How Emilia Clarke went from unknown actress to Mother of Dragons on 'Game of Thrones'

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images and HBOEmilia Clarke stars as Daenerys Targaryen on ‘Game of Thrones.’

Just a few short years ago, actress Emilia Clarke had just two filming credits on her résumé: walk-on roles on a soap opera and a made-for-TV movie. Now the Mother of Dragons earns a reported $US500,000 per episode on “Game of Thrones,” the most-watched show in HBO history.

Let’s take a look back at how Clarke rose to fame.

Melia Robinson contributed to a previous version of this post.


Born in the fall of 1986, Emilia Clarke grew up in the picturesque county of Buckinghamshire, in the south of England.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty ImagesEmilia Clarke has one sibling, an older brother.

She was born October 23, 1986, and given the full name Emilia Isabelle Euphemia Rose Clark.


As a child, she developed an obsession with Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady.”

Warner Bros. PicturesAudrey Hepburn starred as Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady.’

She would later play Holly Golightly from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” on Broadway in 2013, another role that Hepburn made iconic.

“There’s not much I can do about all the people who come in and hope for Audrey Hepburn,” she said at the time to the New York Times. “I just hope they’re not terribly disappointed.”


Clarke attended the famed Drama Center London.

Frazer Harrison/Getty ImagesEmilia Clarke at the 2012 SAG Awards.

She was originally rejected by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 2005 before applying to the Drama Center London a year later (and getting off the waiting list).

“There were a lot of beautiful, blond, gorgeous girls in my year who got the Juliets and the like,” she told the NY Times. “I got the Jewish grandmothers and all the farcical parts, which was actually really, really good because it made me aware of my capabilities as an actor.”

The school’s famous alumni include Colin Firth, Michael Fassbender, and Tom Hardy.


Her first television appearance was a walk-on role on “Doctors,” a UK soap opera based in a fictitious hospital.

BBCEmilia Clarke on ‘Doctors’ in 2009.

She played a character Saskia Mayer on season 11.


She also played a teen in the made-for-TV movie “Triassic Attack.”

SyfyEmilia Clarke as Savannah in ‘Triassic Attack.’

The film follows a sheriff as he battles three dinosaur fossils brought to life in a small town.


When her agent called to say she landed an audition for a new HBO show, Clarke had to call in sick to her catering job.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty ImagesEmilia Clarke at a ‘Game of Thrones’ panel in 2011.

She says she was working six jobs to pay the rent.


In preparation for the “Game of Thrones” audition, she “Wikipedia-ed the crap out of” George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series and listened to Tupac’s music.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images For AFIIn 2012, ‘Game of Thrones’ was honored at the 12th Annual AFI Awards.

“To be employed by HBO, I was like, ‘I can die now,'”Clarke told Marie Claire in 2014.


“This character needed to step into Joan of Arc territory, to deliver a messianic level of intensity,” showrunner D.B. Weiss told The Hollywood Reporter. “There was only one actress who could do that.”

Christian Augustin/Getty Images‘Outlander’ star Sam Heughan also auditioned for ‘Game of Thrones.’

Weiss added that they saw “hundred of people” for the role of Daenerys. According to the NY Times,Clarke replaced someone originally hired for the pilot.


Clarke’s character, Daenerys Targaryen, is a strong, confident, and courageous young woman on a quest to reclaim the Iron Throne for the House of Targaryen.

HBOEmilia Clarke on season three of ‘Game of Thrones.’

“Game of Thrones” premiered on HBO in April 2011.


On season one, Daenerys hatched three dragons, earning her the moniker “mother of dragons.”

HBO‘Game of Thrones’ is an Emmy-winning series.

In real life, Clarke wears a golden necklace inscribed with the initials “MOD,” given to her by showrunners Weiss and David Benioff.


She’s since tried to steal the dragon eggs from set, to no avail.

HBO/’Game of Thrones’‘Game of Thrones’ won its first SAG award in 2012.

Clarke told Harper’s Bazaar that the eggs are “really, really, really expensive and they are really f—— heavy and serious works of art.”


Following the show’s success, Clarke, Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), and Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) banded together to negotiate higher salaries.

Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesKit Harington, Rose Leslie, Emilia Clarke, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau at the season three premiere of ‘Game of Thrones’ in 2013.

“On ‘Game of Thrones,’ I have always been paid the same amount as my male co-stars,” Clarke said in May 2018. “It was my first job and I was not discriminated against because I was a woman, in my paycheck.”


Through it all, Clarke’s managed to stay out of the spotlight and out of trouble. She briefly dated “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images For PlayboyEmilia Clarke, Seth MacFarlane, Alfie Allen, and Rose Leslie at a Playboy and ‘True Blood’ event in 2012.

Clarke hasn’t spilled any details regarding their relationship.


She managed for a long time to go unnoticed in public because her natural dark hair looks nothing like Daenerys’ platinum locks.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images for ELLEClarke attended ELLE’s 20th Annual Women in Hollywood event in 2013.

“I don’t get recognised, truly,” Clarke told Conan O’Brien in April 2016. “I’ll be walking with Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, or Gwen [Christie], who plays Brienne of Tarth, and people will be like, ‘Can you take this picture for us?’ And I’m like, ‘Sure! Definitely I can!'”

Clarke later went blond but said it made her more recognisable.


In 2015, Clarke starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator Genisys,” Paramount’s 31-year-old franchise.

Paramount Pictures‘Terminator Genisys’ also starred Jai Courtney and J.K. Simmons.

She had top billing as Sarah Connor.


The following year, she played a small town working girl in the romantic drama “Me Before You,” alongside Sam Claflin.

Warner Bros. PicturesVanessa Kirby and Matthew Lewis also starred in ‘Me Before You.’

The film was based on a book written by Jojo Moyes.


Clarke also starred in the psychological thriller “Voice from the Stone.”

Zanuck IndependentShe played Verena.

The movie was shot at a castle in Italy.


There have been opportunities she’s turned down, too, like “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

UniversalDakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan starred in the film franchise.

Clarke refused the lead role in “Fifty Shades of Grey” because she didn’t want to be labelled for doing nudity.


In the 2018 film “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” Clarke played Qi’ra.

LucasfilmAlden Ehrenreich starred as the titular character.

She said the character is similar to Daenerys because “they are both very powerful women, and they’re both survivors.”

“There’s a kind of need in them to keep moving forward in a world that maybe otherwise would reject that [from] a woman,” she told InStyle.


As the HBO series heads into its final season in 2019, there’s still more work to be done for Clarke.

Mike Coppola/Getty ImagesIn late September 2018, Emilia Clarke showed off an even shorter (and blond) hairstyle.

Next, she’ll appear alongside “A Simple Favour” and “Crazy Rich Asians” star Henry Golding in the holiday romance movie “Last Christmas.”

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