Even the Mother of Dragons gets sick. A slightly congested Emilia Clarke mentions she’s getting over the flu as we talk on the phone days after the Academy Awards. Apparently, going to the Oscars and hitting up Beyonce’s private after party didn’t help with her recovery. (“I basically cried at her,” she gushes over the experience.) But what’s one night of feeling ill on the red carpet when you’ve spent months filming battle scenes in wintery Northern Ireland in the most grueling conditions? If Khaleesi could make it to Winterfell alive, then Clarke could survive the climax of awards season with the flu.
Throughout Clarke’s nearly decade-long tenure as queen Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, we’ve seen her walk through fire unburnt, devour a horse heart, and fly on the back of dragons. But in the fantasy juggernaut’s eighth and final season, which premieres April 14, Dany will find herself in completely new territory: at Winterfell with the Starks, on the brink of a war against the undead.
“She starts feeling pretty cocksure and confident, and then stuff happens,” Clarke tells BAZAAR.com of Dany’s arrival North and her first encounter with Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), which HBO teased in early promos.
Clarke’s casting as the platinum-haired heir to the Iron Throne was first announced in 2010. She’s grown a lot since then; Season 1 Emilia and Season 8 Emilia are “two incredibly different women,” Clarke says.
As she moves on from the Thrones world, she already has other projects lined up, like the holiday rom-com Last Christmas (co-written by Emma Thompson) opposite Henry Golding. She previously hit the big screen in 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, 2016’s Me Before You, and 2014’s Terminator Genisys. Clarke also landed a covetable role in the beauty sphere, as the face of Dolce & Gabbana’s The Only One fragrance, available now. In the ads, she’s a charming Italian chanteuse who breaks into song over dinner in Rome—a far cry from Khaleesi.
But nothing can compare to her experience on GoT, for better or worse. “Game of Thrones is probably the hardest shooting I’ll do, because it is so physical and you’re in a corset!” she emphasizes. “You’ve got the physical places of where you are, the weather is so extreme, and the hours are really long and there’s so much tension in each character towards the end. There’s so much tension in the room, and you’re concentrating so hard. It’s strenuous.”
After a long day on set, Clarke’s self-care routine ends with the ultimate release: “Taking off your goddamn bra and getting into your pajamas.” She’s also religious about removing her makeup (“You’ve put a lot on by the end of the day”), then cleansing and moisturizing every night. And once she’s in her PJs with a hot water bottle, it’s over for y’all.
Clarke’s journey on Game of Thrones culminated in a similar conclusion. “I think ending it was just the mother of all releases,” she says over the phone. “It was just the metaphorical undoing of the bra, except it’s like a 10-year experience.”
Here, Clarke tells BAZAAR.com about repping Dolce & Gabbana’s new scent, saying goodbye to Khaleesi, and promoting gender equality.