Emilia Clarke on Why Game of Thrones Is the Perfect Form of Escapism

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A valley sprawls before her, rich with every color of green in the kingdom, reaching out to a twinkling city, which borders the infinite sea. Her hair (tinted not with peroxide, but tiny flecks of actual gold) glows with a radiance that makes the setting sun so jealous it hides behind the surrounding mountains, and the evening sky blushes. She is Daenerys Targaryen, Queen of the Andals, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea. Everything in sight belongs to her.

Just kidding! She is Emilia Clarke, sitting high above Beverly Hills in a glass mansion rented for a magazine cover shoot. So high up that passing aircraft rattle the bones of the house and those inside it. So high up that you can see Santa Catalina Island in the distance, peeking out from behind a curtain of fog. She laughs about something the makeup artist says, and the last of the evening light bounces off of her cheekbones and shoots into the camera lens.

We are in the sky to talk about Clarke’s reign as one of the most preeminent television actresses of our time, as Daenerys on Game of Thrones. But first, I have a few questions about her abandoned career as a jazz singer.

Clarke’s default emotion is joy — her resting heart rate seems to be just below that of someone seconds after winning a medium-expensive raffle prize — but it quickly congeals into theatrical horror when I reveal that I know that she is a casual but talented singer of jazz music.

When she was 10, Clarke was an alto in a chorus that she describes as “very churchy.” Then a substitute teacher introduced her class to jazz. “I just innately understood it,” she explains. “I was always sliding up and down the notes. Every time, the [chorus]teacher would be like, ‘Quit sliding, just sing that note and then that one and that’s it. Stop trying to fuck with it.’ Then this [jazz teacher]was like, ‘Fuck with it. That’s the point.’ ” Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Clarke was singing “The Way You Look Tonight” at the American Songbook Gala in New York, honoring Richard Plepler, erstwhile CEO of HBO. Nicole Kidman was there, too, and that is the story of Emilia Clarke, a very famous singer.

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