How does one prepare to portray a dictator? By watching a dictator, of course. So when Game of Thrones actor Emilia Clarke found out that her character would give a speech to her army after her victory over Cersei Lannister—which involved burning King's Landing to the ground and killing many of its innocent civilians—in the show's season finale, she told Variety that she used real-life rulers to help her get into character.
"In giving all these speeches in fake languages, I watched a lot of videos of—now it seems funny—dictators and powerful leaders speaking a different language to see if I could understand what they were saying without knowing the language," Clarke said. "And you can! You absolutely can understand what Hitler’s f***ing saying, these single-focus orators speaking a foreign language. So I thought, 'If I can believe every single word I’m saying, the audience won’t need to be looking at the subtitles too much.'"
The scene is a significant part of Daenerys’s transformation, and the pressure to nail the lines weighed heavily on Clarke.
“I’ve had a lot of Dothraki, Valyrian, fake languages to learn, and I’ve had a lot of speeches to give, but I put so much pressure on myself with this [scene],” Clarke said. “Any actor will tell you the days on set are long and then you go home and do your homework, which is learning your lines for the next day. This is learning a fake language on top of that! It almost killed me.”
The 32-year-old actress explained that she was rehearing her lines to everyone and everything for about two months, and it ended up paying off.
“Then the weirdest thing happened—I walked on set, didn’t need a rehearsal, and I got through the whole thing perfect on the first go. The rest of the day it was like Daenerys was just with me,” Clarke recalled. “That’s the only time I got through that speech without getting anything wrong, when it was on camera. If you had asked me to do it the next day, I’d already forgotten it.”
As for her character's turn from would-be breaker of the wheel to tragic villain, Clarke told Entertainment Weekly that "after 10 years of working on this show, it’s logical. Where else can she go? I tried to think what the ending will be. It’s not like she’s suddenly going to go, ‘Okay, I’m gonna put a kettle on and put cookies in the oven and we’ll just sit down and have a lovely time and pop a few kids out.’ That was never going to happen. She’s a Targaryen. ... But having said all of the things I’ve just said, I stand by Daenerys. I stand by her! I can’t not.”