Warning: This story contains spoilers for the season finale of "Game of Thrones."
The British actress admitted she didn't see Daenerys' arc into the "Mad Queen" coming.
“I cried and I went for a walk. I walked out of the house and took my keys and phone and walked back with blisters on my feet. I didn’t come back for five hours," she recalled of reading the script. "I’m like, ‘How am I going to do this?’”
Clarke, 32, has a great affection for Khaleesi, and she thinks her arc, shocking as it was, makes a lot of sense within the context of everything that the character has been through.
"She genuinely starts with the best intentions and truly hopes there isn’t going to be something scuttling her greatest plans. The problem is [the Starks] don’t like her and she sees it," Clarke said of her character. "She goes, ‘Okay, one chance.’ She gives them that chance and it doesn’t work and she’s too far to turn around. She’s made her bed, she’s laying in it."
She explained, "I don’t think she realizes until it happens — the real effect of their reactions on her is: ‘I don’t give a s—t.’ This is my whole existence. Since birth! She literally was brought into this world going, ‘Run!’ These f—kers have f—ked everything up, and now it’s, ‘You’re our only hope.’ There’s so much she’s taken on in her duty in life to rectify, so much she’s seen and witnessed and been through and lost and suffered and hurt. Suddenly these people are turning around and saying, ‘We don’t accept you.’"
"But she’s too far down the line. She’s killed so many people already," she continued. "I can’t turn this ship around. It’s too much. One by one, you see all these strings being cut. And there’s just this last thread she’s holding onto: There’s this boy. And she thinks, ‘He loves me, and I think that’s enough.’ But is it enough? Is it? And it’s just that hope and wishing that finally there is someone who accepts her for everything she is and … he f—king doesn’t.”
Clarke joked of Jon Snow's attitude towards Daenerys (who he learned was his aunt earlier in the season and killed in the finale), “Um, he just doesn’t like women does he? He keeps f—king killing them!"
“There’s a number of turning points you see for Daenerys in the season, but that’s the biggest break," Clarke said. "There’s nothing I will not do after losing Missandei and seeing the sacrifice she was prepared to make for her. That breaks her completely. There’s nothing left to making a tough choice.”
That's why, Clarke says, Daenerys' treatment of Cersei made sense. “With Cersei, it’s a complete no-brainer. Lady’s a crazy motherf—ker," she said. "She’s going down.”
Despite all of her justifications for Daenerys' behavior, Clarke admits, “It was a f—king struggle reading the scripts. What I was taught at drama school — and if you print this there will be drama school teachers going ‘That’s bulls—t,’ but here we go: I was told that your character is right. Your character makes a choice and you need to be right with that. An actor should never be afraid to look ugly. We have uglier sides to ourselves. And 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.”
Clarke said that filming the final scene was cathartic, because she had such a tough time keeping it a secret for a year and a half. She believes she did Daenerys justice, perhaps in part because she saw so much of herself in the character that she wanted to empower her, even at the very end, and maintain some viewer sympathy despite her major flaws.
"I always wanted to show that softer side of Daenerys — or more textured. There’s always a thousand reasons why anyone comes to any conclusion or says anything. We are the product of the experiences that we’ve had, and so with all of these moments when they’re kind of, like, 'She’s just brutal, she’s cold,' I really tried to bring a kind of lightness," she told the New Yorker.
"I wanted to play a game with what the scene was about. It’s not that I wanted to show her as 'mad,' because I really don’t like that word. I don’t enjoy fans calling me 'the Mad Queen.' But she’s is so far gone in grief, in trauma, and in pain. And yet our brains are fascinating in the way that they find a fast route to feel O.K., whether you’re relying on a substance or you’re mildly deluded," she explained. "If you see abuse in someone young, they often are able to mentally leave the room. I wanted Daenerys to be there. I wanted to show her as we saw her in the beginning: young, naïve, childlike, open, and full of love and hope. I wanted so much for that to be the last memory of her."