'Game of Thrones': Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke on being TV's new power couple
She’s commanded armies and dragons. She’s sparred with slave masters and horse lords. But what Emilia Clarke had to do on the Game of Thrones set last October left her unusually nervous: Sit and have a polite conversation. Sound easy? Not when the other actor is Clarke’s Emmy-winning co-star Peter Dinklage. This was the first time in the show’s five-year history that the two stars have ever shared a scene. Watching their iconic meetup was like witnessing a charmingly awkward first date as the two actors briefly struggled to find their conversational rhythm—complete with flubbed lines, accidentally spilled cups, and more than the usual number of takes as they worked their way through several pages of intricately composed dialogue.
“I’m like: ‘Oh my goodness, I’m talking to that dude on my telly,’” Clarke said. “I’m nervous. Butterflies. This is huge.”
Indeed: Having Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister meet Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen this season delighted fans, who were universally enthusiastic (for once!) about the showrunners making a narrative move not yet found in George R.R. Martin’s novels. The result was the most anticipated quite-drink chat since Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro got some coffee in Heat. A few minutes after the duo nailed that crucial scene, we talked to the actors about their newfound on-screen partnership.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how’s it going so far?
PETER DINKLAGE: Where are the dragons?! Where do they keep them?!
EMILIA CLARKE: It’s alllll right. It could be better, could be worse … No: It’s f–king awesome! Brilliant day, lovely.
DINKLAGE: I’m having a fantastic time. You have these grand battle scenes with 1,000 extras, but always my favorite scenes on this show are the one-to-ones, especially working with a person that I’ve known for five years but never got a chance to get in the ring with.
CLARKE: We’ve been award-ceremony buddies. We’re press-day buddies. But this is it. It’s just so wonderful. I’m not killing someone. I’m not shouting. I’m not speaking Valyrian. We’re having a discussion. It’s a healthy intellectual debate, which is a joy.
What was your reaction when you got script 507 and you realized Tyrion and Dany were meeting?
CLARKE: I was just flipping along reading, reading—“WHAT!?“ [She pretends to hyperventilate.] And then at the end of the episode, there was a break and I was like, “Why don’t you send me the next script? I want to know what happens.”
DINKLAGE: I knew it had to happen. I’d heard from [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] that it was inevitable.
CLARKE: He got the inside.
DINKLAGE: That’s the great thing about my character: He’s been everywhere. He’s the only character that goes searching. He’s been to The Wall and now he has to find the dragons.
CLARKE: And obviously this is his favorite meeting. That’s what he’s trying to say. I can hear it in his voice. He just hasn’t said it out loud yet.
What’s each of your favorite scenes that the other person has done in the show?
DINKLAGE: I think it’s Emilia watching her brother as Khal Drogo killed him in season one. What Emilia did there was so f–king—
DINKLAGE: No. It was impressive—because it wasn’t mean. It was like, “You are so gone to me.” If it was mean, it wouldn’t have been as effective. He was gone to you, and you had this new person in your life that for some weird, crazy reason you were starting to fall in love with. That’s what’s so cool about this show. Relationships can start horribly and then grow into love, or vice versa. She’s amazing because that’s very tricky to do. Because you could [act like], “F–k you, brother, you deserve it,” or go, “He doesn’t deserve that,” but [her performance] was neither. It was this in-between place that was so terrifying.
We first really started to see the dragon queen in that moment.
DINKLAGE: Yeah, her transformation in season 1 was just incredible. [To Clarke:] Your turn.
CLARKE: Yeah, thanks. My goodness…
DINKLAGE: I mean that. I’ve always been meaning to tell you that and I don’t think I ever have.
CLARKE: Well, Peter always consistently brings something that you’re not expecting to a scene, and always brings it to a different place and lightens it.
DINKLAGE: Specifics, please.
Thank you, Peter.
CLARKE: Specifics! Well, so you come to expect this incredible, funny, touching performance. And then when Tyrion was in prison last season, you suddenly had this ability to show what Tyrion usually tries to do—protect himself by making light of the moment—and then you were just there, this broken soul, and my heart just bled for you. It was wonderful to see that that’s what’s been there all along. You do see that within the scenes, but this really showed it and just took the wind out of me.
DINKLAGE: [Our characters are] good people.
CLARKE: Yeah, right?
DINKLAGE: It’s nice to play that. They do terrible things, but they’re good people and that’s maybe why people respond to these characters.
CLARKE: But you always want Peter to win—in every scene. That’s why this doing scene was really hard, because I’m like, “Damn it!”
DINKLAGE: It’s weird to defend your character when they’ve also done terrible things like murder. In life, if you murdered your father, no matter what they’ve done…
CLARKE: That was so coming, that was f–king awesome. That was like the shit. That was brilliant.
Now that they’ve met, what can Tyrion learn from Dany and vice versa?
CLARKE: I think Dany could learn how to get what she wants from Tyrion. Also I think Dany could learn how to crack a joke, maybe. She could learn to stop taking things so seriously and stop just gazing into the distance at some point.
DINKLAGE: Tyrion could learn how to be a leader. I don’t think he’s good at that. He’s smart, but it’s always in someone else’s ear. I don’t know if he’s well suited for leadership. He wants the same experience he had [advising] Joffrey, but with a qualified person—and that’s what she is. He’s slowly realizing that she’s a perfect combination for him.
Since neither of you knows what happens to your characters, which do you think will survive longer?
DINKLAGE: I think it’s going to be like [quickly] you-go-I-go.
CLARKE: Like lemmings. We’d just jump off a cliff like Thelma and Louise. Or we just kill each other. That’d be amazing. DINKLAGE: I’m kind of serious. I think we’ll go out in a blaze of glory—boom, boom, Bonnie and Clyde.
CLARKE: Or he just doesn’t die—that’s the other logic.
DINKLAGE: If we do die, I just hope it’s it’s dramatic and crazy.
CLARKE: Hells yeah.
I think that’s a given.
CLARKE: What if you read the script and it was like, “He died in the night….”
DINKLAGE: Cut to: “50 years from now…” [Old man voice] Got my tablets?!
CLARKE: Then he tripped over a twig…
DINKLAGE: That’s how I want to go in life, but I don’t think that’s how Tyrion’s going to go—if he goes.
HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.