of Thrones cast can be divided into two camps. Not good and evil; not Lannister and Stark; not Essos and Westeros. No, these days, the final season’s cast can be divided into who can and cannot keep a secret. In the latter camp, we have Sophie Turner, who “only told two people” about how Game of Thrones ends, including husband Joe Jonas; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who told Busy Philipps, and Kit Harington, whose wife, former Game of Thrones actress Rose Leslie, refused to speak to him for three days after he spoiled the ending of the show.
And in the former camp, we have Maisie Williams, who said she would have to be “very drunk” to give away any secrets; Lena Headey, whose sequestration in a room in Belfast, despite all the wine, probably helped her keep any potential spoilers to herself, and Emilia Clarke, who, mostly nobly of all, knew about Daenerys’s heel-turn for a full two years before it finally aired and told no one.
“It was so hard to keep a secret,” Clarke told the Evening Standard during a red-carpet interview this week. “Every time someone would come up to me and say, ‘I love her!’ inside, I was thinking, ‘Well you’re not going to love her for long!’” (Of course, this doesn’t mean that Clarke didn’t tell anyone more privately, but still, she’s managed not to broadcast any theoretical breaches of any theoretical NDAs.) As a result, her face did a funny thing when she had to talk about Daenerys publicly: “I would just nod and smile, and that’s why I had this sort of furrowed-eyebrow expression a lot of the time. My eyebrows would sort of curl up,” she said. Sounds an awful lot like the face she made during Daenerys and Sansa Stark’s Season-8 tête-à-tête.
Still, Emilia Clarke will be there when all her friends do finally see how the show wraps up. “I’ve hired out a room to host a screening and there’s more than 40 people coming,” she said in the same interview. “We’ve had to get a load of bean bags in for the front row as so many people want to come.”