Emilia Clarke & Holly Golightly: The Sci-Fi Star Talks Playing One Of America's Iconic Heroines
NEW YORK — Emilia Clarke was auditioning to play one of America's most iconic heroines and wanted to impress. Her first scene required her to bite an apple.
"I was like, `Oh, yeah. I'm going to go all Daniel Day-Lewis on them. I'm going to bring my own apple!" the British actress recently recalled.
Everything was going well in the London rehearsal room until the character takes a bite. "I took this almighty hunk. I literally took half the apple in this one mouthful," she says, laughing.
As her scene partner and the director watched, stunned, Clarke kept going, despite a mouthful of fruit. "I remember being, `Well, I guess I have to kind of go there.'"
Whether it was due to her exuberance or sheer commitment, or a mixture of both, Clarke won the part, and what a part it is: Holly Golightly in a stage adaptation of Truman Capote's classic 1958 novella, "Breakfast at Tiffany's."
"I still don't think I really do realize the enormity of it," says Clarke, who will be making her Broadway debut – actually, her first professional stage debut – in the role made famous in film by Audrey Hepburn.
"It's funny, a lot of actors I've spoken to have sort of said, `Oh, it's really brave that you're doing it,'" she says. "I'm like, `What? Are you kidding me?' This would never have been a choice. It's a 100 percent yes. You don't say `maybe' to that."
Clarke, a petite, stunning brunette with a wide smile, has come to the role from what seems like the other side of the galaxy. For the past few years she's been playing the platinum-haired Daenerys Targaryen in the fantasy adventure saga "Game of Thrones," a series adapted from George R.R. Martin's novel series "A Song of Ice and Fire."
Last year, viewership climbed to rank as HBO's third most popular show of all time, averaging 11.6 million viewers weekly across all the company's platforms. Season three begins at the end of the month. Playing Daenerys has helped propel the 25-year-old Clarke, who is known on the show as The Mother of Dragons, into a star.
"She's the reason why I'm doing `Breakfast at Tiffany's'!" says Clarke. "I don't know how they connect and I don't know how I've fooled these people into thinking I can do both of them. But it's been – and continues to be – the most incredible roller coaster."
Fans of the Blake Edwards film will find this Golightly is very different from the one that made Hepburn a fashion icon, with her ball gowns, long gloves, elaborate pearl chokers and trademark cigarette holder.
The play's creative team returned to the time period that author Capote originally set his story, meaning during World War II, not the more glamorous 1960s of the movie. Playwright Richard Greenberg has made it truer to the grittier subject of the novella, which is more explicit in its exploration of the relationship between a gay man and a straight call girl.
"I almost think that `Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of those films that people know for the image and are unaware of the history and are unaware of the subtext of it as well. We don't shy away from that in the play. That's the beauty of it, I think," she says.
"In among the dirt is where you'll find the hope. It can only shine out in the glorious way that it does in the play if it's surrounded in murky waters."
Making things even harder is that Clarke is a huge Hepburn fan, who recalls watching her in "My Fair Lady" multiple times. And even though she has built her own Golightly, she still feels Hepburn's shadow.
"Audrey Hepburn inspired me, Emilia Clarke. That's something that's in my blood, that I can't ever get rid of. So whenever I approach a part, I'm taking my own history with me, I'm taking my own experiences with me."
Her co-star, Cory Michael Smith, who is making his Broadway debut in the role of Fred, says Clarke makes the role her own: "She's so marvelous and bright. You don't even see the shadow. The shadow's gone."
Clarke, a 2009 graduate of the Drama Centre School in London, grew up on a TV diet of "I Love Lucy" and "Cheers." She stays fit with yoga and Pilates, and unwinds by listening to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" audio book.
One thing that Golightly and her "Game of Thrones" characters share is intensity – and that includes some nudity, something Clarke says in both cases isn't gratuitous.
