It seems almost everyone who knows of Emilia Clarke – and that’s everyone who watches Game of Thrones and a whole lot who don’t – know her as the exiled, haughty blonde queen ‘across the Narrow Sea’, Daenerys Targaryen.
The HBO series has caught on like the proverbial house on fire, and she’s now a familiar face and figure with her own persona that’s an integral part of the ongoing story. There’s more to her story, however, than Game of Thrones.
It may be a bit of a stretch to claim a three-year-old was seized by a ‘passion’ for acting but that’s the report about Emilia Clarke. Her father’s job as a theatre sound engineer had him working backstage at a production of Show Boat, Emilia’s Mum took her to see it and the rest is history – in the making, as it were. In fact, a good bit of childish exuberance comes through both in her acting roles and in her interviews; it’s part of what makes her so appealing to so many fans.
Emilia’s birthplace was in London, on October 23, 1986, but the family including her older brother moved to the Berkshire countryside and she attended St. Edward’s School of Oxford from 2000 to 2005. She had her first acting roles in two plays produced at that school, then went on to the Drama Centre London, a well-regarded institution where she got ten more stage roles under her belt and onto her resume.
During that time she also participated in a short ‘student’ film where her budding abilities were quite obvious. In that film she was a teenager in a turbulent relationship with a married man, and she’s very, very believable. She’s also impressive in two 2009 guest appearances on Doctors, the BBC drama, in which she plays a rebellious teenager called Saskia defying a protective Dad, both of them fixated on the girl’s mother who abandoned them when Saskia was ten years old.
Her first full-length film, in 2010, was a made-for-TV science fantasy flick called Triassic Attack, (or was it Jurassic?) and it was not what she would call a winner. Emilia played the part of a rebellious teenager again, this time in a small American town where a native Indian tribe’s ancient lands are about to be desecrated and a lot of dinosaur bones get animated to drive away the intruders. Emilia got better reviews than the film did, and she figures it was good experience (especially since she got to spend time in Bavaria for the filming.)
Emilia has a talent for drama, no question about that. In 2013 she starred as Holly Golightly in Richard Greenburg’s adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The play ran at the Cort Theatre on Broadway and co-starred Cory Michael Smith. It got mixed but generally poor reviews, mostly due to its somber atmosphere as opposed to the lighter version popularized by Audrey Hepburn in 1961.
However as compensation the audience was treated to a vision of Emilia and Cory Michael in a bathtub with only a few bubbles in the way of costume. Critics called the baring of bodies ‘unnecessary’ and some professed shock that the British actress seemed to have no qualms. Others pointed out that a lot more skin was shown in episodes of Game of Thrones, and Emilia agreed – she wasn’t worried at all.
So it’s unsurprising that when she filmed Terminator: Genisys in 2015 with Arnold Schwarzenegger and had to get mostly naked again, she had no problem with that either. Fifth in the Terminator saga, Genisys stars Emilia as Sarah Connor alongside Schwarzenegger, Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke (no relation). Much has been made of the movie’s advertising poster that featured a close-up view of Emilia’s posterior: she told reporters that the shot was taken without her knowledge, but she considers it a compliment, so no worries.
Reviewers were not terribly kind to the film’s plot, but gave credit to the actors overall. Talking about making the movie, Emilia commented that the worst parts were trying to drive the Brink’s Truck and learning to handle heavy weapons (shooting at adversaries “over and over and over” on re-takes). As for the more romantic scenes, “Naked in a harness was fun – doing stunts, that was good. That was interesting.”
Certainly her experience on Thrones gives her an edge, since she’s been playing the super-tough Daenerys for six seasons or more than five years now. What with dragons and other fearsome perils in most every episode, Emilia has to stay on her toes and in top shape, which she appears to be doing quite well indeed.
Still, this energetic and enthusiastic young actress has taken on other projects as well. Me Before You was released in June of this year; plot-wise it’s about as far from terminators and thrones as one can get.
In this one Emilia gets a chance to be more of what she thinks of as her ‘real self’ – a bubbly optimistic young woman who takes on the care of a quadriplegic played by Sam Claflin.
Sam, as William Traynor, is a wealthy young daredevil whose motorcycle accident leaves him paralyzed and deeply embittered. Louisa Clark (Emilia) is a small town English girl who’s looking for a way to help her much less than wealthy family. “Lou felt like such a perfect extension of me,” said Emilia of her role. Far from the kick butt persona she’s perfected as Daenerys, Louisa is innocently cheerful and upbeat – and of course eventually she persuades Sam to share at least some of her optimism.
Emilia Clarke is a fairly complex person at her current age of almost-thirty; she’s the girl next door – and she was voted “Sexiest Woman in the World” by Esquire Magazine last year (2015). She’s the Mother of Dragons and keeps getting nominated for Emmys for that role – and she’s seldom recognized on the street without the long blond wig that defines Daenerys. If you watch her interviews, she’s funny and self-effacing and full of herself all at the same time.
26 Jan 2012 — Emilia Clarke — Image by © Williams + Hirakawa/Corbis Outline
It appears that Miss Clarke has plenty of options in her future, and it will be fun to see what she gets up to next. From latest reports, it will not be another Terminator role, but it will be another season of Thrones, and she told Glamour Magazine that if she had her way, Daenerys will end up Queen of the whole shebang -she and her three Dragons. It may well come to pass.