While she will always be grateful for her life-changing role on Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke is excited to take on a range of different parts, from the stage to her new animated movie, The Amazing Maurice.
It says a lot for Emilia Clarke that between filming the eight seasons of Game of Thrones, the actress additionally managed to squeeze in appearances in two of the biggest movie franchises of all time. She played the role of Sarah Connor opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Genisys in 2015, before starring as Qi’ra in the Solo: A Star Wars Story three years later.
In more recent times, the Brit has been swaying her influence around dramatic material of a rather more grounded nature, from an extended theater turn in Anya Reiss’s adaptation of Harold Pinter’s The Seagull, to voiceover excellence in the animated adventure, The Amazing Maurice. And in 2023 she takes her first steps into executive producer responsibilities in The Pod Generation.
It all adds up to a slew of work that belies her 36 years, although she sees her progression, both professionally and personally—Clarke has recovered from two brain aneurysms and says she is in the best health of her life—as a marker to a renewed zeal for her craft, which is carrying her forward with genuine momentum.
So while Clarke’s character Daenerys Targaryen may be history, there is a new legacy to be played out—one that shows diversity, dynamism and a charged desire to confront both challenges and expectations in equal measure. That represents itself, right now, as Malicia in The Amazing Maurice, a new computer-animated fantasy comedy film based on the 2001 book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Sir Terry Pratchett.
What can you tell us about The Amazing Maurice?
There is a really strong message connected to this movie—there’s a whole lot of heart and I loved every second of making it. It all centers around Malicia, an incredibly optimistic character. She’s an extremely bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young lady who lives in her imagination. She’s passionate about reading, she loves stories and wants to be a part of the fullness of life.
And yet it’s a diversion from what we know of you.
I love the passion and happiness and humor behind so much animated adventure. It’s a real thrill to step out to do something different that is really led by the art of animation and to which we only lend a voice. I think that’s really exciting for an actor, because you can lend yourself really heavily to something without necessarily being behind center stage, and that was a big attraction.
What else led you to this?
I think anything with Sir Terry Pratchett behind it must be taken seriously. In the fantasy world, there is no one higher or greater and it was such an honor to be a part of something in his vision. I really can’t speak any higher than to say it was an absolute honor. Of course he wasn’t there with us in this, but really he did feel a part of it. We did feel he was present.
Did you relate to your character?
I think that the one thing which I undoubtedly share with Malicia is that we both share that incredibly vivid imagination. That is such a huge connection and one which certainly attracted me to the role.
When did you realize you had that?
It was something which I was hugely aware of doing as a child and even though I have very much grown up to be an adult, there is still that part of me now and playing this voice roles really brings that out in me. Sometimes I forgot I was Emilia and that I wasn’t actually Malicia!
How did your life change over the years with the extraordinary wave of popularity that kept building with each new Game of Thrones season?
I’m recognized now, whereas after the first few seasons people really wouldn’t notice me because of the difference the wig makes. That was actually quite comforting when I was able to be more anonymous … but I don’t mind. It’s really gratifying to know that you have a lot of fans who truly appreciate the show and the work you do. I’m very lucky.
There was a lot of attention paid to your appearing naked in several scenes over the course of Game of Thrones. How did you handle it all?
The most awkward scene was the lesbian scene with Roxanne. I don’t know why particularly, maybe because Dany had to go into a different mind state to escape it so I did as well. As far as the?other nude scenes, I didn’t really mind particularly, although at first it seems odd. But then you simply focus on your work and you don’t really think about it.
I also knew that since it was HBO it would all be done very respectfully and properly, and that helped ease any concerns. And I understood that I could use any fear or anxiety I had for my character who was then a young girl and that those moments would be a huge thing for her and quite frightening, too.
Is it true that your father tried to discourage you from becoming an actress?
No, it was more that he wanted me to understand the realities of the business and how you have to face up to rejection and a lot of disappointment. My parents first started taking me to various shows hoping that eventually I would grow bored with them. But since my father was working as a sound engineer in the theater, I would often accompany him there and I loved the beauty of the empty stage and everything associated with it.
So away from the studio, how do you relax best?
Me, my mates, a pool, a cocktail—heaven. But I’ve [got] a lot going on right now so whether it will happen, I don’t know. And I know it sounds crazy [but I love] dancing. I have this thing where on everyone’s bucket list you should all have the chance to be in a busy club and dance like a maniac because no one is probably looking anyway.
You haven’t done that already?
No, I dance brilliantly but I’ve never totally let go. You know, like you’re dancing in your kitchen when no one else is around. We’re all so self-conscious of people looking at us. …
I mean, wait, I have done it once before, I think. Me and my friend did it when, you know when you’re in a club and someone is taking their dancing really seriously and you come up and dance behind them like a mental person. And they turn around and are like, ‘What are you doing?’ Anyway, it’s my bucket list, I can have what I want on it.
Do you feel in your own life you've evolved into a much stronger individual?
I feel more secure and sure of myself. I try to embrace as much of Dany’s fearlessness and her sense of determination and purpose. But deep down that’s not my nature. I have a very easy-going and vulnerable side that will always be who I am; but I’m much better at asserting myself, knowing what I want. I feel that things are going so well for me and I’m able to enjoy everything that’s happening.
You mention that fearlessness—something that really came into focus with the health challenges you have had to confront.
It has been tough, but I think so many do have it tough. I’m no worse off than most other people in having setbacks and challenges, and that’s all it’s really about. That’s life, I’m afraid!
Artistically you seem to be in a very free place right now.
Well I think it became imperative for me to move away from that tight structure of Game of Thrones. Although it was an evolving storyline and it captivated minds and hearts for so long, ultimately you are kept in a restricted place. Certainly, as far as characterization goes, there is very little movement, and actors need to keep flexing their muscles on a variety of different things in order to stay fresh. So it’s been good to step away and look at other projects. I’ve certainly enjoyed letting my own specific acting ability do the talking rather than relying on a huge cast or a colossal set, or CGI.
While the Game of Thrones machine has ground to a halt, rumors of spin-off series continue to abound. Would you find it difficult not to be lured back? After all, so much of your adult life has been centred around the story, being just 23 when filming for the first scenes began.
I think as an actor there is always a strong sensation of not wanting to be left out, and not wanting to miss out. That could be for Thrones or any other project, to be honest. Ultimately, there’s nothing worse in this industry than to find yourself on the outside looking in—it’s every actor’s greatest fear. I can’t look too far ahead and am happy with what I’m doing right now. It’s gratifying when people appreciate your work and that’s a lovely feeling. I know I am very lucky.
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Published and copyrighted in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 20, Issue 4 (July 2023)