Westerosi women supporting Sothoryosi women.

Olivia Harvey
July 23, 2020 10:09 am
Nick Wall, HBO

In a July 22nd interview with Vogue, Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emmanuel detailed just how close she was to the real-life Mother of Dragons, Emilia Clarke. Emmanuel, who played the Valyrian translator Missandei for Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen, said that when she first joined the show, Clarke immediately defended her against sexual harassment, which let Emmanuel know that Clarke was going to be a lasting friend and ally.

Emmanuel didn’t go into much detail about the harassment, nor did she name any names, but she did note that she and Clarke definitely had to hold their own in a Narrow Sea of male supporting actors.

“She and I always looked out for each other,” Emmanuel told Vogue. “If you’re the only girls on a male-dominated set, it bonds you in a certain way. For example, in my first season, my costume was pretty revealing, and there was an incident with a supporting actor who made a comment about it on set—I mean, typical—and Emilia straightaway had my back."

"It got handled,” Emmanuel said.

Even before this incident occurred, Clarke and Emmanuel fostered an immediate friendship. “Emilia and I got on like a house on fire from the beginning,” Emmanuel said. “When I joined the cast, she had already been shooting Game of Thrones for a few years, and she was definitely ready to have some female energy around her.”

Though there were other women leads in the show—including Sophie Turner's Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams' Arya Stark, Lena Headey's Cersei Lannister—the cast was very split among different global filming locations.

The gender disparity in Game of Thrones was matched with an even greater racial disparity. Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss received criticism from fans like filmmaker Ava DuVernay who pointed to Missandei’s tragic death as evidence of the show valuing characters of color less than their white counterparts.

“It definitely caused me to reflect a lot more—about race and diversity more generally,” Emmanuel said on the topic. “At the end of the day, if there’s ever a show on the level of Game of Thrones again, representation has to be part of the conversation from the beginning. That way, there’s no single person who has to represent every other person of color.”

She said she used to talk a lot about race on Thrones with her costar Jacob Anderson, who played Grey Worm, the show’s one other lead character of color. “We were always really conscious of how much our being part of Game of Thrones mattered to people. It made us really protective of Missandei and Grey Worm.”

Seeing the reaction to Missandei’s death, Emmanuel gained a better understanding of what her role meant to the Thrones audience.

“When it comes down to it, the backlash stems from the fact that, when there’s so few non-white characters on-screen, a death like that registers as a massive loss.”