By James Hibberd
May 05, 2019 at 11:17 PM EDT
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Warning: This interview contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 4.

Heartbreak upon heartbreak: The final season of Game of Thrones took another tragic turn in episode 4 when Missandai was executed after a tense standoff between Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister.

Missandei — played by British actress Nathalie Emmanuel — joined the story in season 3 as a translator whose talent for discretion and quick-witted tact caught Dany’s eye while she negotiated for her Unsullied army. Over the years Missandei has become the Mother of Dragon’s trusted advisor and fell in love with the Unsullied’s stoic commander Grey Worm.

At the start of season 8, Missandei and Grey Worm made plans to leave Westeros after the war and go to the beaches of her home country of Naath. It’s a vision of a happy ending that’s been forever snatched away after this latest tragic turn of events: Daenerys’ fleet is ambushed by Euron Greyjoy. Grey Worm puts Missandei onto a skiff to help her escape. The skiff is captured and Missandei is taken to Cersei. Daenerys arrives at King’s Landing and refuses to back down and Cersei refuses to surrender. So Missandei gives a defiant last word, loud enough for Dany to hear: “Dracarys!” And with that, The Mountain takes her head.

On the set of season 8, EW watched as Missandei and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) had their last joyful moment together on the deck of a ship, and then disaster struck.

“I found it heartbreaking for a number of reasons,” Anderson said afterward. “There’s like a cruel inevitability in this show where anybody who finds that happiness is going to have to watch that taken away from them. So I thought either Grey Worm or Missandei, that one would be taken from another. I honestly thought Grey Worm was gone in that episode. And I even had that thought: ‘Take me!’ She’s come through so much s—t that she’s had to deal with her life. As soon as it looks like they’re about to enjoy it, it all gets snatched away. So I didn’t expect it and I had to lay down the script for a bit.”

EW spoke to Emmanuel (who has also been in Furious 7 and The Maze Runner franchise) on the set after shooting the scene. Note: While we knew Missandei’s skiff was attacked and the character died as a result, we didn’t yet know any of the details of her fate when this interview was conducted and the scene had not yet been shot. The actress nonetheless provided some brief thoughts that gave a sense of her feelings about that “Dracarys!” last stand.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: At least that was a sweet moment with you guys on deck right before everything has gone to hell.
Yeah, they just like to tease us with a bit of hope and happiness and then take it away, which is why we love it.

What was your reaction to the scripts?
That I can’t believe I’m reading the last ever GoT scripts. I was on a flight coming back from New York as I opened it and I was about halfway through it and this is like the last first episode I’m going to read that that was pretty emotional, really. A lot of people ask when you read scripts do you read forward to see if you survive or not, and I didn’t. I just wanted the story to wash over me.

What did you think overall?
It was amazing and I could just sort to picture it. It’s gonna be a really epic long shoot and I was excited. Tying up loose ends through the whole show and bringing it together at the end.

Courtesy of HBO

What was the table read like?
It’s always like coming back to school a little bit. And coming onto this show you’re seeing all your friends again. This was coming back to do this for the last time. It’s emotional, no doubt about that. When different cast members met their demise everybody cheered each other and showed loved and applauded, when somebody had their final moments the whole room would erupt to show support for that person, which was amazing.

Does Missandei have any doubts about Dany like some of the other characters?
It’s hard to know from my character’s point of view because she does see many of those questionable moments. She would have heard about certain things going on. I do think Missandei is so loyal to Dany because she liberated her and gave her the respect she deserves. They have a really strong friendship. Missandei would probably have justified some of Dany’s actions.

What can you say about her death scene?
I thought it was a fantastic scene. I’ve said in so many interviews that I don’t mind if I die I’m just happy to be here and be a part of the show. But I just wanted it to be really cool and a moment that people remember and I feel like they really give me that moment and I’m excited to shoot it. It’s going to be really emotional and she’s so brave in it and shows her strength and fearlessness even though she doesn’t wield a sword. She believes in her queen and believes in her cause. I’m so happy that she has that kind of exit. It’s emotional. She said she was willing to lay down her life but we hoped she wouldn’t have to. You can watch the end of a show and think the character is living on to do whatever. But there’s a real sadness to the fact that the character won’t. It seems likely to push Daenerys to a scary level.

Did Grey Worm mess up, by telling her to go on the boat?
She doesn’t blame Grey Worm. He was trying to keep her safe.

Was there anything else you wish Missandei could have gotten to do?
I would have loved to see Missandei fighting. I think that’s just me projecting onto her that I want to see her being a badass with a sword or bow and arrow. I feel like a bow and arrow would be her thing as it’s super specific and requires a lot of skill. I guess I was relieved to not be doing 11 weeks of night shoots but there’s a part of me that’s a little sad Missandei didn’t throw down in the battle.

Do you have any regrets?
Fighting, that’s the main thing. [Emilia Clarke] and I enjoyed our lovely friendship scenes and we had those in season 3 through 5, though we haven’t had ones lately.

What’s your favorite scene you’ve ever done on Game of Thrones?
I do think my last scene will be a real moment. It’s probably my favorite scene that I’ve read. My favorite scene I’ve ever done — there’s so many — was when Grey Worm comes to her after he saw her bathing and they have this exchange and it’s emotional and amazing. It’s always really cool when you’re challenged as an actress to play those subtle things … If she lived, I think they would have gone back to her home. They would have lived happily ever after.

More Episode 4 coverage:
— Game of Thrones trailer for season 8, episode 5 teases a King’s Landing battle
Gwendoline Christie on Brienne’s Game of Thrones heartbreak: ‘I was so upset’
Game of Thrones recap in progress: Mistakes, tragedy, and fury
Ser Jorah actor on what Daenerys whispered to him during that funeral scene

More coverage of episode 4 to come, refresh for latest… 

HBO’s epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.
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  • 04/17/11-05/19/19
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