Daenerys Targaryen has been a life-changing role for Emilia Clarke. She tells Georgia Humphreys how, as the final series of Game Of Thrones nears, she’s finding it hard to say goodbye.
When I meet bubbly, effervescent, happy-go-lucky Emilia Clarke, I have no reason to think there’s a secret she’s been hiding for the last eight years.
But shortly after our chat, the London-born actress, 32, writes an article for The New Yorker about two life-threatening brain aneurysms she has battled.
The first struck in 2011, shortly after she finished filming the first season of Game Of Thrones, the HBO phenomenon that has made her one of the world’s biggest TV stars. She was just 24 at the time.
In the piece, she describes going through two brain surgeries, her painful recovery and complications such as a condition called aphasia, which left her unable to speak properly.
Luckily, the star is now 100% healed, and has thrown herself into developing a charity called SameYou, which aims to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke.
The fact she managed to keep her health struggles private is impressive when you consider the growing media attention she has received. When she was cast as young princess (now dragon queen) Daenerys – her breakthrough role – she was fresh out of drama school.
“I was just an innocent kid,” Clarke recalls of first being on the set of Game Of Thrones, a medieval fantasy drama about dynastic wars and mythical conflicts.
“I had no idea about the industry, I had no idea about myself, I had no idea about what the show was ever going to be, I had no idea about life, I had no idea about anything – and then this show happened.
“And in those 10 years, the most defining parts of my life have happened within the realms of it. I’ve gone from being a kid to a fully fledged grown-up. So saying goodbye to the show is saying goodbye to that part of yourself, I think.”