GAME OF THRONES Nathalie Emmanuel Interview

Daenerys's loyal servant Missandei talks about Westeros and her new audiobook, The Killing Woods.

How are you enjoying being part of Game of Thrones?
I love the show; I love the characters. For me to be a part of it is very special. It's a very rare thing for an actor to be able to star in something that they are such a huge fan of themselves.

I love playing strong women and love Missandei as a character. I think she has a lot of secrets behind those eyes. She is very intelligent – to have survived what she has done and to have come into the service of Daenerys says a lot about her. There is a vulnerability about her as well though. She has been subjected to some awful things.

Each job I want to push me in a different direction. Through Game Of Thrones I’ve learnt to ride a horse. I never expected that. I was terrified of them!

Missandei serves as a translator for Daenerys. Has learning a fictional language been a challenge?
I have been challenged with the fictional languages I have to learn. I wasn't terrible at languages at school — I got an A in French, so I did well enough — but I didn’t enjoy them. I’m not even sure if that plays into how well you learn a fictional language!

I have to speak a fully constructed language called "Valyrian". It is gender specific and even has separate dialects within it. The construction of the sentences follows a formula as they would in any language. David J Peterson created the language. I always talk about him because I think he is a genius. My sentences are sent to me in MP3 recordings. David will say the line and then break it down phonetically. I then have to learn it syllable by syllable. You need to pronounce each word the same way each time.

Had you read the books or seen the TV show before you auditioned for the role ?
I was a huge fan of Game Of Thrones . I hadn’t read the books, but had watched the series from the beginning. Roxanne McKee, who I’d worked with in Hollyoaks , was in it and a friend of mine told me about it and said I should watch it. I was hooked instantly. Literally every Monday people could not call me between 9 and 10 o’clock.

I’m now reading the books in sync with the series. I don’t want to get ahead – I am still a fan. I want to know what is going happen, but also I don’t want to pre-empt anything in terms of my character or storyline. I like to keep a little bit of the mystery. It helps to maintain the adventure, and Game Of Thrones is such an adventure.

How long will you spend filming on season four?
It all depends as it's all location-based. Last season I spent a month filming in Morocco. That was a treat.

Did you ever dream this is where you would be with your career?
I had no idea. It is all a process – about trying to get more experience and more accomplished in what I am doing. But for me to be sat here realising I’m on Game Of Thrones – one of the biggest shows on HBO. Wow!

Game Of Thrones has a huge cast, but you are only acting with a small group of them. Is that a bit weird?
Yes, really strange. I love the people that I work with, who are amazing and lovely, but then there is this whole other group of people equally lovely and amazing that I never get the chance to meet.

Saying that, we have met in Los Angeles at various Games Of Thrones -related events. It is really interesting because there are all these various storylines going on, but then everyone gets together and it is as if we know each other already. Everyone gets on really well, and the cast and crew are just a big family. They are just so lovely.

Have you met George RR Martin?
I've spoken to him. It was after we'd finished filming, at the premiere of season three in Los Angeles, back in March. He is just such a character – such an interesting man.

What was really exciting for me is that my character in the book is only nine and they have aged her up significantly and, according to the producers, George couldn’t understand why they were doing this. But when I met him he told me I was doing fantastic job of bringing his character to life. It was really overwhelming. That is priceless as an actress.

And he gave me some Game Of Thrones merchandise — a little coin from Westeros. That was amazing. It's a Stark coin. It's very cool.

The Game Of Thrones TV series has raised a few eyebrows over its levels of violence and nudity. Does that bother you?
It is a form of entertainment at the end of the day. We are creating art. We are creating stories and you have to be realistic. That is the thing about Game Of Thrones . The nudity is there in the books – it's not created for the show, it's in the pages. The raw situations, the violence and the sex is all there. To be true to the books they need to keep that in.

The series is also renowned for its obsessive fans. Have you had any odd experiences with them?
No, not at all. I have had some tweets from fans in Valyrian and I’m not quite sure what they mean, but it's all just love for the show. I was really flattered to see that fans had dressed up as Missandei at the Comic-Con in San Diego recently. I was over the moon. I immediately phoned my sister I was so pleased. It's the small things like that that really make me happy.

You've recently been cast in Fast & Furious 7 . Do you want to continue working in America?
Absolutely! I am represented out in the States now and have a great team out there. That has all happened as a result of Game Of Thrones. It's fantastic. It has opened me up to an audience who would never have otherwise heard of Nathalie Emmanuel. I would love to do more work in the States, but I like working at home in the UK so to work here and there would be the plan.

You're playing Emily in the audiobook of Lucy Christopher's murder-mystery The Killing Woods. How have you found the experience?
It's very different. When you are working with a large cast, there is energy there. You react to, and can bounce off, what other people are doing so you have to have your wits about you and are constantly listening and concentrating. With the audiobook I was alone in the studio, so very much in my own head and focused on the reading and how I am going to play it. It is almost like a one-man show.

What first attracted you to The Killing Woods ?
I hadn’t heard of the book until AudioGO approached me about recording it. So I read it and thought, 'Wow, this is fantastic!' It was kind of a revelation to me. I am an avid reader and I was shocked I hadn’t come across it before. It's so gripping. It keeps throwing in these curve balls and really keeps you guessing.

What I enjoy so much about it is that you have these images of the characters and then as the book evolves you start to see different sides of their personalities. For instance, Emily thinks of murder victim Ashlee as being this perfect girl and then as she hears certain things about her she can’t believe it. Why would she be drinking in the wood? With every character, they are put under the microscope and you start to see what they are really like.

There's been talk of The Killing Woods being the UK's answer to popular YA franchises such as Twilight or The Hunger Games . Is that fair?
Absolutely! It is such a tragic story. Everybody loves a good story – especially when it is laced with all this mystery. It's so gripping. Things come away, slowly but surely. You read something about one character and think, “Wait, that's a bit fishy!”, and keep reading.

Especially with Emily, she loves her dad and she cannot get her head around the fact that he has been accused of killing her friend, Ashlee. There are so many reasons why she should believe it, but, bless her, she doesn’t. Throughout the whole saga she knows it just isn’t right. At some points you are even thinking, “Come on, you have to accept this. You are being too optimistic here”.

As much as there is mystery and scandal, there is a really honest story about a daughter who wants to prove her dad’s innocence and will not rest until she does. I think that is a lovely sentiment.

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher is out now from AudioGO, and is available as a digital download or CD , priced £7.99.

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