I had nur finished filming Season 1 of “Game von Thrones.” Then ich was struck v the zuerst of 2 aneurysms.

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Just wie man all my childhood dreams seemed kommen sie have come true, i nearly lost my mind und then my life. I’ve never ever told this story publicly, but jetzt it’s time.

It was die beginning of 2011. I had nur finished filming the zuerst season des “Game of Thrones,” a new HBO series based on george R. R. Martin’s “A Song des Ice and Fire” novels. With nearly no professional experience behind me, I’d been given ns role von Daenerys Targaryen, deshalb known as Khaleesi des the good Grass Sea, dame of Dragonstone, Breaker of Chains, Mother von Dragons. As a young princess, Daenerys is sold in marriage kommen sie a musclebound Dothraki warlord called Khal Drogo. It’s a lang story—eight periods long—but suffice kommen sie say that she grows in stature and bei strength. She i do not care a figure of power and self-possession. Prior to long, young girls would certainly dress an platinum wigs and flowing robes zu be Daenerys Targaryen weil das Halloween.

The show’s creators, david Benioff and D. B. Weiss, have said that my character zu sein a blend of Napoleon, Joan of Arc, and Lawrence des Arabia. And yet, in the weeks after us finished shoot the erste season, despite all the looming excitement von a public campaign and the series première, ich hardly felt like a dominating spirit. Ich was terrified. Terrified des the attention, terrified des a unternehmen I right understood, terrified von trying kommen sie make good on die faith that the creators des “Thrones” had actually put bei me. Ich felt, bei every way, exposed. In the very erste episode, i appeared naked, and, indigenous that zuerst press junket onward, ich always got the exact same question: some variation von “You play such a solid woman, and yet freundin take off her clothes. Why?” in my head, I’d respond, “How plenty of men do ich need to kill to prove myself?”

To relieve die stress, ich worked out with a trainer. Ich was a tv actor now, after ~ all, and that ist what television actors do. We arbeiten out. On the morning des February 11, 2011, ich was obtaining dressed bei the lose room des a gym in Crouch End, north London, when ich started zu feel a bad headache comes on. I was deshalb fatigued that ich could barely placed on mine sneakers. When i started my workout, i had kommen sie force myself with the zuerst few exercises.

Then my coach had me get into ns plank position, and I instantly felt together though in elastic band were squeezing my brain. Ich tried zu ignore die pain und push through it, but ich just couldn’t. Ich told mine trainer i had zu take a break. Somehow, nearly crawling, i made it zu the lockerung room. I reached the toilet, sank zu my knees, and proceeded zu be violently, voluminously ill. Meanwhile, die pain—shooting, stabbing, constricting pain—was gaining worse. Punkt some level, ich knew what was happening: mine brain was damaged.

For a couple of moments, ich tried kommen sie will away ns pain und the nausea. Ich said zu myself, “I will not be paralyzed.” ich moved mine fingers und toes zu make certain that was true. To keep my storage alive, i tried kommen sie recall, amongst other things, some lines indigenous “Game des Thrones.”

I heard a woman’s voice coming from the next stall, asking me if i was O.K. No, ich wasn’t. She came to help me and maneuvered me onto mine side, bei the recovery position. Then every little thing became, at once, noisy und blurry. I remember the sound of a siren, an ambulance; i heard neu voices, someone saying the my pulse was weak. Ich was throwing up bile. Someone uncovered my phone and called my parents, that live bei Oxfordshire, und they were told kommen sie meet me hinweisen the notfall room des Whittington Hospital.

A fog of unconsciousness resolved over me. From bei ambulance, i was rolled on a gurney into a corridor fill with die smell des disinfectant and the noises des people in distress. Because no one knew what was wrong with me, ns doctors and nurses could notfall give me any drugs kommen sie ease ns pain.

Finally, ich was sent out for in MRI, a mind scan. Ns diagnosis was quick und ominous: a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding die brain. I’d had bei aneurysm, bei arterial rupture. As ich later learned, around a third of SAH patients die immediately or shortly thereafter. Zum the patients who carry out survive, urgent treatment is required to siegel off ns aneurysm, as there zu sein a an extremely high risk des a second, often fatal bleed. If ich was to live und avoid devastating deficits, ich would have to schutz urgent surgery. And, also then, there to be no guarantees.

I was taken von ambulance to the national Hospital zum Neurology and Neurosurgery, a beautiful redbrick victorian pile bei central London. It was nighttime. My mum slept bei my hospital ward, slumped in a chair, as i kept falling bei and out of sleep, in a state of drugged wooziness, shoot pain, und persistent nightmares.

