Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke was so haunted by her role in the fantasy drama she even stayed in character in her sleep.
The actress plays Daenerys Targaryen in the smash-hit show and says the dragon-rearing warrior princess is so ingrained in her psyche she even dreams about being her.
Emilia, 32, said: “This has been such an engaging journey that I sometimes would wake up at three in the morning from some deep dream and would still be living the character. I don’t think I will ever cut Dany’s spirit off completely.”
The Oxford-born actress recently revealed she survived two life-threatening brain aneurysms in 2011 and 2013, which led to her suffering anxiety and panic attacks.
But she drew on the strength of her Game of Thrones character – who grows from a frightened young girl into a fierce queen with three fire-eating sidekicks over eight series – to help her through the tough times.
She said: “You can’t help but find yourself swept up by the sense of determination she has shown and how she’s fought back against so many enemies and grown stronger
“My spirit has been so enriched by her strength of purpose and survival instincts.
“Even though I have experienced some difficult challenges, when you see what other people in life and what my character endures – and yet still finds the will to carry on – you feel a similar drive and fearlessness.
“You stop worrying over nonsense and focus on the truly important things in life.”
Emilia was just 22 when she won the part of the heir to the Targaryen dynasty. She said: “We were two helpless girls at the beginning of things. Dany transformed into a warrior, forced to confront the most extreme limits imaginable and, in my own way, I have pushed my own limits and faced up to my own insecurities in order to defeat them.”
In one memorable Game of Thrones scene, Daenerys stripped off and walked through a fire. But far from being embarrassed about shooting it, Emilia is proud.
She said: “It was just a wonderful, strong moment I wanted to own, a real empowering, girl-power wow scene. I was so thrilled with it. It’s not a sexy scene – she’s not naked for no reason, it’s not gratuitous.
“She’s naked because she has just destroyed her enemies in this almighty blaze after they underestimated her. She played her trump card – how could I say no?
“All I needed was vodka, some flattering lighting and I was ready!”
The very last episode of Game of Thrones is due to air on Sky Atlantic and HBO next weekend and Emilia admits she broke down in tears as filming wound down.
“I cried like a baby towards the end…Ten years is a long time. It’s like losing a limb.
“I grew up with the character. You go through a period where you feel heartbroken that you won’t be coming back to that world and to all the wonderful cast and crew members who became your family.
“But then you snap out of that nostalgia and sentimentality and start thinking about all the exciting things that lie ahead.
“So I’m thrilled about the future. I have a thousand ideas running through my head!”
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