Lena Headey and Emilia Clarke on their characters' strengths and weaknesses in the war to come
If you think war in Westeros has been bloody and devastating with all those would-be kings contending for the Iron Throne, just wait until the queens get their turn to face off. We spoke to Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) and Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) about the brewing battle between their characters in season 7.
On the throne in King’s Landing is Cersei, the ruler of Westeros by a combo of marriage, misfortune, and assassination; soon-to-claim the throne at Dragonstone is Daenerys, the exiled former princess returning home to claim her birthright. It’s a rivalry that threatens to tear Westeros apart—with our beloved Starks at Winterfell potentially caught in the middle. Below is a reminder and analysis of the resources each side has and some thoughts from the stars on this clash of queens:
Sorry, Cersei; Dany has you overwhelmed when it comes to firepower. The Breaker of Chains has thousands of ultraloyal Unsullied, ferocious Dothraki horsemen, and, oh yes, three fully grown dragons — the Westeros battlefield equivalent of nuclear weapons. Many fans have assumed Cersei would quickly get roasted this season, but don’t count her out. “Cersei’s very smart and she’s listened to her dad, unbeknownst to everybody who judges her,” Headey says. “She’s put a lot of things in place politically, and we’ll see her cash those in.”
Daenerys has gathered Theon (Alfie Allen) and Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan), Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) and her Sand Snakes, and what’s left of the devasted House Tyrell (that’d be Olenna Tyrell, played by Diana Rigg) for her cause. Cersei has the Lannister army and the crown-pledged houses of Westeros — except for the Starks and those loyal to the King in the North, Jon Snow (Kit Harington). A wild card here is Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), who was rebuffed by Daenerys and swore to build a fleet of 1,000 ships. Could he take Cersei’s side? “Cersei thinks he’s a bit of a dick,” Headey says. “But he’s arguably dangerous in a good way, somebody else she might be able to manipulate and make use of.”
Cersei has her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and her small council to lend strategic advice (but seldom listens to any of them). Daenerys has two advisers who know her opponent’s weaknesses: Cersei’s brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) — whom Cersei despises — and the Red Keep’s former spymaster, Varys (Conleth Hill). But she’s very strongly willed herself and might not follow their counsel, either. “Dany forces you to think about her objectives this season,” Clarke says. “She’s practiced patience and has this savior-like quality, but now it’s game on.”
Cersei married (then secretly murdered) Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), who was first succeeded by her son Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), who was poisoned, and then her second son, Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), who died by suicide, after which she finally seized the throne for herself. Daenerys was the daughter of King Aerys II Targaryen (David Rintoul), who was killed by Jaime during King Robert’s rebellion after Aerys went insane and… honestly, the whole history is a conflicting and confusing mess that nobody in Westeros respects much anyway — the biggest army with the greatest support among the Great Houses tends to win. “We both truly believe we deserve to be on the Iron Throne. Both of us think it’s our birthright, we both had f—ed-up dads; it’s a clash of similarities,” Clarke says.
Both queens have been the subject of prophecies, which have a rather spotty track record on Thrones (just ask Stannis Baratheon). Still, neither sounds all that great for Cersei. Daenerys had a vision in the House of the Undying of standing in the Red Keep’s throne room with the roof caved in amid falling snow (or ash?). Cersei was told by a mysterious crone that her children would die (check) and then a young rival would “cast you down and take all that you hold dear.” “The prophecy says somebody younger and more beautiful will take Cersei’s place, so I’m sure that’s at the forefront of her mind,” Headey says. “And since Tyrion is her Hand, she couldn’t view Dany worse.” We’re sure the feeling’s mutual.
After the premiere, EW.com will have a deep-dive recap, an interview, and a new episode of our GoT discussion podcast with Darren Franich and myself. Subscribe to our GoT newsletter for breaking news alerts.
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Game of Thrones airs Sunday night.