Emilia Clarke Defended Nathalie Emmanuel on ‘Game of Thrones’ Set; They ‘Got on Like a House on Fire’

It’s been over a year since the finale of Game of Thrones came and annoyed most of its fan base. It’s actually astounding how quickly the finale season became so polarizing. But alas, after a year to reflect on it, there are some parts that fans can agree on.

For instance, Missandei’s death? Was not only tragic for many audience members, but also for Daenerys Targaryen. Without her friend’s death, it’s hard to say if the finale would have gone down the way it did. And it turns out that Nathalie Emmanuel and Emilia Clarke were super close on set, too.  

Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), and Varys (Conleth Hill) in Season 8, Episode 4, 'Game of Thrones'
Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), and Varys (Conleth Hill) in Season 8, Episode 4, ‘Game of Thrones’ | Helen Sloan/HBO

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Nathalie Emmanuel shared that Emilia Clarke stood up for her when a co-star tried to remark on her revealing costume

In an interview with Vogue UK on July 22, Emmanuel shared that she and Clarke became close really quickly because they were on a male-dominated set. Especially when Emmanuel first started, which was in Game of Thrones Season 3. 

“Emilia and I got on like a house on fire from the beginning,” Emmanuel said. “When I joined the cast, she had already been shooting Game of Thrones for a few years, and she was definitely ready to have some female energy around her.”

In Season 3, when Daenerys comes across Missandei for the first time, she was a slave for one of the masters of Astapor. When Daenerys makes a deal to trade one of her dragons for the Unsullied army, she also insists on taking Missandei too. They become good friends, and Daenerys frees her, but Missandei still chose to be loyal to her new friend and queen. 

Emmanuel shared a time when Clarke stood up for her on set, too. 

She and I always looked out for each other. If you’re the only girls on a male-dominated set, it bonds you in a certain way. For example, in my first season, my costume was pretty revealing, and there was an incident with an extra who made a comment about it on set – I mean, typical – and Emilia straightaway had my back. It got handled.

She didn’t share who the co-star was, but the main thing here is how Clarke was not about to let sexism or harassment take place on set while she was around. 

Emmanuel gets the outrage around her character’s death

When Missandei died, fans everywhere were so upset. For many, Missandei meant a lot as the only Black, main character throughout the series. Game of Thrones came under scrutiny for many things, like sexism with its excessive sexual assault scenes, and then racism for its nearly all-white cast. 

“I definitely understood beforehand what my role meant to people,” she said, “but the days after that episode really brought it home. I loved that character, and I wish she had had a happy ending.”

With Massandei’s death, Emmanuel shared that she was working when the episode aired, but when she did catch up to the uproar, she knew why.

“When it comes down to it, the backlash stems from the fact that, when there’s so few non-white characters on-screen, a death like that registers as a massive loss,” Emmanuel said.

Missandei and Grey Worm were the only major characters that weren’t white in all 8 seasons

Going off of the lack of diversity, the fates of both Missandei and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) were very important to fans. And with her character’s death, Emmanuel told Vogue U.K. that the response made her “reflect a lot more” about race and diversity within shows. 

“At the end of the day, if there’s ever a show on the level of Game of Thrones again, representation has to be part of the conversation from the beginning,” she said. “That way, there’s no single person who has to represent every other person of color.”

Emmanuel shared that she and Anderson talked about this a lot already while filming. 

“We were always really conscious of how much our being part of Game of Thrones mattered to people,” she said. “It made us really protective of Missandei and Grey Worm.”

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