Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
October 23, 1986
2011 - Present
Currently Known For:
Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones
“When I told my dad that I wanted to be an actress, he replied that there was only one line I needed to learn: ‘Do you want fries with that?’” Launching her career on television with a guest appearance in an episode of Doctors, Emilia Clarke was first recognized for her talent in 2010 when she gave a stellar performance in the Syfy television film, Triassic Attack. A year later, her life completely changed when she was cast as Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO original series, Game of Thrones. Still on the series today as it enters its final seventh and eighth seasons, the 31-year-old Clarke has earned three Emmy Award nominations for her performance on the series in addition to proving her talent in film and theater with notable performances in Terminator Genisys and Me Before You. So, how did Esquire magazine’s 2015 “Sexiest Woman Alive” make her way into the industry?
Emilia Isabelle Euphemia Rose Clarke came into this world on October 23, 1986 in London, England where she was raised by her father, a theater sound engineer, and her mother, a charitable organization director. Because of her father’s work and her early exposure to the industry, Clarke was three years old when she knew she was destined for the stage after watching her father’s hard work pay off in a production of Show Boat. Of course, before she could pursue her interests in the spotlight, school came first as she attended Rye St. Anthony School and then followed her older brother to the private boarding school known as St. Edward’s School of Oxford. “It was a fancy school, and we weren’t that fancy,” Clarke admitted. Being an artsy kid at a school that didn’t promote the arts was also difficult as Clarke recalled, “People were good at hockey and wanted to be lawyers. I just wanted to be everyone’s friend. It was painful—I was on the outskirts, peeping in, going, ‘You guys look fun. Can I come join?’”
After graduation, Clarke applied to Britain’s most reputable acting schools but was turned down by each as she took a job waitressing and later backpacked throughout Southeast Asia and India before she was accepted into the Drama Centre London. Ironically, Clarke was only accepted because another girl broke her leg and dropped out. Regardless, she jumped at the chance and spent the next few years putting in long hours and hard work until she graduated in 2009 and landed two commercial gigs for the British charity organization, the Samaritans. She worked on her fist film in a student production at the University of London and snagged her first television gig in an episode of the popular British soap opera, Doctors, before stunning critics with her performance in the 2010 Syfy television film, Triassic Attack.
With one publication including Clarke on their list of the “UK Stars of Tomorrow,” she was well on her way to stardom when she auditioned for and won the part of Daenerys Targaryen on the HBO fantasy series, Game of Thrones, in 2010. Claiming she did the funky chicken and the robot dances during her audition, Clarke’s HBO debut was a huge success as the show became a massive hit and was renewed for a second season with Clarke taking home the 2011 EWwy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Despite the win, Clarke remained humble saying, “I’m all too painfully aware of how quickly this can disappear.”
With Game of Thrones attracting more viewers with each season, Clarke became a household name and was nominated for three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in 2013, 2015 and 2016. She also took on projects outside of Game of Thrones and was even considered for the role of Anastasia Steele in the 2015 erotic film, Fifty Shades of Grey. Not yet ready to commit to nudity, Clarke turned down the role and joined Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Genisys which, apart from earning $440 at the box office, earned Clarke nominations at the Teen Choice Awards and the Jupiter Awards.
Continuing her work on Game of Thrones and bringing in $500,000 per episode, Clarke was at the height of her career when she snagged the leading role in the film adaptation of the best-selling book, Me Before You, in 2016. The film earned over $200 million at the box office and became one of Clarke’s best-rated movies, but her success was overshadowed by a tragic loss when her father’s long battle with cancer took a turn for the worse. In Kentucky filming at the time, she rushed home and arrived at the airport only to learn that her father had already passed away. “The world felt like a scarier place once my dad wasn’t in it,” Clarke said. Shortly after, Brexit occurred and Clarke’s life was completely shaken up. “And then those two things happening in quick succession threw me off balance and made me reevaluate who I am,” she said. “And it was in that reevaluation that I was like, ‘I’m a woman, and there aren’t very many of us performing in the environment that I’m performing in. I need to be incredibly sure of the ground on which I’m standing, and I need to take ownership of the choices I’m making.’”
Finding that certainty in her work with Game of Thrones, Clarke admitted that holding herself together hasn’t always been easy but that playing Daenerys has undeniably added to her maturity over the last seven years. “You don’t get to be a mother of dragons without a change or two,” she says. “Being able to encompass and understand the kind of woman who could conquer armies and topple societies allows me, the actor, to stand firmly in those shows.” In a way, Daenerys helped her cope with her father’s death as she often thought of her father on the set and, in moments where grief took her breath away, she stepped aside and channeled her character’s strength. “You underestimate the enormity of it,” she admitted. “I didn’t know feeling this way was possible…” Clarke returned to the set time and time again quietly saying, “I’m not going to let you see me cry. That isn’t happening.”
Still learning to process her grief, Clarke has thrown herself into her work with her upcoming role as Kira in the 2018 Star Wars film, Solo: A Star Wars Story. She’s also currently wrapping up the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, which the 31-year-old says is bittersweet since the series has defined her life and her career until this point. “There’s going to be a shake-up of my identity, I think,” she says. “And I feel like I’m only going to understand what the last seven years has been when we stop… It makes me emotional to think about. It’s my beginning, middle and end—the single thing that has changed me most as an adult.” Hinting at her future plans of starting a production company led by women, there’s no doubt that great things are in store for the GOT star!