Game Of Thrones' Mother of Dragons is actually goofy like Bridget Jones

Emilia Clarke plays Louisa, a woman who is hired to look after a quadriplegic.
Emilia Clarke plays Louisa, a woman who is hired to look after a quadriplegic.PHOTO: WARNER BROS

Game Of Thrones' Emilia Clarke is excited to play the girl-next-door in romantic comedy Me Before You

If you know her only from Game Of Thrones, meeting Emilia Clarke in person is a bit of a shocker: You walk in expecting the fearsome Mother of Dragons, but are instead greeted by a tiny brunette with a smile so broad, your cheeks ache just looking at her.

This is what the 29-year-old British actress is like when not playing the stoic, dragon-wielding Khaleesi on the hugely popular fantasy drama, which, since 2011, has made her one of the biggest stars on television.

Yet, as much as she loves the part - which has earned her two Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actress, in 2013 and 2015 - Clarke tells The Straits Times she has grown a little weary of being offered the same sort of tough-girl roles, many of them one-dimensional.

She thus "grabbed with both hands" a chance to play the polar opposite: a goofy, giddy, girl-next- door type in the movie, Me Before You. The romantic drama, based on the best-selling book of the same name, opens in Singapore tomorrow.

In a one-on-one chat at a hotel in New York, Clarke says this is the closest to her personality she has played - and it is easy to see why - as she giggles and guffaws her way through the interview, in which she kicks off her heels and slips on a pair of fluffy white bathroom slippers.

"I have not been this excited about a role in I can't tell you how long," she says of the protagonist, Louisa, who forms a life-changing bond with Will (The Hunger Games' Sam Claflin), a quadriplegic man she is hired to look after.

"I mean, I can be Khaleesi too, don't you worry - I've got that part down pat," she says with a laugh.

"But this is me. I'm much closer to the girl who likes to have fun and laugh and giggle. And move her face and kind of just enjoy life."

Clarke describes Louisa as similar to the main character in the Bridget Jones romantic comedies (2001 to 2004). Me Before You director Thea Sharrock reveals that the star did a very Bridget Jones thing during her audition, knocking over a bottle of water and then being adorably mortified.

The actress happily confirms this, saying: "I enjoy being goofy and happy and smiley and letting it all out."

Her other connection to Louisa is that "I kind of just care about people", she says. "I get affected very easily by people and so does she, so that was something I really homed in on."

Yet, such has been the success of her Game Of Thrones avatar Daenerys Targaryen, also known as Khaleesi or the Mother of Dragons - a formidable ruler who goes around freeing slaves, commanding armies and walking through fire - that casting directors are rarely able to see past this persona.

"I get a lot of the bada** parts, definitely. I mean, Marvel ain't knocking my door down, but I get the kind of strong women roles," says Clarke, who last year played resistance leader Sarah Connor in Terminator Genysis, a reboot of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator franchise (1984 to 2003).

"And sometimes, those 'strong' women are one-dimensional," she grimaces.

Romantic heroines frequently suffer from one-dimensionality too, of course, which is why it was vital to her that Louisa not be one of them or end up being "saved" by Will like a princess in a Disney movie.

"Yeah, I mean, Disney sc***s us over, doesn't it? Like, it really sets us up for failure," says the actress, who had dated Family Guy creator and Ted writer-director Seth MacFarlane, 42.

She says Me Before You's author Jojo Moyes, who adapted her own novel for the screen "really didn't want the heroine of this story to be schmaltzy and not based heavily on reality. I think that's why I read it and could go, 'That's me.' Because she wrote a real human being".

There is a chronic shortage of fully fleshed-out characters such as these in Hollywood, says Clarke, which is why she is not sitting around waiting for another one to fall in her lap - she has started writing a movie of her own, "a comedy about two young girls".

"It always happens that way to every actor you speak to - I started wanting to write my own stuff when there was a drought of opportunities to do the things that I wanted to do."

For all her girlish charm, the actress is not one to simply accept things as they come and has grown increasingly outspoken over the years.

On a talk show in the United States last month, she called out the unequal allocation of nude scenes on Game Of Thrones, saying: "There's plenty of female nudity, myself included. We should get some equal male and female nudity."

In a recent interview with a British newspaper, she also said she would love to replace James Bond actor Daniel Craig as the first female 007, and cheekily nominated Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio to be her Bond "boy".

Of the Game Of Thrones cast, Clarke is certainly the one with the most promising movie career at this point, although she does not rule out returning to the small screen at some point after the series ends.

"When Game Of Thrones is done, which won't be for a little while, I definitely will give TV a break. I'd like to concentrate on movies for a while and do theatre and all sorts of exciting things.

"My parents ain't getting any younger. My friends are getting married and doing stuff and I'm missing it and I don't want to.

"I'm still incredibly determined to do all the things I want to do, but I have more confidence now and don't feel that pressure to do it all now.

"I also have the ability to do my own work and write my own scripts because I'm in that fortunate position where there's a lot of stuff I can manifest myself in and that's empowering."

•Me Before You opens in cinemas here tomorrow. Game Of Thrones Season 6 airs on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) on Monday at 9am, with an encore telecast at 9pm. It is also available on HBO On Demand and HBO Go on StarHub Go.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2016, with the headline 'Ditching her dragons to goof around'. Print Edition | Subscribe