- Nathalie Emmanuel played a former slave, Missandei, for five seasons on “Game of Thrones.”
- When Missandei was killed, Emmanuel said she didn’t expect the audience to have a big reaction.
- The series, which ended in 2019, was criticized for lack of diversity in its cast.
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Nathalie Emmanuel admitted that she did not “anticipate” such a large reaction to the death of her character, Missandei, in the final season of HBO’s “Game Of Thrones.”
“When I learned that Missandei was going to die, I knew that, as the only woman of color on the show, I knew that people would feel her loss … because she’s also just like a really kind, good character,” Emmanuel, who can now be seen in “F9” told Vogue. “I was not anticipating, I guess, the size of the reaction that happened.”
Emmanuel had joined the cast of the fantasy series in 2013’s season 3 as a former slave turned interpreter. Her journey through five seasons saw her grow to become a trusted advisor of one of the series main characters, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke).
At the time of Missandei’s death in 2019, director Ava DuVernay was one of many to criticize Missandei’s death as she was the only Black woman on the show (although Emmanuel identifies as being “of mixed heritage“).
-Ava DuVernay (@ava) May 6, 2019
Still, “Game of Thrones” became known as a series that killed off many beloved characters, including Hodor, Catelyn Stark, and Shireen Baratheon. In total, the series axed more than 110 characters throughout its eight seasons.
“Game of Thrones” had long been criticized for its lack of diversity in the cast, production team, and for the roles eventually given to the few people of color on the series. Many people of color on the show were casted as slaves, soldiers, or tribesmen.
George R.R. Martin, the author of the books on which the HBO series is based, responded to that criticism in a 2014 blog post. He explained that “Westeros around 300 AC is nowhere near as diverse as 21st century America” and that there would be more “characters of color” in the upcoming sequel book “Winds of Winter.”
In the same post, he also defended HBO showrunners, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, writing, “I do think HBO and David and Dan are doing what they can to promote diversity as well.”
Although the actress, who is originally from Britain, recognized that Hollywood has issues with diversity, Emmanuel told Essence that Black and mixed people have more opportunities in America compared to her home country.
“So many Black mixed people like myself have come out to America because the opportunities just weren’t here for us. What’s happened is a lot of talent has been lost to the States.”
In her interview with Vogue, Emmanuel said that thankfully there was a positive side to her character’s death.
“I think that really sparked a conversation about when we make these shows in the future, when we are casting these shows, like, do we just have to have the one person,” she said, “is there space for more of us?”