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Why Emilia Clarke is a Theatre Icon Onstage and Onscreen

18 February 2022 by Sophie Thomas
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Emilia Clarke hasn’t starred in hundreds of films and stage productions, but she’s definitely a 21st-century acting icon. To many, she’s simply the “Mother of Dragons” Daenerys Targaryen in the Game of Thrones universe. To others, she’s a dejected elf, a lover, or just the woman with the eyebrows. No matter which film or TV show you think of when you think of Emilia Clarke, one thing is certain: she always delivers a captivating performance.

And now, the four-time Emmy nominee is making her West End debut as Nina in The Seagull. The production, directed by Jamie Lloyd, premiered in 2020 but quickly shuttered due to the pandemic. Luckily, Clarke is back for round two when the production will reopen at the Harold Pinter Theatre this summer.

Ahead of Emilia Clarke playing the role of Nina in The Seagull in the West End, learn more about Emilia Clarke’s ability to make anything theatre.

Book The Seagull tickets starring Emilia Clarke in London on TodayTix.

Emilia Clarke Daenerys Targaryen

Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones

Writing about Emilia Clarke’s theatrical abilities without mentioning (or simply acknowledging) Game of Thrones is sacrilege. Game of Thrones is theatre in itself; there’s eight seasons worth of families fighting for control and taking the throne. We won’t reveal who ends up controlling Westeros, just in case you haven’t seen it. But one thing shouldn’t be made a secret, and that’s Clarke’s powerful performance as Daenerys Targaryen.

Clarke got her big break in 2010 when she landed the role in the fantasy HBO series, and no one could have predicted just how powerful Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen could be. With her cut-throat lines and scathing looks, no character wanted to be on Targaryen’s bad side. If Daenerys were cast in a play, she’d be Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — an all-knowing, no-nonsense badass.

Honestly, there’s so much to discuss about Daenerys: the fiery romance between her and Khal Drogo in season one that belongs in a romantic drama, the passionate moments between her and Jon Snow, and the plait-laden ice-blonde hairstyles that would definitely win an Olivier for Best Costume Design. Daenerys proved that blondes do have more fun, especially when said blonde soars over a continent on a dragon’s back. And there’s truly nothing more theatrical than flying on a mythical creature.

Emilia Clarke Breakfast at Tiffanys

Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s 

Holly Go-Lightly? More like Holly Go-Make your Broadway debut in Breakfast at Tiffany’s! In 2013, Clarke made her professional stage debut as the iconic character, made famous by Audrey Hepburn in the film, in a new stage adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While Holly Golightly couldn’t be any different from her dragon-slaying alter-ego on screen, both characters share one thing in common: a killer wardrobe. In fact, Holly Golightly is no stranger to a little black dress (or 25!)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Broadway didn’t gain quite the same cultural notoriety as the 1961 film. The stage show ran at the Cort Theatre for just a month. However, it’s often the shows that have a limited engagement that hold a dear place in our hearts and build up a cult following (we’re looking at you Diana: The Musical) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s is definitely one of them. Regardless of what critics thought of Breakfast at Tiffanys, the production solidified Clarke’s future career as a stage actress.

Guest appearance on Saturday Night Live

Emilia Clarke is a TV icon, period. We’ve all got used to seeing her portray wacky characters, but what about when she speaks… as Emilia? It’s simply hilarious.

In 2019, Clarke made a cameo appearance on an episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by her Game of Thrones co-star, Kit Harington. Alongside fellow GoT actors Rose Leslie and John Bradley, Clarke asked Harington pressing questions about the season eight finale! Unfortunately, Harington doesn’t give all the juicy goss that we’d want, but there’s an undeniable palpable energy between Clarke and Harington which we just need to see live on stage.

Who knows, maybe Clarke will host SNL one day. Live TV is definitely as close to live theatre as it gets onscreen.

Emilia Clarke Me Before You

Louisa Clark in Me Before You 

It wasn’t a matter of if Clarke would ever have a Hollywood moment, it was when it would happen. Emilia Clarke fans got their wish granted when Clarke was cast in the big blockbuster adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You. Over five million copies of Me Before You were sold worldwide prior to the film. So it was definitely a moment for the avid readers who could finally see Lou Clark brought to life. And with Emilia Clarke in the role, she brought her unique expressions and tender heart to the role with aplomb.

Sure, the movie didn’t win a bunch of awards, and critics didn’t get on board with the plot line. But seeing Emilia Clarke in a loving, warm role was more than enough for film fans, and further demonstrated Clarke’s chameleon-like theatrical abilities.

Emilia Clarke Qira

Qi’ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Think of a popular movie or television franchise, and Emilia Clarke is likely to be involved. She’s joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She’s also a new addition in the Star Wars franchise too, proving that Clarke’s performances transcend the galaxies.

In 2018, Clarke joined the Star Wars world as Qi’ra, and first appeared in the Star Wars “space western” Solo: A Star Wars Story. But who is Qi’ra? She’s a controlling lieutenant and a crime syndicate leader in a galactic space war. Yeah, we’re not 100% sure what a galactic space war fully entails either. But if there’s anyone who could portray such an eclectic character in a fantasy film like Star Wars, it’s Emilia Clarke.

This isn’t all we’ve seen of Qi’ra in Star Wars. The femme fatale will appear in future Star Wars movies, and we can’t wait for even more film moments that could be in West End plays.

Emilia Clarke Mother of Madness
Mother of Madness CR: Image Comics

Emilia Clarke’s comic book M.O.M.: Mother of Madness

Are books theatre? Well yes, as there’s plenty of West End shows based on books. But an actor writing a comic book is an unexpected theatrical turn.

In 2021, Clarke became a published writer with her three-part comic book series M.O.M: Mother of Madness. The comics follow Maya, a scientist by day and a superhero by night. Punches are thrown, fights break out, and everything descends into chaos. The mad, frantic storylines in her comic are undeniably theatre, and we look forward to the day when Mother of Madness is a stage production.

Clarke’s characters regularly take on the bad guys, so it’s no surprise that she’s created a fictional character that does the same too. One day, we’re anticipating that when the series is inevitably adapted for television, Clarke will play the Mother of Madness herself. Talk about making your whole life theatre!

Emilia Clarke Last Christmas

Kate Andrich in Last Christmas

Last Christmas has everything we could want from a Christmas film and it qualifies as a piece of theatre too. Patti LuPone playing a frustrated customer? Check. Emma Thompson in a motherly role? Check. Emilia Clarke playing a character that’s always in a silly, goofy mood? Check.

In the 2019 Christmas film, Clarke plays Kate Andrich, a wannabe singer who works as an elf at a year-round Christmas shop. During the countdown to Christmas, Kate falls in love with a mysterious man, but learns that having a crush on a man shrouded in mystery isn’t always a good thing. By the end of the film, there’s plenty of carol singing, good-hearted festive cheer, and even a cameo appearance from Wham! band member, Andrew Ridgley.

Plus there’s nothing more theatrical than dressing up in a costume at Christmastime and singing loudly (and maybe not always in tune) — something Clarke does a lot of in this film.

Emilia Clarke’s eyebrows

Let’s be real, we all have a soft spot for Emilia Clarke because of her expressive eyebrows. And honestly, what cant her eyebrows do? You could cast Emilia Clarke’s eyebrows as the comedy role in a musical, and they’d be the star of the show. Eyebrows frame the face, but Clarke’s eyebrows have framed her entire career. This video of Emilia Clarke and Cara Delevingne in a “eyebrow battle off” is firmly etched in our memory, and this clip should be in your mind too.

Book The Seagull tickets starring Emilia Clarke in London on TodayTix.