The Mother of Dragons was very nearly played by a different actress.
While “Game of Thrones” fans came to know and love Emilia Clarke in the role of Daenerys Targaryen, in the show’s original pilot, the character was played by actress Tamzin Merchant.
“Shooting that pilot was a really great lesson,” Merchant told Entertainment Weekly in a new interview. “It was an affirmation about listening to my instincts and following them, because I tried to back out of that situation and, during the contract process, I did back out.”
She added, “I was talked back into it by some persuasive people. Then I found myself naked and afraid in Morocco and riding a horse that was clearly much more excited to be there than I was.”
In an EW oral history of the original, scrapped “Thrones” pilot, it was revealed that during filming of the scene featuring Merchant on a horse, the horse got an erection.
“It was a lesson that if my guts are telling me a story isn’t something I’m excited to tell, then I shouldn’t try to be excited just because other people are telling me that I should be excited,” the actress continued.
“I didn’t have any training as an actor, I only have my instincts. And what excites me and what drives me is a compelling story and a compelling character,” she added. “So for me, ‘Game of Thrones’ was never that. I think it’s a testament to Emilia Clarke for making that role iconic — she was obviously excited to tell that story, and she was epic and excellent. But for me, it wasn’t in my heart to tell it.”
Talking about seeing Clarke get the role, Merchant said, “It was kind of funny riding to auditions on buses with Emilia Clarke’s face on it. Like, ‘Oh, my mode of transport is quite interesting today!’ It’s been a thing I felt like I watched unfold and it’s been fantastic for the film industry in Northern Ireland and Croatia, and that has been really great.”