Emilia Clarke’s character in Game of Thrones has been through a lot for her to wind up where she is now.
She’s been imprisoned, raped, sold off, escaped assassinations, had her brother killed, watched countless people die (including her husband) and endured a horrific and devastating still birth.
Thankfully, that’s all in the world of fiction.
But the woman who portrays Daenerys Targaryen has been through hell and back in real life.
Emilia Clarke has laid bare her biggest struggle in an essay for The New Yorker, where she reveals she suffered not one but two brain aneurisms.
She said the first happened after a gym session in North London in 2011, just after wrapping up season one of Game of Thrones. She said she began to feel a headache; then her condition rapidly declined.
“For a few moments, I tried to will away the pain and the nausea,” she wrote in The New Yorker. “I said to myself, ‘I will not be paralysed’.
“I moved my fingers and toes to make sure that was true. To keep my memory alive, I tried to recall, among other things, some lines from Game of Thrones.
Emilia was rushed to hospital where a brain scan revealed she was suffering from a subarachnoid haemorrhage, a life-threatening type of stroke. After going through her surgery, she said woke up in immense pain.
Clarke said: “I had no idea where I was. My field of vision was constricted. There was a tube down my throat and I was parched and nauseated.”
Medical professionals checked in on her to see if her mind was holding up and when she was asked to say her full name, all that came out was gibberish. She was diagnosed with aphasia, which is an inability to speak.
This sent Emilia into a dark spiral, fearing she’d never be able to speak for the rest of her life.
“In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug. I asked the medical staff to let me die,” she said. “My job-my entire dream of what my life would be-centred on language, on communication. Without that, I was lost.”
She eventually recovered and got on with filming Thrones, but in between seasons, she went for a scan and was quickly admitted for surgery after doctors noticed a growth on one side of her brain had doubled in size.
The surgery didn’t work and she woke up screaming in pain. They told her they’d need to go in again immediately, but this time it wasn’t going to be minimally invasive; this time they’d be going through her skull.