It was a night of thrilling, grueling transformations on Sunday’s season finale of HBO’s epic fantasy series “Game of Thrones.”
Among the many game-changers, the Stark family struggled with their grief over the death of Lord Eddard (Sean Bean), as his son Robb was declared King of the North. Tyrion Lannister finally got an approving nod from his father as he was sent to King’s Landing and named the new Hand of the King, while new King Joffrey proved to be even more hateful than anyone could have imagined.
But there’s no question the last 10 minutes of the finale belonged to Emilia Clarke, the young actress who portrays Daenerys Targaryen. Deserted by the Dothraki army, having lost her unborn son, and forced to kill the man she’d unwittingly come to love after Khal was left comatose, Dany was easily the most transformed character, who’s set up for a fierce new journey in Season 2 . As the silver-haired queen walked into flames of despair, she emerged reborn — and in one of the most anticipated moments from the book — hatched three baby dragons. Dragons!
Newcomer Emilia Clarke talked with xfinityTV on the wild ride her character’s been through this season:
Walk me through those last moments. What were you thinking going into such an epic scene? How did you prepare for it? It was quite sad going into it because it was the last thing I filmed in Malta, so it did feel like the end of a chapter. It felt like the whole thing was coming to a close, and in a funny way that was quite therapeutic. It helped me release myself from Dany. It was one of the most difficult scenes to film as well. Up until that point we’d had the book being so incredibly helpful in allowing you to realize Dany’s motivations. But then it gets to this point and it becomes so much more magical that you kind of have to transcend reality, and at the same time you realize she’s just a girl. She had this kind of subconscious understanding that there was something supernatural going on, but also trying fundamentally to understand it.
At the same time it was one of the most incredible scenes to film because it’s the final coming of age for her. She’s come across every single obstacle you could possibly throw at her. An insurmountable amount of tragedy has gone on in her life and she’s survived every step of it to the point of now her destiny is right in front of her. And it’s whether she’s strong enough to trust in her own instincts and follow through. It was really fascinating.
What did you think about your dragon costars? It was so cool! It was amazing. I kept asking them [producers] for real dragons. I was like, ‘What about geckos?’ But I had little dots all over me for the CGI and I had a neon green squishy toy that the special tech people really sweetly drew a face on and gave it to me to hold so I’d have an idea of where they’d be and the size of them. It was wonderful. I genuinely had a true connection with the eggs. Knowing that this was the point when they had hatched, I felt incredibly maternal toward those creatures.
In the book, Daenerys emerges completely hairless, if I’m not mistaken. Do you know what was behind the decision to leave the silver hair? I don’t think I can fully answer it. I’m quite happy that they did, though [laughs]. I think the ease of everything, really. Hopefully it’s not a detail that’s going to really upset people. If it is, I apologize a thousand times over.
Which death do you think was the hardest on Dany – Khal Drogo’s or her baby? You could argue that it’s her child because as soon as she realizes she’s pregnant, it’s an enormous moment in her life. For the first time she has created something completely by herself and out of love. She’s never felt that before. But the hardest death by far is the death that she is responsible for with Khal Drogo. That was the hardest thing to film.
What made it so difficult? It was so emotional. As an actor all I had to do was just put myself in her position and to consider someone that you love with your entire being as much as she did, and make that choice. I think it strikes a chord in people. And it’s incredibly harrowing. And I think it’s what finally pushes her into doing what she ends up doing.
You’re responsible for closing out the entire season. How much responsibility did that carry for you? No pressure, right? [I felt] A huge responsibility. When you’ve got a book that’s a) as brilliant as “Game of Thrones,” and b) a book anyway, it’s an incredibly personal thing for the reader. So when you’re undertaking a task such as thing, it’s always going to be enormous. My aim from the offset was to genuinely make the fans as happy as possible. I hope and pray that I’ve come close to achieving that.
There’s sort of no hiding for you both as a character and as an actor in this show. Dany is often front and center – be it clothed or unclothed. Were you nervous about having all eyes on you, especially in the unclothed scenes? I was hugely, hugely, hugely nervous. And hugely scared. But completely needed for Danny. To do her and the fans and the book full justice, I had to engross myself in Danny and do her proud. So all eyes were all on her, and me, and that was just something I had to feel, use, and overcome.
Had you known about these scenes before you auditioned? Not at first. By my second or third audition I’d read the first book. I was completely unaware of the enormity of the book and its following until, like, today [laughs]. I can totally understand why because I read the first book and genuinely wasn’t expecting to become as obsessed as I am.
Once you were cast and you begun reading the books, did you just keep seeing yourself for all of Daenery’s chapters? Yeah! Kinda, and kinda not. It kind of went beyond that. When I was reading while we were filming, it was sort of like reading my own diary – if that makes sense? It was a process to get used to it, especially because I look so different. It was only when I saw myself in that silver hair that I started to really picture it. She came alive for me.
The wig must provide you with anonymity walking the streets of London. Does it? Yeah. I’m not recognized at all. It’s quite lovely. I had this one experience where I thought I could have been recognized, but before I could give the woman a chance, I’d run out of the shop. I haven’t come to experience that fully yet.