Emilia Clarke on a Near-Death Experience Scarier than “Game of Thrones”

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Emilia Clarke was an unknown young actor when she landed the part of Daenerys, of the House of Targaryen, on a show called “Game of Thrones.” After an eventful first season—capped by her walk into a funeral pyre and rebirth as the Mother of Dragons—Clarke’s future looked bright. But after filming wrapped, Clarke faced a crisis more frightening than anything on the show: a life-threatening stroke called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. In the aftermath of an emergency surgery, she experienced verbal aphasia and was unable to say her name. “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced,” she told David Remnick. “It wasn’t that I didn’t think I was going to make it, it was that I wasn’t prepared to make it.” She feared that the impairment was permanent and would end her life as an actor. “It was in that moment I asked them to just let me die.” Clarke was still recovering from the aftermath of the stroke and the surgery when she began doing a press tour—lying down between appearances and sipping from a morphine bottle, and keeping the crisis a secret. “No one knows who the hell I am,” she recalls thinking. “I was a young girl who was given a huge opportunity. I did not for any reason want to give anyone a reason to think I was anything other than capable of fulfilling the duties they had given me. And I didn’t know what the show was at that moment. All I knew was I had a job.”

Emilia Clarke wrote about her experience for the first time in an essay for newyorker.com.

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