Emilia Clarke on her 'Game of Thrones' Emmy nomination and acting against Drogon

On Thursday morning, the nominees for the 2015 Emmy Awards were announced, and HBO made off like a Flea Bottom thief in the night with a whopping 24 nods — including one for the mother of dragons, Emilia Clarke.

We spoke with Clarke right after finding out the good news and got her reaction, along with a lot of juicy details for the new season, plus a little color on what it's like to fly around the world for an Emmy Awards show, then head right back onto set.

Here's the full Q&A. 

Congratulations: 24 nominations for “Game of Thrones,” including a nomination for yourself in Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama. Where were you when you found out?

Emilia Clarke: Thank you. I was, hilariously, I was at the doctor’s waiting to go in. It was a very embarrassing moment. There's a lovely British girl waiting in the doctor’s office, and you've got the best news ever, and you’re very excited and a bit loud on the phone. All you want to do is just scream and shout, and you have all these people glaring at you thinking, “What is that woman on?” So, yeah, I had to try and contain my excitement for that moment. But it was pretty brilliant nonetheless.

Did you contact Lena Headey [also nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series] and say congratulations as well? Have you two spoken?

We’ve not spoken, but we’ve been using the telecommunications to congratulate one another for sure.

Is there a crazy, long text chain between all the “Game of Thrones” cast members all freaking out?

I think yes, definitely. I seem to have like five of them. You know what I mean? You’ve got Dave and Dan [show runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff] and you’ve got publicists, and the actors and your agents. There’s a lot of that going on. And everyone from hair and makeup, costume. It’s amazing and so deserved. It makes me so incredibly proud because there’s so much hard work that goes into this show, the amount of effort and love that people put into it. And when I say people, I mean thousands of people working on this show. To have us be rewarded with the nominations, it makes me so happy.

Twenty-four nominations: That’s a really huge number. What do you think it was about this season that resonated with the Emmys?

Well, I think it was a couple of things. I think that we’ve really come into a quite satisfying place, just on a plot level. You’re starting to see characters overlapping again; you’re really getting into the meat of it. And I think that five seasons on people are really invested in these characters. So I think it's the combination of that, and with that, every season of “Game of Thrones” has become a little bit bigger. The sets have become a little bit more elaborate. The green screen has become a little bit more frequent. Just simply the growth of it is impressive. That mixed with the best writing you’ll find, anywhere. I think it’s probably a winning combination.

The green screen has become less frequent?

No more frequent. You’ll find a scene in the script, you’re like, “OK, wow, that’s a special effect, that’s a special effect, oh that’s another fight, that’s another battle. Oh, my God, that’s more people coming back from the dead … right.”

And that Hardhome scene, what an amazing scene it was.

Oh, my God, exactly. Epic.

Your first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama was for the episode "And Now His Watch Is Ended,” where we find your character reclaiming her dragon, burning the slave owners and liberating the people of Astapor. How far do you think your character has come now, and why did she, yet again, find a connection with Television Academy?

The dragons were introduced within Season 1. And I think everyone, well I myself, have just been waiting for them to grow. And then it’s, “Wow, dragons are creatures that fly and can hold a human being. So one plus one equals Dany rides a dragon.” And then Dany rode a dragon! Again, it’s satisfying.

As a viewer, you put the man hours in. You’ve Googled their family trees. And you had to press pause or rewind and say, “What family is that [character] from? I know he’s important!” Or cried when people have died. Or got into new characters when they’ve been introduced, and got behind the writing. I think now the audiences are hopefully feeling proud of themselves for investing that much time into it. And now you’re kind of reaping the rewards by having these epic moments, like, Dany getting on a dragon. So I think it’s the amalgamation of that.

Looking back now at that scene where you’re riding the dragon where it’s basically you, and you using your imagination as an actor, what do you think about that scene now? It feels like the risk paid off in the reward and a great episode.

It’s funny because the reality of filming that scene, as with any brilliant special physical effect scene, is the reality is incredibly unglamorous. It’s 2:30 and everyone is thinking about lunch. And we’ve got like a vacuum cleaner blowing wind in your face and a man going [makes noise] “eh-he eh-ie” to try and get the right kind of movement. And then people running around and screaming. Through all of that, me as the actor, it was still one of those incredibly fun TV moments to film. Because [it’s something] I’ve been hoping for, something that David and Dan and I have been talking about for so long. And because it was such a private moment. It’s not like I’m there freeing thousands of slaves and giving a speech in Valyrian. It’s like, “No, come on girl.” It’s such a beautiful, private moment, on such an epic scale. Really magical.

Are you excited to be going directly against Lena for the nomination? How will you guys have fun with that? Have you already started teasing?

I definitely think we’re going to have a lot of fun with that. I admire — truly, everything I say now you’re going to think, “Oh yeah, of course you would say that, of course you are.” But quite honestly, I remember asking her for advice from Season 1. I admire her so much. I think that the work that she does on our show is absolutely exceptional. And I think that she’s so brave. With every season, it gets more messy with her, and with her character in this brilliant way. And then last season saw her being torn down from her high place, all powerful position. And then you get to see this really guttural, visceral performance; it just broke my heart. I’m so excited, bloody happy and proud of everyone who is involved, and everyone who made it possible. Lena and I wouldn’t have the nominations if it weren’t for the 22 other nominations and for all the people who made it possible.