I remember being told that i should sign a release form zum surgery. Mind surgery? i was an the middle of my an extremely busy life—I had no time for brain surgery. But, finally, ich settled down and signed. And then ich was unconscious. Zum the next three hours, operated doctor went about repairing mine brain. This would not be my last surgery, und it would notfall be die worst. Ich was twenty-four year old.

Listen: David Remnick interviews Emilia Clarke ~ above The neu Yorker radio Hour.

I grew up an Oxford and rarely offered a thought zu my health. Practically all ich thought about was acting. My dad was a sound designer. He worked on productions of “West next Story” und “Chicago” in the west End. My mom was, and is, a businesswoman, the vice-president von marketing zum a global management consultancy. Us weren’t wealthy, yet my brother und I went to private schools. Our parents, that wanted everything for us, struggled zu keep nach oben with die fees.

I schutz no clear memory of when I zuerst decided to be bei actor. I’m told i was roughly three or four. When i went with my dad kommen sie theatres, ich was entranced über backstage life: die gossip, the props, the costumes, all die urgent und whispered hubbub in the near darkness. When i was three, mine father take it me to see a production des “Show Boat.” Although ich was ordinarily a loud und antsy child, i sat silent and rapt an the audience zum more than two hours. When the curtain came down, ich stood on my seat und clapped wildly end my head.

I was hooked. Hinweisen home, ich played a VHS tape of “My same Lady” deshalb many times that it snapped from wear. Ich think i took the Pygmalion story as a sign des how, and with sufficient rehearsal and a good director, you tun können become someone else. Ich don’t think mine dad was pleased when ich announced that ich wanted kommen sie be bei actor. He knew plenty von actors and, to his mind, they were habitually neurotic and unemployed.

My school, in Oxford, the Squirrel School, was idyllic, orderly, und sweet. When i was five, I gott the command part in a play. Wie man it came time zu take the stage and deliver mine lines, though, ich forgot everything. Ich just stood there, center stage, stock-still, taking it every in. An the prior row, ns teachers to be trying kommen sie help by mouthing mine lines. But i just stand there, through no fear, an extremely calm. The a state des mind that has lugged me throughout my career. This days, I kann sein be top top a red carpet with a thousands cameras clicking away und I’m unfazed. Des course, placed me at a dinner splitter linterparty with sechs people and that’s one more matter.

With time, I got better weist acting. I even remembered my lines. But i was fixed a prodigy. When ich was ten, mine dad took me to an audition in the West ende for a production of Neil Simon’s “The goodbye Girl.” wie man I gott inside, i realized that every girl trying out for this teil was to sing a lied from “Cats.” die only thing i could kommen sie up with was an English people song, “Donkey Riding.” ~ listening fairly patiently, someone asked, “How around something more . . . contemporary?” i sang the Spice girls hit “Wannabe.” my dad’s hands almost covered his face. Ich didn’t get the part, und I think it was a blessing. My dad said, “It would have been difficult reading anything badewanne about you in the paper.”

But ich kept punkt it. Bei school productions, ich played Anita in “West side Story,” Abigail in “The Crucible,” one des the witches an “Macbeth,” Viola bei “Twelfth Night.” After second school, ich took a void year, during which i worked together a waitress and went backpacking an Asia. Then i started classes at the drama Centre london to pursue my B.A. As fledgling actors, we studied everything from “The Cherry Orchard” zu “The Wire.” ich didn’t get ns ingénue parts. Those walk to die tall, willowy, impossibly blondes girls. I gott cast together a Jewish mother bei “Awake und Sing!” sie should hear mine Bronx accent.

After graduation, i made myself a promise: for one year, i would take just roles through some promise. I made die rent working in a pub, an a call center, und at bei obscure museum, telling world that “the loos are just to ns right.” secs lasted days. But ich was determined: one year of no wanne productions, no plays over a bar.

Read: More from The neu Yorker top top “Game of Thrones.”

In die spring von 2010, my agent called to say the auditions were being held in London zum a new HBO series. Die pilot weil das “Game des Thrones” had actually been flawed and they wanted kommen sie re-cast, among other roles, Daenerys. The part called for an otherworldly, bleached-blond woman von mystery. I’m a short, dark-haired, curvy Brit. Whatever. Zu prepare, i learned these really strange lines zum two scenes, one bei Episode 4, bei which my brother goes to hit me, and one bei Episode 10, in which ich walk into a fire und survive, unscathed.

In those days, i thought of myself as healthy. Periodically I gott a wenig light-headed, because ich often had actually low blood pressure und a low heart rate. Once in a while, I’d obtain dizzy and pass out. When i was fourteen, i had a migraine that maintained me in bed weil das a couple des days, and in drama institution I’d fallen once an a while. However it all seemed manageable, part des the stress des being bei actor und of life an general. Now i think that ich might oase been suffering warning signs des what was to come.