With "Game of Thrones," Clarke says being stripped down is necessary to understand her character's pain and heartbreak. In "Breakfast at Tiffany's," Golightly jumps into a bath with Fred. ("My dad has seen it maybe three times now and every time, he's like, `I don't see anything!'")
"The last thing I want to be known as is That-Chick-Who-Gets-Her-Clothes-Off. That's the very last thing I'd like anyone to ever say about me," she says. "I would hope – I would so, from the bottom of my heart, hope – that people wouldn't come and see the play just to cop a look at a young girl stepping into a bath."
Clarke's other acting credits include a guest spot on the British TV series "Doctors" and a role in a Jurassic Park-esque TV movie for Syfy called "Triassic Attack."
She got word that she'd landed the Golightly role a few days after that apple-filled audition. She was at a vegetarian restaurant in London when her agent called. "I freaked out, spilled the smoothie everywhere," she says, still giddy at the memory. "Genuinely, probably, the happiest day of my life so far."
Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
The revival of Annie is currently in its first year on Broadway, directed by James Lapine at the Palace Theater. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images). <em><strong>Correction: </strong>An earlier version of this slideshow listed the Palace Theater as the first revival of 'Annie.' We regret the error.</em>
The Book Of Mormon
The Book of Mormon, by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, is currently in its third year on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theater. The show opened in London and is currently on its first national tour. Its ticket sales have broken records on Broadway, London, and across the nation. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
Hands On A Hard Body
This theater image released by The Hartman Group shows the cast during a performance of "Hands on a Hard Body," at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York and featuring songs co-written by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio. (AP Photo/The Hartman Group, Chad Batka)
This undated theater image released by National Theatre of Scotland shows Alan Cumming in "Macbeth." In the play, Cumming appears as a patient in a white-tiled mental hospital for whom the plot of "Macbeth is sort of a schizophrenic nightmare. Producers said Friday that the Tony Award winning Scottish actor will bring his one-man Macbeth to Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre beginning April 7. It will run through June 30. (AP Photo/National Theatre of Scotland, Manuel Harlan)
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
Scarlett Johansson is starring in a revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Richard Rogers Theater on Broadway. It opens on January 17, 2013 and closes on March 30th. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP)
The revival of Chicago is currently in its sixteenth year on Broadway at the Ambassador. A production is also on tour. (AP Photo/The Publicity Office, Jeremy Daniel)
Castmembers partake in the 'Kinky Boots' Broadway Sneak Peek at Al Hirschfeld Theatre on February 28, 2013 in New York City. The show opens on April 4, 2013. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
This theater image released by The Hartman Group shows Holland Taylor as former Texas Gov. Ann Richards during a performance of "Ann." Taylor, perhaps best known for playing the feisty grandmother on the CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men," has written and stars in a one-woman show that debuts on Broadway this month. (AP Photo/The Hartman Group)
Breakfast At Tiffany's
This theater image released by The O+M Company shows Cory Michael Smith, left, and Emilia Clarke in a scene from "Breakfast at Tiffany's," performing at the Cort Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/The O+M Company, Nathan Johnson Photography)
This theater publicity image released by Boneau/Bryan-Brown shows the four actresses who share the title role in "Matilda The Musical," from left, Bailey Ryon, Milly Shapiro, Sophia Gennusa, and Oona Laurence on stage at the Shubert Theatre in New York. The show opens on April 11, 2013 at Shubert Theatre. (AP Photo/Boneau/Bryan-Brown, Joan Marcus)
I'll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers
Bette Midler will star in John Logan's new play I'll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers in the spring, marking the first time the Grammy, Tony and Golden Globe winner has been on Broadway in 30 years. The show opens April 24, 2013 at a Shubert theatre to be announced later. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision)
The first Broadway revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita, starring Ricky Martin, Michael Cerveris and Elena Roger is in its second year on Broadway. The production will close on January 26th, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, File)