And Peter Dinklage also has a nomination, and this season was the first time you got to work with him on set. What was that like?

He’s just like the cool kid. Everyone wants to hang out with Peter. He is the popular kid at school. They’re like, “Oh, my God, Peter cracked a joke at me today.” And then you get to hear from the other departments how much fun it is to film with him, and then you do film with him and you’re like, “It’s true! It’s so much fun.” He’s so funny and charming and gorgeous and talented. Every now and again, you meet actors who just literally make days brighter, and Peter is exactly that person.

Well, you waited five years to finally get to work with him.

I know. Oh, God, I know they took their time didn’t they? But yeah, it happened.

Do you have any idea where your character is going to go next? Have they given you any clues or hints?

Ooooh. Oooooh there’s so much in store for her. I’m saying that obviously because I’ve read the script for next season. Muwah ha ha! I know stories. It’s really exciting. Next season, I’ve said this before, but there’s a lot of season where you need to (rightly so) kind of need to set the scene. And you have a couple of episodes where you’re like, “OK, feeding information, I get it. We’re finding out about this person. And we know about that person. And oh, there’s that person.” But this season coming up, that we’re about to film, there’s none of that. It’s just go, go, go, go. Shocking moment to shocking moment. Epic moment to epic moment. It’s mental; it’s epic. And definitely Dany’s a part of it.

Do you think Dany’s learned from her failure as a ruler last season?

I think that she’s definitely on the upwards trajectory of truly learning from the mistakes that she’s made as a ruler. It’s not so much a matter of learning from the mistakes that have gone before her, but it’s a matter of her trusting herself and being confident in the decisions that she’s about to make. And being confident enough to stand next to those decisions and take full responsibility for them.

She’s got street smarts; she was clever enough to take off her jewelry in that last scene.

Exactly! She loved that ring, but she sacrificed it because there were people coming to find her. I think there’s so much yet to come with Daenerys; she’s very exciting.

So you think you’ll all attend the Emmys together, since there are so many people nominated? Do you think it will be just a big party with everyone from “Game of Thrones?” Do you guys stick together?

I really hope so. The thing is, it’s right in the middle of our filming schedule. So begins the war of, “But I’ve gotta go. You can stay and do your bit of filming. I want to go to the Emmys.” I think there’s going to be lots of that. “I’ve got my dress already, so, I win.” Or they’ll just be really clever and just shut down filming for a second. But that would have massive repercussions, so I don’t know if that would be the case, but we shall see.

What’s it like flying halfway across the country to attend an awards ceremony, and then turning around, flying all the way back and being the mother of Dragons?

It’s pretty funny. I remember I did that for, not last year, but the year before. I literally did London, Belfast [Ireland], L.A., Croatia in 40 hours, or something mental. It was bizarre. I think I just walked up on set, “I think I’m still drunk or hung over, can’t quite tell. Let’s do it. Let’s get on a horse. Let’s ride through the desert. Let’s free some slaves. Let’s get it going.”

Was it difficult re-learning Dothraki?

Mmm … yeah, there’s’ a bit of that. It’s weird. I don’t know whether it’s a psychological thing because I’m a weird actor. But I found it so much easier doing Valyrian than I did learning Dothraki, which is weird because Daenerys’ mother tongue is Valyrian. So I don’t know if that’s my psycho head or not. But yeah Dothraki is not my forte. Weirdest sentence ever.

You’ve been in the Khaleesi in the wilderness and a queen of an ancient city. Which version do you prefer to shoot: wilderness Dany or Queen Dany?

Well, it’s kind of a mixture of both. Because at first you’re like, “Oh, hello, fancy clothes. Look at this throne. Lots of gorgeous boys with beards hanging out, very nice.” And then, after awhile, you’re like, “Oh, but I want to do something.” And then they throw you in the wilderness and you’re like, “Wicked brilliant; get your hands dirty.” And then after a minute, I’ll probably say, “Oh, I wouldn’t mind those handsome boys with spears to come back and carry me to my throne.” So it’s good because I get a mixture of all of them. But I must admit, I like getting in the thick of it. I like getting my hands dirty in the wilderness. I think that’s probably my preferred choice. And I’m sure there will be a happy medium of both.

And how is Drogon? Is he a very giving actor? Do you feed off each other?

Ooooh, he’s so good. He is … just … he gives, and he gives. Yeah, there’s moments where you think, “I’m going mad. I’m being filmed talking to myself (basically) or talking to a big green polystyrene at the end of a wooden pole. What the hell?” Those days when you’re like, “Ummm … just me.” We’ve got a day of it. Me and the crew get on really well because it’s just me guys. If it goes wrong, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be my fault. It’s either the green sock or me, it’s probably going to be me. Thank goodness [Drogon] speaks the common tongue, that’s all I’m saying. Because if I had to speak to him in Valyrian all the time, that would just be a bit too much.

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