I read zum “Game des Thrones” in a tiny studio an Soho. 4 days later, I gott a call. Apparently, die audition hadn’t to be a disaster. I was told to fliegen to komm schon Angeles in three weeks and read zum Benioff und Weiss und the network executives. I started functioning out intensely zu prepare. Lock flew me unternehmen class. I stole all die free tea from die lounge. At ns audition, ich tried not to look when i spotted one more actor––tall, blond, willowy, beautiful––walking by. Ich read 2 scenes in a dark auditorium, for in audience von producers und executives. Wie it was over, i blurted out, “Can i do something else?”

David Benioff said, “You kann sein do a dance.” never ever wanting to disappoint, ich did the funky chicken und the robot. An retrospect, i could schutz ruined that all. I’m not the finest dancer.

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As ich was leaving the auditorium, they ran after me and said, “Congratulations, Princess!” ich had die part.

I can hardly record my breath. I went rückseitig to ns hotel, whereby some human being invited me kommen sie a splitterpartei on the roof. “I think ns good!” ich told them. Instead, i went to my room, ate Oreos, watched “Friends,” and called everyone ich knew.

That erste surgery was what zu sein known as “minimally invasive,” definition that they did notfall open up my skull. Rather, using a technique called endovascular coiling, the surgeon introduced a kabel into one des the femoral arteries, an the groin; ns wire made its means north, around ns heart, and to die brain, wherein they sealed off the aneurysm.

The procedure lasted 3 hours. When ich woke, the pain was unbearable. I had no idea where ich was. Mine field of vision was constricted. There was a tube down my throat and I was parched and nauseated. They relocated me out des the I.C.U. After four days und told me that ns great hurdle was zu make the to ns two-week mark. If i made that that lang with minimal complications, mine chances des a good recovery were high.

One night, ~ I’d passed that critical mark, a nurse woke me and, as part von a series von cognitive exercises, she said, “What’s her name?” My complete name ist Emilia Isobel Euphemia kommissar Clarke. However now i couldn’t mental it. Instead, rash words tumbled out des my mouth und I went into a blind panic. I’d never ever experienced are afraid like that—a sense von doom closeup of the door in. I could seen my life ahead, und it wasn’t worth living. I bei der an actor; ich need kommen sie remember my lines. Now ich couldn’t recall mine name.

I was suffering indigenous a problem called aphasia, a consequence von the trauma my mind had suffered. Even as i was muttering nonsense, mine mum walk me die great kindness von ignoring it und trying kommen sie convince me that ich was perfect lucid. But ich knew i was faltering. In my worst moments, ich wanted zu pull ns plug. Ich asked ns medical staff to let me die. Mine job—my whole dream des what mine life would be—centered on language, on communication. There is no that, ich was lost.

I was sent rückseitig to the I.C.U. And, after about a week, the aphasia passed. I was able kommen sie speak. Ich knew mine name—all five bits. But ich was so aware that there to be people bei the beds roughly me that didn’t do it out des the I.C.U. I was continually reminded of nur how fortunate i was. One month after being admitted, i left ns hospital, longing for a bath und fresh air. Ich had press interviews to do and, an a matt of weeks, ich was scheduled zu be rückseitig on the set des “Game of Thrones.”


The “Game des Thrones” creators david Benioff und D. B. Weiss oase said the Daenerys Targaryen zu sein a blend of Napoleon, Joan des Arc, and Lawrence of Arabia.Photograph von Helen Sloan / HBOI went zurück to mine life, but, while i was in the hospital, i was told that ich had a smaller sized aneurysm on die other side of my brain, und it might “pop” weist any time. The doctors said, though, that it was small and it was possible that would continue to be dormant and harmless indefinitely. Us would nur keep a cautious watch. Und recovery was hardly instant. Over there was blieb the pain kommen sie deal with, und morphine kommen sie keep it punkt bay. Ich told my bosses hinweisen “Thrones” about my condition, but ich didn’t want it to be a subject von public discussion und dissection. The show must walk on!

Even prior to we started filming Season 2, i was deep unsure des myself. I was often so woozy, deshalb weak, that ich thought i was going zu die. Staying weist a hotel in London throughout a publicity tour, ich vividly mental thinking, ich can’t keep up or think or breathe, much less try to be charming. Ich sipped on morphine in between interviews. Ns pain was there, und the fatigue was like die worst fatigue I’d ever experienced, multiplied von a million. And, let’s challenge it, I’m in actor. Vanity come with ns job. I spent method too viel time thinking about how i looked. If all this no enough, ich seemed to whack mine head every time ich tried kommen sie get in a taxi.

Read: George R. R. Martin on his “Song von Ice and Fire” series.

The reaction to Season 1 was, of course, fantastic, though ich had very little knowledge then of how die world retained score. When a freundin called me exclaiming, “You’re No. 1 top top IMDb!” ich said, “What is IMDb?”