Jersey Boys,, based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is in its seventh year at the August Wilson theater Broadway. The show has a national tour as well as productions in Las Vegas, London, Australia, South Africa, and Singapore. (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)
Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana appear at the curtain call for the Broadway premiere of "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella" on Sunday, March 3, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
This publicity photo provided by O & M Co. shows David Hyde Pierce, left, and Sigourney Weaver in "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike." All kinds of things are flipped around in the playwright, Christopher Durang's utterly refreshing farce "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," which has happily made the leap from off-Broadway to open Thursday, March 14, 2013, at the Golden Theatre. (AP Photo/O and M Co., Carol Rosegg)
The Lion King
The Lion King, based on the popular Disney movie, is in its sixteenth year on Broadway at the Minskoff Theater. Other production locations include a national tour, London, Australia, Ireland, Brazil, Spain, Germany, and Japan. (AP/Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau, Darrin Bush)
Tom Hanks will play a gutsy New York City newspaper columnist when he makes his debut on Broadway in the spring. Producers of Nora Ephron's play "Lucky Guy" announced that Hanks will play Mike McAlary in the stage biography. Hanks, a two-time Oscar winner, had been in negotiations for the role when Ephron died this summer. Previews begin March 1 at the Broadhurst Theatre and an opening night is set for April 1. (AP Photo/Starpix, Marion Curtis, file)
This March 5, 2013 photo shows Berry Gordy posing for a portrait in front of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York. For Berry Gordy, conquering Broadway is the next - and by his own admission, last - major milestone of a magical, musical career. The 83-year-old Motown Records founder is taking his story and that of his legendary label to the Great White Way. "Motown: The Musical," opens on April 14, 2013. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
This undated publicity photo provided by American Repertory Theater shows Matthew James Thomas, left, as Pippin and Rachel Bay Jones as Catherine in a production of "Pippin," at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. The show will open at Broadway's Music Box Theatre on april 25, 2013. (AP Photo/American Repertory Theater, Michael J. Lutch)
Mamma Mia, based on the music of ABBA, is currently in its twelfth year on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater. Other productions include London, China, and Moscow, with International, French, Japanese, and Korean tours. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
Mary Poppins, based on the popular Disney movie is currently in its seventh year on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater. The show is also on a national tour. The Broadway production will close on March 3rd. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
Newsies, based on the popular Disney movie is in its second year on Broadway. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Nice Work If You Can Get It
Nice Work If You Can Get It, with an Ira Gershwin score, is in its second year on Broadway at the Imperial Theater, starring Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara. The production will launch a national tour in the fall of 2013. (AP Photo/Boneau/Bryan-Brown, Joan Marcus)
Once, based on the indie film, is in its second year on Broadway at the Bernard B Jacobs Theater. It won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical. (AP Photo/Boneau/Bryan-Brown, Joan Marcus)
Phantom Of The Opera
Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom Of The Opera is currently celebrating its 25th year on Broadway at the Majestic Theater. It is the longest running show on Broadway Other production locations include London, Las Vegas, Asia Pacific, South Africa and Budapest. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan, file)
The Nance, starring Nathan Lane, opened at the Lyceum Theatre on April 15, 2013. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
Rock Of Ages
Rock Of Ages, a jukebox musical of 80's rock songs is currently in its fourth year on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theater. The show is currently on tour. Other production locations include Las Vegas and London. (Photo by Paul Kolnik via Getty Images)
Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark
Spider-Man is currently in its third year on Broadway at the Foxwoods Theater. A national tour has been announced. (AP Photo/Mark Kennedy)
Wicked is in its tenth year on Broadway at the Gershwin Theater. The show is on a national tour. Other production locations include London and Holland. (AP Photo /Joan Marcus, File)
"The Trip to Bountiful"
This theater publicity image released by The Hartman Group shows Vanessa Williams, left, and Cuba Gooding Jr., during a performance of "The Trip to Bountiful" at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/The Hartman Group, Joan Marcus)