With the series finale in the books, HBO has begun to pull back the curtain on the final season of the most expensive television series ever, which includes allowing its stars to reveal to fans what went on behind the scenes of the massively popular show. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly published Sunday night, right after Episode 6 aired, Emilia Clarke explains what went through her mind when she read the script for the final episodes.
"What, what, what, WHAT!?" Clarke says she thought when reading the scene in which her character, Daenerys Targaryen, chooses to unleash dragon fire on King's Landing and most of its inhabitants rather than display mercy as the new Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. "Because it comes out of f***ing nowhere. I’m flabbergasted. Absolutely never saw that coming."
She received the script in October 2017 upon returning to London from a short vacation after wrapping up shooting for "Solo: A Star Wars Story." She told the outlet she went through a range of emotions upon reading it, particularly when she read her final scene with Jon Snow.
"I cried. And I went for a walk," she said. "I walked out of the house and took my keys and phone and walked back with blisters on my feet. I didn’t come back for five hours. I’m like, 'How am I going to do this?'"
At the table read a few days later, Clarke watched as co-star Kit Harington, who plays Snow, read their final scene for the first time. She says she could "watch him compute all of this."
"I looked at Emilia and there was a moment of me realizing, ‘No, no…,''' said Harington.
Clarked said she nodded back sadly, "Yes," adding that Harington was "crying."
"And then it was kind of great, him not having read it," she said.
Clarke made clear that showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss had been planning for her dark turn and tragic ending for years. "There’s a number of times I’ve been like: ‘Why are you giving me that note?'" she said of direction from the producers about her performance. "So yes, this has made me look back at all the notes I’ve ever had."
Clarke also provided a summary of Daenerys' character arc over the course of Season 8, including her sense that "she’s too far down the line" because she's "killed so many people already" and the rejection of the North leaves her desperate. The biggest turning point for Daenerys, she said, is the murder of Missandei by Cersei.
"There’s a number of turning points you see for Daenerys in the season, but that’s the biggest break," said the Clarke. "There’s nothing I will not do after losing Missandai and seeing the sacrifice she was prepared to make for her. That breaks her completely. There’s nothing left to making a tough choice."
As for her response to Daenerys' tyrannical, murderous turn, Clarke admitted to an "embarrassing" moment in which she called her family members emotionally distraught to ask them if they thought the character, with whom she now so strongly identifies, was a "good person."
In the end, Clarke said that, like she'd been taught in drama school, she had to accept what her character does and own it.
"I was told that your character is right. Your character makes a choice and you need to be right with that," she said. "An actor should never be afraid to look ugly. We have uglier sides to ourselves. And after 10 years of working on this show, it’s logical. Where else can she go? I tried to think what the ending will be. It’s not like she’s suddenly going to go, 'Okay, I’m gonna put a kettle on and put cookies in the oven and we’ll just sit down and have a lovely time and pop a few kids out.' That was never going to happen. She’s a Targaryen." (Read the full interview here.)