By Nakisha Williams
Updated March 15, 2013 at 01:00 PM EDT
Breakfast At Tiffanys Emilia Clarke
Credit: Jason Bell

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke appears on the cover of this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, but while fans of the HBO series are starting to get excited about Clarke & co.’s return to the small screen, the actress is busy preparing for her first starring role on the Broadway stage.

Clarke is Holly Golightly in the Broadway production of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (opening March 20), and during a breakfast event hosted by Target — the retailer is the official beauty partner of the production — the actress talked about taking on the role that helped make Audrey Hepburn an icon, working with costume designer Colleen Atwood to re-imagine the character’s look, and how she manages to make more than 20 costume changes each performance.

“It’s not the movie, it’s not Audrey Hepburn, but it is Capote’s words and Capote’s beautiful characters” said Clarke, who explained that, unlike the 1961 film adaptation, the stage play stays true to the 1958 novella on which it’s based and takes place in the 1940s. “I’ve just been trying to live out his words…the film sort of had to take a back seat. It’s very much an entirely different piece.” The actress also noted that her take on Holly Golightly is “darker, much younger and more complicated” that Hepburn’s.

And maybe even better dressed.

Authenticity was important for three-time Oscar-winner Atwood, who created the wardrobe for Clarke’s Golightly. “Colleen has these fabulous costumes with the correct stockings, with the seams, corsets, and everything of that time,” marveled Clarke. “The play as a whole is incredibly stylistic. It sort of gives off a more musical vibe, in the epic-ness of everything that we’ve got going on and the extreme style of it, and that’s been something from birth that the production has followed through with…”

With a total 25 costumes, Clarke said she’s had to learn to be quick on her feet to pull off her many wardrobe changes. “It’s been a great workout,” the actress joked about having mere seconds to change during some scenes. “I keep apologizing to the cast; ‘Sorry if I elbowed you!’ One time, I almost took down half the set design, it’s ridiculous! My dad’s a sound designer and he used to take me to work with him. I remember [they staged] the musical Our House,and I’ll never forget there was a quick change on stage in one second, top to toe. It was impressive, so for this [challenge], I thought, ‘Anything’s possible!'”

At one point in the play, Clarke slips out of her clothes and into… nothing. “Everything’s a little bit sexier for the 40s than it should be,” said the actress, who has a nude scene. “The idea of call girls or escorts or what have you has a very different effect taken from the 60s [like in the film] than it does in 1943.”

What about that little black dress? “It’s not the exact same look as the film, but there is an homage to it. It’s a short dress, it has a fishtail kind of back to it. It’s a perfect 40s shape,” the actress explained.

After working with Target Experts Sonia Kashuk and Umberto to create a new beauty look for Holly for the early promo photos for the production, Clarke said she’s responsible for applying her own makeup before each performance. “All the girls in the play — there’s three of us — we all get to have fun with different makeup,”said the actress, who also credits a “fabulous wig” for helping her get into character. And if she doesn’t get the look exactly right every single night? No problem. “Stage is much different from… TV. [Television] cameras are getting much more HD, [but] there’s a bit of space on the stage.”

Even with the costumes, makeup and wig, Clarke said some Game of Thrones fans will always think of her Daenerys Targaryen, a fact she learned during the play’s preview performances. “I still have this thing where I think I walk on stage and people go, ‘That’s not Daenerys! Where did she go?’ and I’ve [heard] a few ‘Daenerys!’ during the curtain call,” she admitted.

Speaking of Daenerys, Clarke hinted that her Thrones character gets something of an image makeover in season three. “[Costume designer] Michelle [Clapton] is wonderful, she works very closely with Daenerys as a character. As Daenerys evolves as a person, to match her needs, to match where she is in the world, it’s very taken from that. Daenerys is a little bit of a hoarder. She comes from the Targaryens and we don’t know what that stylistically looks like, so she’s just sort of taking from others and kind of evolving her own kind of bad-ass style, which is fun to play,” she said. “The costumes [this season] are stronger, quite literally they’re stronger. The materials are stronger. I’m the only girl who gets to wear trousers underneath my skirt. It’s still incredibly feminine, with the color and the intricacies of the details, but then I get to wear armor.”

“Holly’s got a different kind of armor,” Clarke said, bringing the conversation back around to Broadway. “[Breakfast at Tiffany’s is] a feast for the eyes, but it’s also a feast for the heart and soul. It’s got a real heartbeat to it, it’s got a tragic love story, I think that’s what makes the style of it resonate even more. It’s very accurate and very beautiful, what we say and how gorgeous we look.”

Follow Nakisha on Twitter: @Nakisha

For more on Emilia Clarke and Game of Thrones pick up the March 22 issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now, or buy it here.

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