SPOLER ALERT: The world of Game of Thrones is so vast, so incredibly intricate, there is no central figure to anchor its interminable narrative. There is no Frodo with a ring or Jack Sparrow chasing treasure. Instead, there is a nexus of villains and heroes, many of which seamlessly assuming the role of the other. Within that constellation shines a bright star, a slave turned trusted advisor to one of the most powerful of players. In a world where the night is dark and full of terrors, Missandei was an ardent light.
This breakout character from Game of Thrones was portrayed by the beautiful and effervescent, Nathalie Emmanuel. She is by no means a novice to the game (the Hollywood one, of course). Born in Essex, England, she was introduced to singing, dancing and acting at the age of three. By the time she reached the decrepit age of ten, Nathalie starred as young Nala in the West End production of The Lion King. She continued to pick up renowned titles such as Hollyoaks, Misfits, The Fast and the Furious films, as well as The Maze Runner series. Nathalie is rare; she is unequivocally beautiful, but fulfills a signature brand of smarts and empathy that's also slight and powerful. Her work is dimensional. She's established a poignant tone, capturing you with emotions you don't want to feel. And then, she keeps you there. It's evident that she sets out to do things different, an earnest testament to her imaginative ability to be clever and cunning. Although she arrived a long time ago, we are just starting to catch up.
After spending seven years in the role of an allegiant advisor, Nathalie is ready to take on more sovereign duties. This summer, she will be starring as the lead in Mindy Kaling's adaptation of Four Weddings And A Funeral. Unlike the original, the miniseries will be streamed on Hulu, embracing a more modern approach with an exceptionally diverse cast. The narrative ensues the reunion of four friends at a London wedding, but after a shocking revelation at the alter, their lives are never the same again. There are twists, turns, love affairs, and of course, four weddings and a funeral. We can also look forward to Nathalie starring alongside Ron Livingston in the unconventional comedy Holly Slept Over. The story follows the couple's struggles in trying to conceive and the evoked tensions when an old college roommate stays over for the weekend. Given her outstanding credentials, we are here for anything she touches. And we are thrilled to see her at the forefront of incredible projects, regardless of whether winter is coming or not.
Nathalie Emmanuel, First of her Name and the Only of her Kind. Wherever the world takes her, we will most loyally bend the knee.
Thank you so much for chatting with us. As we are doing this interview, the Game of Thrones series has ended, and we witnessed Missandei's grievous death at Cersei's doing. Having embodied her for six seasons, how does it feel to let her go?
It's sad. It's strange to say goodbye to Missandei because it's like saying goodbye to a really pivotal part of my life and becoming who I am today. Yeah, it's sad, but you know what? I just feel like we did this really beautiful thing together. People were so invested and engaged, and that doesn't happen very often. As you develop and understand who you are, what you want and also being challenged and stretched as an actor, all of that happened while I was playing Missandei. It's bittersweet, but I'm ready to see what the next chapter brings.
Missandei was truly a beloved character, and her death raised a bit of controversy. It's been described as "an ebony pawn set between two white queens.” What are your thoughts on this, do you think there is any truth to this idea?
Honestly, I think those opinions are valid because you see it all the time in TV and film. I guess when I read the script, I didn't necessarily regard it as that. Missandei has been a very close confidante of Daenerys, one of the most, if not the most powerful players in this world. It wasn't a huge surprise to me that she was somehow targeted. Capturing someone in Daenerys' close team would definitely be a good thing for her enemy. The truth of it is, even though Missandei was sweet, kind, and a harmless person, she was no safer than anyone else. She was an enslaved person who died in chains, rallying her friend to war. I think the tragedy of that was very deliberate just to show the brutality of the world of Game of Thrones. I saw her as this strong woman of color in her final moment. She went out in a way that was actually really impactful to the course of the story. I quite enjoyed the fact that this very quiet, held, very collected woman's final words in the show were anger. They were almost ferocious. I can understand that feeling because we've seen it so many times in so many projects where it's usually a person of color whose sacrificed in order to give motivation to our lead character, who is usually white. I understand, I've seen it happen so many times myself I can't keep count. But for me playing this character, that's really not how I saw her story ending. I saw her basically fulfilling the promise that she made, right until the very end. I was really proud of that.
We agree. Her last words, "Dracarys" were very powerful. It must have been such a joy working with this incredible cast and crew.
Gosh, there's so many. I worked with such an amazing cast and crew. I just love everybody from the bottom of my heart, honestly. They're such a wonderful group of people and so excellent. To me, watching some of these actors work and people in all the different departments, everyone taught me something about being brilliant. It was such an amazing environment to be in.
Can you share with us one of your favorite behind-the-scenes moments?
To be honest with you, my favorite memory, and it's not even a “filming behind-the-scenes” memory, it was actually after our big wrap party that we had last summer. It was all very lovely, but there were a lot of people that we as the cast, we didn't really know. It was this intimate group just chatting, eating food and having drinks. We were basically there all night, and then the sun came up over the beach. For me, that was such a profound symbolic moment. Sunrises, for me, represent new beginnings. We were all sat there, just watching this beautiful sky happen at the end of this beautiful thing we'd done. We were all witnessing it together. It was really emotional.
In preparing for the end, we actually binged the entire series again from beginning to end. What shows are you binging on these days?
Wow, that's quite the commitment. At the moment, I've been binging She's Gotta Have It on Netflix. To me, I've been really excited because there have been so many shows that have predominately black and brown leads. I'm not very good at being current because I'm usually just busy when the thing happens. I think I watched Breaking Bad three years after it played or something like that. When it was still on, I binge-watched Broad City a lot. It's just very exciting to me when you see two brilliant female comedians just being hilarious. I'm such a fan of those two.
They are fantastic, we are big fans as well. Tell us, what inspired you to pursue acting? Was there a moment that made you realize this is what you wanted to do?
To be honest, I loved it. I just did it because it was fun. My mum specifically got me into dancing because I was just a really crazy child and was quite shy. Dropping me off at school, even at relatives' houses or any sort of thing that meant I was away from her was just torment. She was like, "Oh my God, this child". It helped me gain a bit of confidence and independence from my mum, which was really important.
If you could go back and give the younger version of yourself a piece of wisdom, what would it be?
Oh, God. It would be an essay! Mostly, follow your intuition, your instincts. Follow them because you're mostly right. Also, don't be afraid to speak up, because when I learned how to and when I did, it always served me better than if I kept my mouth shut. In addition to that point, I'd tell her, don't do anything or allow anybody around you that makes you feel bad. A lot of the time I think as young women, and as a person of color, we often just internalize bad behavior that we experience around us. Not necessarily directed at us, but sometimes it is directed to you, and you've learned to not be a problem. You internalize it and you take that on, and actually, you don't have to tolerate it in any shape or form. I think once I learned that, I feel like that's when I really got my wings a little bit and was able to fly. I managed to create a life for myself that I feel really safe in with the people around me. As soon as I learned that, I think that was a game changer. What comes with that is your voice, and being really engaged with your instincts.
What is one thing that your fans would be surprised to know about you?
I have some quite interesting hobbies! I'm really into cross-stitch. It's really fun. I'm also trying to get into calligraphy, and I own a series of quills. I do actually have a feather one, but I've never taken it out of the box. I guess what the conclusion is that I'm a 160-year-old woman trapped in a 30-year-old woman.