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Game of Thrones fans know her as Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, rightful heir to the Iron Throne, rightful Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains.
Star Wars fans will come to know Emilia Clarke only as: Qi’ra.
This is a character who doesn’t want her full resume out there. She’s a woman of shadows, of secrecy. She’s a woman of many identities, the truest ones hidden away and only visible to those she trusts, which may be no one.
She’s also one of the primary forces that shape the young smuggler we meet in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
As part of Entertainment Weekly’s cover story about the May 25 movie, we caught up with Clarke to discuss what we need to know about this galactic femme fatale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Are you currently shooting the final season of Game of Thrones?
EMILIA CLARKE: Technically I am currently shooting Game of Thrones. But right now I am in Rome shooting a D&G campaign. So sort of a mixture of the two.
Sounds like a busy time, so thanks for talking to me about Qi’ra. She and Han Solo go back to their childhoods, so can you characterize the setup of their relationship?
Well, they grew up as comrades, essentially. They grew up as pals, as partners in crime. There is obviously the romantic side of things. But they grew up together. So they were kids together. And the beautiful thing about this Han Solo story is it’s highlighting all of the most brilliant aspects of Han Solo the character and characterizing those aspects in characters that he meets on his journey to becoming who he is.
These people all represent different sides of who he becomes?
That’s kind of the story, really. You are seeing all of these different elements that make up who he is through the people and the interactions and the relationships just as we all do as human beings. We are simply the embodiment of our experiences, essentially.
They’re guiding him, inspiring him. Maybe corrupting him?
You see the beginnings of him, this loveable rogue. You get it fine-tuned throughout these relationships, and Qi’ra is one of those relationships that has an impact on him as a character. I mean, hopefully [laughs] — if I have done my job. And within that relationship, the thing that that you see with Qi’ra is that she an enigma.
So through her, he learns not to show his cards to people.
She is a little bit of a tough one to get a hold of, really. There is this underlying joy in an origin story because you know where they end up. And Qi’ra is nowhere to be seen, so … something has happened! [Laughs] You know what I mean?
The film will give us a reason why he doesn’t talk about her?
Something must happened to affect him as a person, but for us fans not to know about her. Twists happen, and there is this great idea of trust — and who do you trust and how do you trust? And which side of the tracks are either character from — or going to?
The filmmakers described her as a femme fatale in this movie that is partly a film noir.
It is. Mystery. There is a thing throughout the relationship you just can’t put your finger on. And that’s Qi’ra. Every time you think you have got her number you realize you haven’t at all. [Laughs] Which is really hard to play. The goal is that the shadow of Qi’ra is there in Han as a character that we know. This girl is another texture that makes up who he is when we first meet him.
Is there pressure to make a movie like this match up with the ones that came before?
The joy of this movie is, it’s like we’re the kids at the back of the bus. Do you know what I mean? Like everybody else is doing the big stuff and we’re just kind of making this stupid, cool, really funny, weird movie and no one’s looking. All the Star Wars films have got, obviously, a beautiful flavor of humor in them, but this … this gets to be Han Solo funny, which is not the comic interlude — the comic interlude is it.
Qi’ra and Han knew each other long ago, so are they being reunited in this movie?
I think that’s something you should wait to discover. I don’t want to say. I don’t want to start saying anything that might get me fired, or just write me out of the movie. [Laughs]
I doubt they would do that at this point. What is Qi’ra doing when we first encounter her? From the trailer, they are in a speeder trying to escape some stormtroopers.
The point where you meet her, she is with Han. They are both doing what they’ve got to do to survive. And that is Qi’ra the whole the movie. The whole way through, she is surviving. And surviving in the underworld that we know to be [filled with] smuggling, aloof gamblers, wrong-side-of-the-tracks nasty ones. It was beautiful they touched on it very briefly [in The Last Jedi] when they are at the racetracks. Do you remember and they were talking about what that world is?
On Canto Bight, where they were talking about the ugliness behind the money and power?
And that’s our world. I mean it’s not the racetracks, and not Canto Bight. But we have the main storyline talk about what the smuggling, gambling black market world is like. It’s dangerous and it’s sordid and it’s ugly, and it’s really, really dark. There are loads of different gangster-y elements running through it. It has been really fun to put Qi’ra in that. She has a couple of guises, but essentially she is just fighting to stay alive.
From the look of her, the elegant gowns and capes, I would have assumed this is somebody who is thriving. She looks wealthy.
Well, if you have got a really glamorous lady in a really sordid environment you kind of know that maybe the glamour is hiding a few rough roads.
We’re seeing a lot of strong women in the Star Wars movies now, with Rey, Jyn Erso, Rose, Phasma, Ahsoka, Padme, Holdo, and others now standing alongside Leia. Does Qi’ra fit into that tradition of strong warrior women?
Oh hella yeah. [Laughs] I am never going to take a job that doesn’t tell that story, because I think it’s a very important narrative that we are telling all ages at all stages. And whilst it is Han Solo’s movie, this girl gets to be badass. And strong. And has her own journey. Qi’ra’s journey is definitely one of survival and strength. The way that I felt about her was yeah this girl has got a core of steel.
As the dad of a little girl who loves Star Wars, I’m glad there are a lot of strong women for her to choose from. A lot of variety now.
Very much. And there is a female presence to this movie. Han Solo is only surrounded by strong women. He doesn’t know any woman who doesn’t stand up for herself, has got game and chops and intelligence and wit. Those are the only women in his life. And then he meets Leia, so it all kind of falls into place.
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