BORN TO RULE

Emilia Clarke’s role as Daen­erys Tar­garyen in Game of Thrones has taken her from rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity as an ac­tress to mega star­dom. And it couldn’t have hap­pened to a nicer per­son.

Fairlady - - CONTENTS - By Anna Rich

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke’s me­te­oric rise

if you’re a Thronie (aka Game of Thrones fan), you’ll have watched the much-an­tic­i­pated meet­ing in ‘The Queen’s Jus­tice’ episode of sea­son seven of the epic se­ries, be­tween Daen­erys Tar­garyen, played by Emilia Clarke, and Jon Snow. The way that Mis­sandei, her in­ter­preter, hand­maiden and her­ald, in­tro­duced her is a loaded in­tro, de­signed to in­tim­i­date Jon, who’s king of The North. Game of Thrones (GoT) is all about the pur­suit of power, but it’s no game. De­spite be­ing a fan­tasy se­ries, the ruth­less­ness, vi­cious­ness and vi­o­lence (and twisted sex scenes) put it squarely in the adults-only cat­e­gory. And yet it’s the most-watched show on tele­vi­sion, by far. Six­teen mil­lion fans tuned in in July when sea­son seven pre­miered, and the Twit­ter­sphere lit up with more than 2.4 mil­lion Game of Thrones-re­lated tweets that night. The man­tel­pieces of the show’s stars and pro­duc­ers must be buck­ling un­der the weight of shiny stat­uettes – the se­ries has won 38 Prime­time Emmy Awards, more than any other scripted TV se­ries. In its third sea­son, the list of cast mem­bers ran to 257 – but they’ve been steadily dec­i­mated, as any Thronie would know. In the early sea­sons, a study com­par­ing the num­ber of deaths per episode in TV shows put the GoT body count at an av­er­age of 14. Even char­ac­ters you’d think just had to sur­vive are killed off with aban­don. Al­though it can be won­der­ful to see some­one truly re­pug­nant (Jof­frey, that’s you) get his just desserts, the show could also be billed as Ul­ti­mate Sur­vivor.

Daen­erys has made it this far – would they, could they kill her off now? With this se­ries, the truth is you never know. But as a char­ac­ter, she’s re­ally come into her own: a pow­er­ful, self-pos­sessed leader and a strong woman who has in­spired the ti­tle ‘Queen of Badass­ness’ and T-shirts bear­ing the di­rec­tive ‘Obey Khaleesi’. And along with the rise to promi­nence of her char­ac­ter, Emilia has grown to be one of the most beloved and cel­e­brated ac­tresses of our time.

(One of the) high­est-paid ac­tors on TV (£2 mil­lion per episode), she has 10.4 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers, is the face of Dolce & Gab­bana fra­grance The One, has been on the cov­ers of top mag­a­zines and was voted Esquire’s Sex­i­est Woman Alive in 2015.

Emilia has gone strato­spheric, but none of those ac­co­lades cap­tures her friendly, girl-next-door at­ti­tude. Per­haps Domenico Dolce and Ste­fano Gab­bana said it best when they an­nounced that she would rep­re­sent them: ‘She’s ra­di­ant and lively. Her per­son­al­ity and nat­u­ral beauty will cap­ture the essence of this new cam­paign: joy­ful, spon­ta­neous and full of life. She is The One!’

When Emilia Is­abelle Euphemia Rose Clarke saw Show Boat as a child (her dad did the sound en­gi­neer­ing for the mu­si­cal), she knew she wanted to be an ac­tress. He passed away last year af­ter bat­tling cancer, which hit Emilia hard. He didn’t re­ally like her re­peat­ing the crack he’d made when she shared her am­bi­tions with her par­ents, but here it is any­way: if she wanted to be an ac­tress, he said, there was only one line she needed to learn: ‘Do you want fries with that?’

For a while, it seemed he was right. Emilia ap­plied to the big three UK drama schools, and ‘a ba­jil­lion more’, but didn’t get in any­where. She fi­nally got into the Drama Cen­tre Lon­don ‘by the skin of my teeth’, she says. ‘I got a call say­ing, “This girl broke her leg. The place is free if you want it.”’

But it wasn’t plain sail­ing. She was never the favourite, she says, but that turned out to her ad­van­tage, in her view. ‘If you’re a favourite at school, you’re f**ked for life. You come out and you’re like: “Hey, where’s my golden egg?” Whereas when you haven’t had that at all, you’re just like: “I’ll do any­thing. I’ll work harder than you could imag­ine.”’

Still, you can work hard and get nowhere, and Emilia got to the point where she was con­sid­er­ing other ca­reer paths. But yet again, fate stepped in when Bri­tish ac­tress Tamzin Mer­chant was dropped from the role of Daen­erys, and Emilia got the part.

Be­fore GoT she’d per­formed in sev­eral plays, a cou­ple of com­mer­cials for UK char­ity Samar­i­tans and a sin­gle episode of UK soapie Doc­tors. ‘The pro­duc­ers on the show had seen me in Eng­land and brought me over.’ One au­di­tion and one ‘funky chicken’ dance later, the part was hers.

The funky chicken? Well, Emilia puts that down to a sugar rush. There was so much rid­ing on the au­di­tion, ‘I needed to go in and be like, they weren’t crazy,’ she says. ‘Be­fore I left for Amer­ica, one of my mates was like: “Dude, it’s LA. You shouldn’t have sugar, and be re­ally healthy and like glow­ing and stuff.”’ When she walked into the au­di­tion, she was given a fizzy drink, and she hadn’t had sugar in so long that it gave her a rush. She did her scenes, then asked if there was any­thing else she could do. As a joke, pro­ducer David Be­nioff said she could do a dance. ‘I took him so se­ri­ously. I just wanted it so bad. And it’s the only move I know, just the funky chicken.’ So she did it. And she got the role.

Emilia has an in­fec­tious love for life. Af­ter fin­ish­ing the sev­enth sea­son she made the most of her down­time, hang­ing with fam­ily and friends and her beloved Airedale, Roxy. Her In­sta shots show her get­ting into the full English sum­mer mu­sic fes­ti­val scene: beam­ing from ear to ear at Adele at Wem­b­ley, Frank Ocean at Love­box, Vic­to­ria Park, Glas­ton­bury…

But she’s also deadly se­ri­ous about is­sues close to her heart, and isn’t afraid to lend her voice to these causes (scrap the cap on nurses’ pay; use your vote). And she’s a fem­i­nist. ‘You’re aware of it, but one day you go, “Oh, my God, it’s ev­ery­where!” You sud­denly wake up to it and go, “Are you treat­ing me dif­fer­ently be­cause I’ve got a pair of tits?” It took me a long time to see that I’m treated dif­fer­ently. But I look around, and that’s my daily life.’

There’s no doubt Emilia wants to change the world and, in a piece she wrote for the Huff­in­g­ton Post, she sug­gests we start with kind­ness. ‘It’s a pretty un-cool word, isn’t it? But its re­sults are cool. One act of kind­ness can take your day from bear­able to en­joy­able in a heart­beat. Be­cause be­ing kind is show­ing some­one that they’re seen and heard, and that they do in­deed mat­ter. And that’s sexy.

‘For ex­am­ple, hav­ing the con­fi­dence to look some­one in the eye and speak to them as an equal, re­gard­less of their gen­der, race or sex­u­al­ity – that’s kind. It’s a small ges­ture to­wards show­ing that per­son that they’re ac­knowl­edged. Imag­ine we all strive to be kinder to one an­other on a small, day-by-day, sin­cere level – wouldn’t that ac­tu­ally feel re­ally in­cred­i­ble?’

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