Why Emilia Clarke feared she’d be fired from ‘Game of Thrones’

She almost wasn’t the mother of dragons. 

Emilia Clarke, 37, who starred as Daenerys Targaryen on “Game of Thrones,” has confessed that she lived in fear of getting fired. 

“When you have a brain injury, because it alters your sense of self on such a dramatic level, all of the insecurities you have going into the workplace quadruple overnight,” Clarke told The Big Issue in an article published June 10. 

“The first fear we all had was: ‘Oh my God, am I going to get fired? Am I going to get fired because they think I’m not capable of completing the job?’”

“Oh my god, am I going to get fired?’” Emilia Clarke recalled thinking. Helen Sloan/HBO
Emilia Clarke has previously opened up about her heath scares. Getty Images for Pegasus Distillerie US Launch Event

Clarke was referring to a health scare that she’s previously opened up about. 

In 2019, she revealed that shortly after filming Season 1 of the HBO megahit in 2011, she had an aneurysm, which also led to a stroke and a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

“Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life,” she wrote in a piece published by the New Yorker in 2019. 

As she explained in that piece, Clarke, who was 24 at the time, collapsed in the bathroom and was rushed to the hospital. An MRI showed that she had suffered a “subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain.”

Following a four-day stay in the hospital after her first “minimally invasive” surgery, Clarke experienced aphasia, an inability to comprehend or formulate language because of brain damage.

“I was sent back to the I.C.U. and, after about a week, the aphasia passed,” she wrote in that 2019 essay. “I was able to speak. I knew my name — all five bits. … One month after being admitted, I left the hospital, longing for a bath and fresh air. I had press interviews to do and, in a matter of weeks, I was scheduled to be back on the set of ‘Game of Thrones.’”

Emilia Clarke had a brain hemorrhage while filming “Game of Thrones.” Helen Sloan/HBO
Emilia Clarke nearly died in the early days of “Game of Thrones.” Getty Images

In 2013, while having a brain scan in New York, Clarke found out that she needed an operation for a second aneurysm doctors had found during her first surgery.

“I had a massive bleed and the doctors made it plain that my chances of surviving were precarious if they didn’t operate again,” she wrote. “This time they needed to access my brain in the old-fashioned way — through my skull. And the operation had to happen immediately.”

Now, she told Big Issue that while filming “Game of Thrones” on a large set in front of thousands of people, she feared that the stress and pressure would cause another brain hemorrhage. She recalled thinking,  “Well, if I’m going to die, I better die on live TV.”

Emilia Clarke said she thought she might die “on live TV.” HBO
Emilia Clarke said her brain injury impacted her confidence. emilia clarke / Instagram
Emilia Clarke said she felt “alone” having a brain injury. Getty Images

“Having a chronic condition that diminishes your confidence in this one thing you feel is your reason to live is so debilitating and so lonely,” Clarke continued.

“One of the biggest things I felt with a brain injury was profoundly alone. That is what we’re trying to overcome.”

Clarke went on to star in all eight seasons of the hit show, earning four Emmy nominations, and her silver-haired, dragon-riding Daenerys remains one of the most iconic characters. The controversial ending riled up fans in part because of how it unceremoniously torpedoed Daenerys’ character arc.

Daenerys is also the basis for the hit spinoff show, “House of the Dragon,” (returning for Season 2 on Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO)  since the story follows her ancestors, although Clarke herself is not in it, since it’s set long before Daenerys was born.

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