Emilia Clarke Feared Job Loss and Death from Brain Injuries on TV

Emilia Clarke Feared Job Loss and Death from Brain Injuries on TV

Emilia Clarke, renowned for her role as Daenerys Targaryen in the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones,” recently opened up about the harrowing experience of dealing with brain injuries while working on the show. The actress, now 37, revealed that she feared not only for her job but also for her life due to the severe health challenges she faced.

In a candid interview with the U.K. magazine the Big Issue, Clarke discussed the immense pressure and anxiety that came with her two aneurysms, which occurred in 2011 and 2013. These medical emergencies significantly impacted her sense of self and professional confidence. “When you have a brain injury, because it alters your sense of self on such a dramatic level, all of the insecurities you have going into the workplace quadruple overnight,” Clarke shared.

The actress recounted her initial fear of being fired from “Game of Thrones” due to her condition. “The first fear we all had was: ‘Oh my God, am I going to get fired? Am I going to get fired because they think I’m not capable of completing the job?’” she said. The stress and pressure of acting in front of millions only exacerbated her fears. Clarke even recalled thinking, “Well, if I’m going to die, I better die on live TV.”

Clarke’s journey with brain injuries began in 2011, shortly after wrapping up the first season of “Game of Thrones.” She experienced her first aneurysm, which led to a stroke and a subarachnoid hemorrhage. This life-threatening event required immediate brain surgery. Clarke described the terrifying aftermath in a 2019 essay for The New Yorker, where she detailed suffering from aphasia, a condition that left her unable to remember her name or speak coherently. “In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug,” she wrote. “I asked the medical staff to let me die. My job—my entire dream of what my life would be—centered on language, on communication. Without that, I was lost.”

Fortunately, Clarke’s aphasia was temporary, and she eventually regained her ability to speak. However, her ordeal was far from over. In 2013, she underwent a second surgery to address another aneurysm. This procedure was initially promised to be simpler than the first, but complications arose, leading to a massive bleed that required an emergency operation through her skull. The recovery was excruciating, and Clarke emerged with a drain coming out of her head and parts of her skull replaced by titanium.

Despite these challenges, Clarke kept her condition a secret from most of her “Game of Thrones” colleagues and the public. She returned to the set just weeks after her first brain bleed, determined to continue her work. However, the fear of another hemorrhage loomed large. “Every minute of every day I thought I was going to die,” she admitted.

Clarke’s resilience and determination to continue her career are nothing short of remarkable. She even took on a role on Broadway in 2013, playing Holly Golightly, despite her ongoing health struggles. While the play was not a success, it demonstrated Clarke’s unwavering commitment to her craft.

In the years following her surgeries, Clarke has made significant strides in her recovery. She now feels “a hundred per cent” and has channeled her experiences into helping others. In 2019, she founded the charity SameYou with her mother, Jennifer. The organization aims to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and strokes. Clarke’s work with SameYou has been recognized with an MBE, an honor she shares with her mother.

Reflecting on her journey, Clarke told PEOPLE in 2021 that her brain surgeries made her realize that true beauty comes from within. “The happy moments and being happy is what you’re going to see on your death bed. You’re not going to remember the times when you took that super cute selfie,” she said. Clarke emphasized that people are at their most beautiful when they are not focused on their appearance but on their inner selves.

Emilia Clarke’s story is one of incredible strength and perseverance. Despite facing life-threatening health challenges, she continued to pursue her passion for acting and has used her experiences to make a positive impact on others. Her journey serves as an inspiration to many, demonstrating that even in the face of adversity, it is possible to overcome and thrive.

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