game of thrones series 4: we catch up with emilia clarke, its badass star

Brush off the dust and yield your needles, the Game of Thrones begins again this weekend! We speak to British actress Emilia Clarke who plays Daenerys Targaryen, Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, moon of my life, my sun and stars!

by Veronica So
04 April 2014, 8:00pm

Emilia wears dress EDUN.

For Emilia Clarke, the problem with playing a character like Daenerys Targaryen fresh out of drama school is that it takes a lot of de-wigging and demystification to convince people that 1) you're a brunette 2) you aren't really the Mother of Dragons and 3) you used to live in Dalston. To prove it, she sings me a few lines from a song that goes, "Do you know the way to Dalston?" which I gather to be an East-End pub anthem. Now Emilia's living in New York, having moved to play the infamous socialite Holly Golightly in the Broadway production of Breakfast at Tiffany's last year.

Emilia has some stories of being recognised in public in America, the infamous one being of a woman in an LA department store, upon seeing her as the lift doors opened, gasping "Khaleesi!" and the doors dramatically closing again. As an avid watcher of Game of Thrones, it's easy to understand how using that level of deference seems eternally appropriate - except when I meet her, the Dothraki Queen is wearing a puffy Moncler parka lined with orange fluff, the stylist's dragon cuff earring, a full-faced smile, and has brought a homemade packed lunch of tuna fish salad. The effect is stunningly cute - the way Japanese anime characters are sometimes drawn in smaller versions to be more kawaii.

Upon meeting Emilia, the first thing I am dying to know is whether she has seen the epic WesterosCraft project - for which over a hundred users have been building George R. R. Martin's epic Game of Thrones world, block by block, on the internet. As I sit her down on the couch and the YouTube video loads, she starts telling me about her awesome, nerdy older brother who probably knows all about it. "He's one of the people I admire most in life, and he's the ultimate catch - insanely intelligent, gorgeous, and an absolute geek." She tells me about a video he sent her recently of a cat meowing the show's theme and she begins happily singing, "Meow meow, meow meow meow meow..." By then the music on the WesterosCraft video has started up, soundtracking landscapes of millions of Lego-like blocks forming epic buildings and scenes from the TV show. "THIS IS RIDICULOUS!!! All the man hours! As if people care this much... it's wonderful! Geek's the way forward, man. Ipso facto, 100%! If someone called me a geek, I'd be so insanely complimented."

"There's a Dany in every one of us and to have the opportunity to dress up so archetypically female, with that long, wavy blonde hair, and have that sense of empowerment, of being genuinely badass at the same time - it's amazing."

It's undeniable that Emilia's role as Daenerys Targaryen has risen to cult status - to the level that men go out in Khaleesi drag to Comicon and dragons are cool again. What does she think of Daenerys cosplayers? "I think it's that damn wig. There's a Dany in every one of us and to have the opportunity to dress up so archetypically female, with that long, wavy blonde hair, and have that sense of empowerment, of being genuinely badass at the same time - it's amazing." When asked if she herself is fanatical about anything, it seems that Emilia has several deeply rooted obsessions from a young age. The first being the film musical My Fair Lady featuring Audrey Hepburn, which she watched almost every single day for years since she was five. "The story is every little girl's dream - Eliza goes from rags to riches! Also, she's independent, doesn't go for the guy at the end and even when she's dressed in all her finery she still says things like 'Move your bloomin' arse!!!' She's a strong female character that isn't entirely reliant on boys, you know? That was one of the most brilliant things about it."

As Holly Golightly, Emilia's took on Audrey's most iconic role. Unlike the film, Truman Capote's novella Breakfast At Tiffany's is set in the 40s, a fact that seems to suit her interests exceedingly well. Music-wise, Emilia's going through a massive blues and doo-wop phase at the moment, listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn - even her ringtone at the moment is a blues song from that era. How about 40s fashion? "Hell yeah! Because I've got a waist and hips and I have... boobs." She looks down for a moment and I quickly add, "You do!" then embarrassingly, "Well, we've all seen them..." She laughs, "Very true! I love the fact that in the 40s you get the desirable female shape with the tailoring and shoulder pads. In all things, I prefer freedom within form - to have a strong structure you can gain strength from."

We talk about her role as Holly Golightly and how the character will be very different than the Audrey Hepburn version people know so well. "It was a 100% adaptation of the novella, which is much darker, grittier, and Holly's a lot younger in it, like 18 or 19, making it all so much more explosive and fragile. Fundamentally she's a survivor - all she's ever known is suffering and desperation, and she's created a new life for herself where she has no past. Everything is entirely in the future, always on to the next thing, and that makes her so mysterious and effervescent. That's why getting into those shoes was so exciting." I ask her if she's done the Holly Golightly scene of having breakfast outside of Tiffany's since arriving in New York. "I haven't. I probably will, but everybody's got their own Tiffany's, a place that makes them feel calm, safe and secure in a very turbulent existence. If I was in London, it'd be by the river, walking around Southbank. But I'm a walker, which is why I'm good with New York."

With all the rehearsing, filming and moving, I ask Emilia if she's had any down time to do another one of her favourite things - watch TV. "Yes! I'm an HBO girl and I'm obsessed with Girls! Lena's my favourite character. Lena is a warrior, she is fierce - her and Beyoncé. If I could be a mix of Lena Dunham, Beyoncé and Lucille Ball, I would be so happy - intelligent, funny, with a real booty and a voice to match. That is my ideal woman."



Text Veronica So
Photography Sam Hessamian
Styling Michael Tucker
Hair Ted Gibson for Jed Root
Make-up Fumiaki Nakagawa using M.A.C

Game of Thrones
daenerys targaryen
emilia clarke
Veronica So
mother of dragons
michael tucker
sam hessamian