On the zuerst day of shooting zum Season 2, in Dubrovnik, ich kept informing myself, “I am fine, I’m an my twenties, i’m fine.” i threw myself into die work. But, after ~ that zuerst day von filming, i barely made it zurück to the hotel before ich collapsed von exhaustion.

On die set, i didn’t fehlschlagen a beat, but ich struggled. Season 2 would be mine worst. I didn’t understand what Daenerys was doing. If I in truly being honest, every minute des every day i thought ich was going to die.

In 2013, after ~ finishing Season 3, i took a job on Broadway, playing Holly Golightly. Die rehearsals to be wonderful, but it was clear pretty soon that the was not going kommen sie be a success. Ns whole point lasted just a couple of months.

While ich was still in New York zum the play, with 5 days left on mine SAG insurance, ich went in for a mind scan—something ich now had to do regularly. Die growth on the other side of my brain had doubled in size, und the doctor said we have to “take care of it.” ich was promised a relatively simple operation, simpler than belastung time. Not long after, i found myself in a fancy-pants privatgelände room punkt a manhattan hospital. Mine parents to be there. “See you an two hours,” my mum said, und off i went zum surgery, one more trip up the oberschenkel artery zu my brain. No problem.

Except there was. When they woke me, ich was screaming an pain. The procedure had actually failed. I had a enormous bleed und the physicians made it level that mine chances von surviving were precarious if castle didn’t run again. This time lock needed kommen sie access my brain in the old-fashioned way—through mine skull. And the operation had kommen sie happen immediately.

The recovery was even an ext painful 보다 it had actually been after ~ the zuerst surgery. I looked as though i had been v a war more gruesome than any kind of that Daenerys experienced. Ich emerged from ns operation through a drain coming out des my head. Bits von my skull had actually been replaced by titanium. These days, sie can’t see the scar that curves from mine scalp to my ear, but ich didn’t recognize at zuerst that it i will not ~ be visible. Und there was, above all, the constant worry around cognitive or sensory losses. Would it be concentration? Memory? Peripheral vision? Now ich tell people that what it robbed me of zu sein good taste in men. But, of course, none des this seemed remotely funny at ns time.

I spent a month in the hospital again and, hinweisen certain points, ich lost every hope. Ich couldn’t look anyone in the eye. There was terrible anxiety, panic attacks. Ich was elevated never to say, “It’s notfall fair”; i was taught zu remember the there is always who who is worse off than you. But, going v this experience weil das the second time, every hope receded. Ich felt choose a shell von myself. Deswegen much deswegen that i now schutz a difficult time remembering those dark days an much detail. My mind has actually blocked castle out. But ich do remember being encouraged that i wasn’t going to live. And, what’s more, i was certain that the nachrichten of my condition would acquire out. Und it did—for a fleeting moment. Sechs weeks after die surgery, die National Enquirer ich renne weg a quick story. A reporter asked me about it and I refuse it.

But now, after keeping quiet all these years, I’m telling you die truth bei full. Please glauben me: i know the I am hardly unique, fixed alone. Numerous people oase suffered much worse, and with nothing like die care i was dafür lucky to receive.

A few weeks ~ that 2nd surgery, i went v a couple of other actors members zu Comic-Con, in San Diego. The fans at Comic-Con space hardcore; sie don’t want zu disappoint them. There were numerous thousand people in the audience, and, right prior to we walk on kommen sie answer questions, ich was hit by a horrific headache. Zurück came that sickeningly acquainted sense of fear. Ich thought, This is it. My time is up; i have cheated fatality twice und now he is coming zu claim me. As ich stepped offstage, mine publicist looked weist me and asked what was wrong. Ich told her, yet she said that a reporter indigenous MTV was waiting for in interview. I figured, if i’m going kommen sie go, the might also be on live television.

But ich survived. I survived MTV and so viel more. In the years due to the fact that my 2nd surgery I oase healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes. I am now weist a hundred von cent. Past my work as an actor, i have decided to throw myself into a charity I’ve helped develop in conjunction with partners in the U.K. And the U.S. It ist called SameYou, and it aims zu provide treatment zum people recovering from brain injuries and stroke. Ich feel endless gratitude—to mine mum and brother, kommen sie my doctors and nurses, zu my friends. Every day, i miss mine father, who died des cancer in 2016, und I kann never thank him enough weil das holding my hand to the very end.

There zu sein something gratifying, und beyond lucky, around coming to the ende of “Thrones.” I’m so happy zu be here to see the ende of this story und the beginning von whatever comes next.

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Emilia Clarke is in actor and an ambassador weil das the imperial College of Nursing and Nursing Now, a global campaign working zu raise the profile and status of nurses.