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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 May 2018

From dragon queen to robot killer: Q&A with Emilia Clarke

Emilia Clarke tells us about taking on the iconic role of Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys.

Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney in Terminator Genisys. Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney in Terminator Genisys. Courtesy Paramount Pictures

British actress Emilia Clarke, who plays Mother of Dragons Daenerys in the hit HBO show Game of Thrones, is playing Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. She tells us about her first Hollywood role, dealing with the inevitable fame that will come with it and her fondness for rugby.

You play Sarah Connor in the new Terminator movie. Did it make you feel like an action hero?

There were moments, definitely, where I was running through a tunnel firing a grenade launcher, and I thought: “This is how they do it. This is how it happens – movie magic.”

Did you go back and revisit the earlier movies, in which Linda Hamilton played Sarah?

I already knew intimately what she’d done. But when I really read our script, it’s so different. It would have been a waste of time to go back and try to replicate what Linda did, because of the fact that we go way back into Sarah’s childhood to change forever the woman she would turn into.

Did you talk to your Game of Thrones co-star Lena Headey, who also played the character in The Sarah Connor Chronicles?

We had a good giggle about it, and then David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss], the showrunners on Game of Thrones, said: “You guys need to fight. We need to write a fight for the two of you so we can see who wins.” But that was pretty much the most that we talked about.

How did you find working with Arnold Schwarzenegger?

When you meet an idol, there’s a little bit of you that’s expecting to be a little bit disappointed – like: “Oh, you’re a normal person.” But with Arnold, he’s everything you expect and more. And he maintained that the whole way through, putting everyone at ease. It was a gorgeous presence to have with you and kept reminding you what you’re doing. You were like: “Yeah, we’re making Terminator.”

Are you worried that Terminator might be the end of your anonymity?

It might be. I don’t know. I get to fly very much under the radar with Daenerys because I ain’t blonde, and it makes such a difference. And I know my own hair colour is like Sarah Connor’s, but I’m so different from her, energy-wise … I’m not walking around with my gun and my Doc Martens.

Do you really not get recognised very much?

No, I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’ve got to digest my change of circumstance at my own pace. There are no paparazzi following me. I get recognised every once in a while – my friends find it hilarious. My family find it even funnier. I’ll be walking around and someone will be like: “Can I take a picture?” and my folks are like: “Oh, yeah, we forgot.” Because at the moment, it’s so unobtrusive in my personal life.

Are you surprised how successful you have become via Game of Thrones?

Yes, absolutely. This year, really, has been the first year I’ve come to terms with it. I spent a lot of time going: “What? No! How? But! Hmm.” But I’ve realised if you just accept what it is, and be grateful, and then carry on as normal, then everything else falls into place without it being too weird.

What’s kept you grounded?

As of yet, I’ve got no cause for changing who I am. At all. I’ve always wanted to be an actor. That’s not changed. I still manage to spend as much time as is humanly possible with my mates and my family. I live in London. It’s terribly boring. I wish I could say I’m living this fabulous, mental celebrity lifestyle.

You’re a big rugby fan. Have you ever played?

Goodness me, no. I wouldn’t last a second. I do like to watch it. Maybe now [with all my Terminator training], I could get through their legs and peg it down the field.

Terminator Genisys is out in cinemas now

artslife@thenational.ae