Emilia Clarke is one of the most popular actresses on television right now, as she stars as Daenerys Targaryen on the HBO original series Game of Thrones. So how exactly did Clarke find herself starring in the biggest show on TV? What was she doing before Thrones started?
Emilia Clarke’s very first on-screen role was in a commercial for Samaritans, a charity that aims to help people at risk of suicide throughout the United Kingdom. Clarke doesn’t say anything in the ad, but she is seen as someone in distress who calls the Samaritans hotline.
Then, also in 2009, Clarke had a role in the British soap opera Doctors. She’s only in one episode, but her role was fairly significant for this being her first time on a television show. In the episode, she plays a young woman who has a fight with her father and demands that he stay out of her life. We later find out that the character’s mother committed suicide when she was young, and this is why her father is so paranoid and possessive. The two reach an understanding by the end of the episode.
The following year, Clarke was in the SyFy channel original movie Triassic Attack, a movie about a museum owner who accidentally brings dinosaur fossils to life. As you can imagine, Game of Thrones was a huge step up in terms of quality.
One commercial, one role on a soap opera, and one role in a SyFy original movie constituted Emilia Clarke’s entire resume prior to being cast as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones. She almost did not end up playing that character, though. In the original pilot, the role of Daenerys was played by Tamzin Merchant, who was known for playing Catherine Howard in Showtime’s The Tudors. But the pilot evidently did not turn out too well, and the producers decided to replace a number of actors. It was at this point that Emilia Clarke was hired.
In an interview on Actors on Actors, Emilia Clarke recalled flying to America for her audition and being extremely nervous, saying that “there were a lot of people in that room, like a lot of people.” She said that some of the producers had seen her in England and had brought her over, which was surprising considering she had not been in very much before.
“They had seen me in England and they had brought me over, and they were kind of, ‘Oh, so this chick we like found somewhere in London who’s done nothing, like one episode of like a daytime TV show, we’d like her to be this main character of this new show we’re doing,” Clarke said. “So I needed to go in and be like, ‘They’re not crazy.'”
Since starring on Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke has landed a few other roles in major film productions, including Terminator: Genisys and Me Before You. She’a also starring in the upcoming Star Wars spinoff film about Han Solo, although Disney has not yet revealed what role she is playing.