‘Game of Thrones’ Star Emilia Clarke Shares the Details Of Her Life-Altering Surgeries

Actress Emilia Clarke is best known for her leading role on Game of Thrones as Daenerys Targaryen. Since the show began airing in 2011, she has gone from relatively unknown actor to household name. While she has shared plenty of information with fans over the years, from behind-the-scenes anecdotes to photos with her co-stars, Clarke is now opening up about a significant health crisis from her past. Here’s what she has revealed.

Emilia Clarke
Emilia Clarke | Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Huffington Post

Clarke has wanted to be an actress since she was little

In an article she penned for the New Yorker, Clarke talked about growing up in Oxford, England. She became acquainted with the world of theater through her father, a sound designer. Clarke began by performing in school plays, though she froze up during her first performance.

As with most actors, there was no straight path to fame. Clarke went on to get her B.A. from Drama Centre London, after which she was committed to auditioning for roles “with promise.”  

She was surprised to get the role of Daenerys

Clarke writes that in the spring of 2010, she was invited to audition for Game of Thrones. Another actress had acted in the role in the pilot, but they were recasting. She did her first audition in London and then auditioned for creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss in Los Angeles.

Though she obviously ended up earning the role, Clarke was surprised that they chose her, a self-described “short, dark-haired, curvy Brit” for a character who was described to her as “an otherworldly, bleached-blond woman of mystery” and “a blend of Napoleon, Joan of Arc, and Lawrence of Arabia.” But nevertheless, she was their choice.

Season 1 had not yet aired when she had her first surgery

Game of Thrones Season 1 premiered on April 17, 2011. Just two months before that, in between finishing shooting and beginning press for the premiere, Clarke writes that she was working out with a trainer frequently. It was during a session on Feb. 11 that she began to experience terrible pain and was taken to the hospital, where she learned she had had a brain aneurysm.

Clarke immediately had her first surgery in order to prevent further bleeding. After about a month, she was able to leave the hospital to do press for Game of Thrones before heading back to set to shoot Season 2.

Her second surgery came in 2013

Unfortunately, the first surgery did not completely fix the issues in her brain — there was a smaller aneurysm that would eventually need to be removed. She continued to work and gradually improved. But in 2013, while wrapping up a show on Broadway, a brain scan showed the remaining growth had gotten much more significant, so they operated. That second surgery made way for an immediate third, which was even more invasive.

This time around, her recovery was more difficult. The press caught wind of her surgery, but she denied it at the time, choosing to keep it a secret until now. Today, she is doing very well, health-wise.

What’s next after Game of Thrones?

Though there’s still the epic final season of Game of Thrones left for fans, Clarke has already moved on from the show. Her film career has taken off over the last couple of years with romantic drama Me Before You and her sci-fi turn in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Clarke’s romantic comedy Last Christmas is due out in Nov. 2019, and her thriller Above Suspicion will hopefully have a release date soon enough.

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