Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clarke (born 23 October 1986) is an English actress. She studied at the Drama Centre London, appearing in a number of stage productions, including one by the Company of Angels. After making her screen debut in a short film, her television debut came with a guest appearance in an episode of the British medical soap opera Doctors in 2009. The following year, she was named as one of the UK Stars of Tomorrow by Screen International magazine for her role in the Syfy film Triassic Attack (2010).
Clarke rose to international prominence for her breakthrough role as Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO fantasy television series Game of Thrones (2011–2019). The role has garnered her critical acclaim and several accolades, including three nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
Clarke made her Broadway debut as Holly Golightly in a production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 2013. Her film roles include Sarah Connor in the science fiction film Terminator Genisys (2015), Louisa Clark in the romance film Me Before You (2016), and Qi’ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2019.
Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clarke was born on 23 October 1986 in London. She grew up in Oxfordshire. Her father was a theatre sound engineer from Wolverhampton, while her mother is the vice-president for marketing at a global management consultancy firm. She has an older brother. Her interest in acting was sparked at the age of three after seeing the musical Show Boat, on which her father was working. Clarke was educated at Rye St Antony School in Headington and at St Edward’s School, Oxford, which she left in 2005. After RADA, LAMDA, and Guildhall rejected her, Clarke worked and travelled before entering Drama Centre London, from which she graduated in 2009.
Clarke is of partial Indian descent and revealed in a 2018 interview that her maternal grandmother was the result of a secret affair between Clarke’s great-grandmother and a man from the Indian subcontinent. Her grandmother wore light makeup to hide the darker complexion she had inherited from her father. Clarke credits this background for her family’s having a “history of fighters”, saying: “The fact that [my grandmother] had to hide her skin colour, essentially, and try desperately to fit in with everyone else must’ve been incredibly difficult.”
Clarke’s early work includes two plays at St. Edward’s, ten plays at Drama Centre London, the 2009 Company of Angels production of Sense, and two 2009 commercials for Samaritans. One of her first film roles was for a University of London students’ short film. Her first television roles were Saskia Mayer in a 2009 episode of the British soap opera Doctors and Savannah in Syfy’s 2010 film Triassic Attack.
Clarke gave herself a year to become successful as an actor. Nearing her deadline, she was cast in her third professional role as Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones, based on the book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. Clarke received the role in 2010 after fellow British actress Tamzin Merchant was replaced for undisclosed reasons. In an interview, Clarke stated that she did the funky chicken and robot dance during her audition. The show debuted in April 2011 to positive reviews and was quickly picked up by the network for a second season. She won the 2011 EWwy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for her role as Daenerys. In 2013, she was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. She was nominated again in the category in 2015 and 2016.
She has received widespread praise for her portrayal of Daenerys, which traces an arc from frightened girl to empowered woman. Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe called her scenes “mesmerizing”, adding that “Clarke doesn’t have a lot of emotional variety to work with as Daenerys, aside from fierce determination, and yet she is riveting.” Emily VanDerWerff for The A.V. Club commented on the difficulty of adapting such an evolution from page to screen, but concluded that Clarke “more than seal[s] the deal here.” In 2017, she reportedly became one of the highest paid actors on television, potentially earning £2 million per episode of Game of Thrones.
In 2012, she appeared in Spike Island, a film named after the location of The Stone Roses’ seminal 1990 gig. From March to April 2013, she played Holly Golightly in a Broadway production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a role requiring her to perform a nude scene. That year, she also starred in Dom Hemingway alongside Jude Law. Critical reaction to the film was mostly positive, though it was a commercial failure.
In May 2014, it was announced that she had joined the feature film Garden of Last Days alongside James Franco, but the movie was scrapped two weeks before production was due to begin. She was offered the role of Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but turned down the part because of the nudity required. She played Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys (2015), opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jai Courtney, and Jason Clarke (no relation). The film grossed over $400 million worldwide, but received generally unfavourable reviews from critics, although Clarke did receive nominations for awards like the Teen Choice Award for Choice Summer Movie Star – Female and Germany’s Jupiter Award for Best International Actress.
In 2016, she starred as the female lead, opposite Sam Claflin, in the movie adaption of the best-selling book of the same name, Me Before You, released on 3 June 2016. The film was a commercial success, grossing over $200 million worldwide and is Clarke’s highest-rated film on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. For her role as Louisa Clark, she shared nominations with Sam Claflin for the Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Liplock and the MTV Television Tearjerker Award.
She played the lead as Nurse Verena, in the film Voice from the Stone which was released on April 2017 in limited release, video on demand and digital HD.
In November 2016, she was cast as the female lead in Solo: A Star Wars Story, released worldwide on 25 May 2018. She is also attached to the films The Guns of August, opposite Helena Bonham Carter, and Above Suspicion, opposite Jack Huston. In January 2017, she was cast as the lead in the upcoming English language adaptation of the 2015 Korean romantic comedy, The Beauty Inside. In May 2019, it was announced that Clarke is set to play the English poet Elizabeth Barrett in the film Let Me Count the Ways, which The Wife director Bjorn Runge is set to direct.
Clarke lives in Hampstead, London. In 2016, she purchased a $4.64 million house in Venice Beach, California.
She was voted the most desirable woman in the world by AskMen readers in 2014 and was named Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive in 2015. In 2017, she was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone.
In July 2016, her father died of cancer. Clarke was filming Above Suspicion in Kentucky at the time and was unable to be home for her father’s final days. She wrapped the movie early but arrived at the airport in London to learn that he had just died. “The world felt like a scarier place once my dad wasn’t in it,” she said. “And then [my father dying and Brexit] happening in quick succession threw me off balance and made me re-evaluate who I am”.
In a March 2019 article she wrote for The New Yorker, she revealed she had a subarachnoid haemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm, in February 2011. She underwent urgent endovascular coiling surgery and subsequently suffered from aphasia; at one point she was unable to recall her own name. She had a second aneurysm surgically treated in 2013.
Since her rise to prominence, Clarke has contributed time and effort to a variety of charitable organisations.
In September 2011, she joined SMA Trust team as their celebrity ambassador. In August 2017, she became a patron of Open Door, a non-profit that aims to help young people gain access to drama school auditions. She auctioned a chance to watch an episode of Game of Thrones with her at the 2018 Sean Penn Charity Gala, which raised over $120,000 benefiting the J/P HRO & Disaster Relief Organizations. In February 2018, she appeared at London’s Centrepoint Awards, which celebrates the courage shown by homeless young people. In April 2018, she was named ambassador to the Royal College of Nursing.
In 2019, following the announcement of the brain aneurysms she suffered in 2011 and 2013, Clarke launched SameYou. The charity aims to broaden neurorehabilitation access for young people after a brain injury or stroke. On 26 September 2019, she co-hosted a YouTube live stream with YouTuber Jacksepticeye that raised over $250,000 for SameYou.