Emilia Clarke’s breakout performance as Daenerys Targaryen on HBO’s Game of Thrones landed her on one of four Entertainment Weekly covers this week. Shooting in Croatia last fall, the 23-year-old actress took a break from playing the exiled dragon queen to talk to EW. Below, Clarke discusses her character in season 2, fan reactions, working with dragons, the show’s ratings, and more.
Warning: If you wish to know nothing about Dany’s story line in season 2, skip the first three answers below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s your character going through at the start of this season?
EMILIA CLARKE: Things kind of suck, because when you last saw her, it’s like magic was being re‑awoken and it’s all wonderful. Now [she’s in] complete and utter despair. She has dragons, but they are tiny. They’re babies. She doesn’t even know how to feed them. So, and she’s got all her people looking to her, including Jorah, and she’s losing the will to kind of see her way through it.
Does your story line pretty much follow the book?
I don’t want to give too much away. There are a few things that are slightly different, just to give her a bit more meat this season. Dany is going to get a little glimpse of what else is going on in other parts of the world of Game of Thrones. There’s a number of surprises in store for everyone.
Any romantic prospects for Dany with Drogo gone?
I feel that the audience knows at this point that Jorah’s feelings toward me are dubious. We’re not sure where they lie. Whether it’s paternal. Whether it’s sexual. We’re not sure. And I think that that is something that Dany is becoming increasingly aware of. But I truly believe that she’s still in love with Drogo.
What’s been the toughest thing about shooting this season?
Working with the dragons, at the moment. They’ve created these beautiful models of the dragons. I’m getting quite maternal towards them. But then they take them away [during filming, with dragons inserted later using CGI] and that’s when I’m seeing nothing. As an actor, there’s so much focus [required] and my imagination is being pushed to its limits. I’m trying to see them in my mind’s eye and I’m trying to work with this invisible thing. And I can tell everyone around me is going, “what the heck, she’s crazy, she’s absolutely lost her mind.” Because I’m just kind of playing with this invisible ball of air.
On the set, the producer noted “the Daenerys stance” that you have, where you look super tough.
It’s kind of “always being ready.” She just has a strength and it’s not modern. I always try to bear in mind the kind of different physical things that she’s up against that give her a core of steel that physically manifests itself.
So that’s very much your character, not you?
Yeah. That’s that’s kind of how she tries to put her armor without actually having any. It’s also like within the book, she’s always continuously asking herself, “What would Drogo do?”
What’s the common reaction on the street when you’re recognized?
It’s happened twice. Once was the frozen yogurt [shop] where I got free frozen yogurt, which is brilliant. It completely made my day. I just walked in and she just went “Oh! Game of Thrones!”
If I was working a Starbucks, I’d like to think I’d just take your order and say, “It is known.”
[Laughs] That would be awesome.
How was Comic-Con?
Oh, it was amazing! I hope that we’re going to please the fans. And by the reaction we had at Comic-Con I think we have. I think we will continue to …all the new characters are like sick. I can vouch for every one of the actors.
With certain popular characters no longer on the show, has there been any concern about the ratings? I suspect they’ll go up anyway.
I think that people are hooked and I think that peoples’ curiosity will get the better of them. And their curiosity will lead them to even better stuff than season 1, which will lead to the same, if not better ratings. Knock on wood. That’s my prediction.
If you had a dragon, what would you do with it?
Oh my, God, what would I do with it? I would definitely keep it where there were no walls, so it would be as big as it could physically be. Rule the world maybe? Have it. Ride it.