Emilia Clarke almost didn't make it past season 3 of Game Of Thrones but now, 8 seasons in, we're glad that she's still around.
Daenerys Targaryen is probably the most overpowered character on Game Of Thrones simply because she has dragons. Barely lifting a sword (except at the end) she probably killed more Wight Walkers than any other soldier in the Battle of Winterfell. She has proven herself to be of great use in battle and for Jon Snow, in bed. All in all, we love Daenerys and by extension the actress who plays her Emilia Clarke.
But, her eight years as the mother of dragons was almost cut short by brain aneurysms she suffered while filming. During an interview with The New Yorker she spoke about her health problems:
My trainer had me get into the plank position, and I immediately felt as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain. I tried to ignore the pain and push through it, but I just couldn’t. I told my trainer I had to take a break. Somehow, almost crawling, I made it to the locker room.
I reached the toilet, sank to my knees, and proceeded to be violently, voluminously ill. Meanwhile, the pain—shooting, stabbing, constricting pain—was getting worse. At some level, I knew what was happening: my brain was damaged.
For a few moments, I tried to will away the pain and the nausea. I said to myself, ‘I will not be paralyzed’. 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.
When she was taken to the hospital for a brain scan it was determined that she had suffered a brain aneurysm. The 24-year-old at the time was then taken to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery where ‘surgeons went about repairing my brain’ using ‘minimally invasive’ endovascular coiling. The doctors then told her that she had another small brain aneurysm which could pop at any moment. This was terrible news for the actress but it got even worse. When filming for Game Of Thrones season 3 was wrapped up, it was discovered that the aneurysm had ‘doubled in size’ and more neurosurgery was required.
I had a massive bleed and the doctors made it plain that my chances of surviving were precarious if they didn’t operate again. This time they needed to access my brain in the old-fashioned way—through my skull. And the operation had to happen immediately.
The recovery was even more painful than it had been after the first surgery. I looked as though I had been through a war more gruesome than any that Daenerys experienced.
I emerged from the operation with a drain coming out of my head. Bits of my skull had been replaced by titanium. These days, you can’t see the scar that curves from my scalp to my ear, but I didn’t know at first that it wouldn’t be visible.
And there was, above all, the constant worry about cognitive or sensory losses. Would it be concentration? Memory? Peripheral vision? Now I tell people that what it robbed me of is good taste in men. But, of course, none of this seemed remotely funny at the time.
Emilia Clarke could have died in season 3. We are grateful that she was strong enough to make it through that traumatic time. She is a brilliant and inspirational actress and the world would have lost a great talent. We get to see more of Emilia Clarke in episode 4 of Game Of Thrones season 8.