Emilia Clarke Says She Feared Dying ‘on Live TV’ amid Brain Surgeries

  • Emilia Clarke said she worried she’d be fired from Game of Thrones amid her brain injury
  • The actress underwent surgery for two aneurysms in 2011 and 2013
  • “Well, if I’m going to die, I better die on live TV,” Clarke told the Big Issue about her fear that she might suffer another brain hemorrhage due to the stress of acting

Emilia Clarke feared her brain injuries might have meant saying goodbye to Game of Thrones — and her own life.

While speaking to U.K. magazine the Big Issue, Clarke, 37 — who played Daenerys Targaryen in the hit HBO series from 2011 to 2019 — discussed her worries about how the two aneurysms she suffered in 2011 and 2013 would affect her career.

“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 told the outlet. 

“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 added.

Clarke told the publication she thought she might suffer another brain hemorrhage due to the stress and pressure of acting in front of so many people. She said she recalled thinking, “Well, if I’m going to die, I better die on live TV,” per the outlet.

Emilia Clarke in ‘Game of Thrones’.

Courtesy of HBO

Clarke’s brain injury recovery charity SameYou, which she founded with her mother Jennifer in 2019, has teamed up with Big Issue Recruit, a “specialist recruitment service, dedicated to supporting people who face barriers to joining the workforce into sustainable employment,” per the website.

“Having a chronic condition that diminishes your confidence in this one thing you feel is your reason to live is so debilitating and so lonely,” Clarke told the publication — which raises funds for unhoused people in the U.K. — adding: “One of the biggest things I felt with a brain injury was profoundly alone. That is what we’re trying to overcome.”

The Me Before You star also spoke about feeling like she “couldn’t carry on” amid her brain injury, admitting she was so worried about the future of her acting career that she asked medical staff to let her die, per the outlet.

“It has given me a superpower,” she said of how she sees her brain injury journey now.

Emilia Clarke after being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire at Windsor Castle, on February 21, 2024.

Andrew Matthews – Pool/Getty Images

In 2011, Clarke experienced her first aneurysm, which caused a stroke and a subarachnoid hemorrhage, not long after wrapping up filming the first season of Game of Thrones.

She ended up having brain surgery after falling very ill during a gym session, the actress wrote in a 2019 essay for The New Yorker. Clarke explained how she couldn’t remember her name two weeks later.

“I was suffering from a condition called aphasia, a consequence of the trauma my brain had suffered,” she said in the candid piece.

“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.”

Emilia Clarke.

Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty

Clarke’s aphasia ended up being temporary and she was eventually able to speak again. She then underwent a second surgery to address another aneurysm in 2013.

While speaking to PEOPLE in 2021, Clarke said that the two life-saving brain surgeries made her realize that true beauty comes from within.

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“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.

“After the surgery, because I felt so scared and under-confident, I was putting all of that into how I looked,” Clarke continued. “As I got older, I realized that people are at their most beautiful when they’re not thinking about themselves and considering their own beauty.”

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