In a wide-ranging interview, the actor dives into her Image Comics miniseries 'M.O.M.: Mother of Madness,' reflects on the ending of 'Thrones,' and talks the "unfinished business" of 'Solo.'
From Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Chains to Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea and the Unburnt, Emilia Clarke is used to playing a character with a multitude of names. Well, now the Game of Thrones and Solo: A Star Wars Story star has a new title of her own: comic book creator. On July 21, the first issue of Clarke’s comic book, M.O.M.: Mother of Madness, hits shelves via Image Comics, and her concise elevator pitch describes the three-issue miniseries as “Deadpool meets Fleabag.” Mother of Madness follows Maya, a single mother, chemical engineer and superhero whose powers derive from her menstrual cycle. If you’re wondering whether Mother of Madness is a tribute to Daenerys Targaryen, the nod was very much by design.
“It didn’t come out of nowhere. I wanted Maya to be a single mother; I wanted that first and foremost,” Clarke tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So I’m not going to say I’m Jenny from the Block, but it’s an acknowledgment of how I’m able to give this beautiful fanbase this other thing that I did because they supported me and gave me the props when I was doing [Game of Thrones].”
Clarke is currently preparing for her upcoming role in Marvel Studios’ Secret Invasion for Disney+, and after playing Daenerys for nearly a decade, she’s excited by what could be her next long-term character.
“I mean, I should be so lucky is what I’ll say to that,” Clark shares. “Everyone I know and everyone I’ve spoken to who is a part of the Marvel universe — and actors talk! Everyone has only the highest praise to offer. There’s a reason why actors stay in it. They’re so loved because they’re having loads of fun. So I’m down for that.”
Clarke is also looking back at 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, which trended last month on its 3-year anniversary as part of an effort by fans to see that story continue. But as much as she’d love to return to the role of Qi’ra, Clarke has yet to hear anything about a possible Disney+ future for her fan-favorite character.
“She’s the one that has the most unfinished business,” Clarke explains. “I really had pages about what her life was and what it would be afterwards. But I’m afraid I’ve heard nothing of [Disney+] being the case, so maybe I’ll just write it and send it to them. I’ll be like, ‘Hey guys, I’ve got a few ideas.'”
And of course she’s seen the recent photos of the newest Targaryens from HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon.
“It’s very surreal. I mean, I’ve been prepped for this because Miguel [Sapochnik], who’s the co-showrunner, is a really dear friend of mine,” Clarke says. “But yeah, it’s crazy! Those pictures came out and I was like, ‘Whoa! Whoa!’ I was on my own last time. I didn’t know I had pals. I could’ve had a bunch of friends to hang out with, but yes, it’s mildly surreal to be seeing all of that again. But good luck to them is what I would say. I really mean that.“
In a recent conversation with THR, Clarke dives deep into Mother of Madness and why she wanted to try the comic book medium. She also looks back at the final season of Game of Thrones and how she’s made peace with the outcome of Dany’s arc. She even offers a bit of advice to House of the Dragon‘s Targaryen actors, Matt Smith and Emma D’Arcy.
Oh, thank you! It’s so weird to have made something, and then when someone says they like it, you’re like, “Oh my goodness!” So I really feel that. Whereas when you’re just a part of something as an actor, it’s very difficult to take that compliment because you’re like, “Whoa, there’s 700,000 other people that are the reason why this thing is good.” (Laughs.)
Well, the very literal version is having a funny conversation in the car with friends on the way to a Florence and the Machine gig, and we were looking at all the billboards with superheroes around us. So we joked about it, like, “Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a superhero that was very relatable and with a little bit more comedy? And wouldn’t that be a fun thing to do?” And then the idea just stuck with me. So then I started honing in on it, and I was like, “There’s a reason why I’m thinking that.” And the thing that people do know is that my career has been largely viewed in the halls of comic cons. I’ve been a part of some insanely massive franchise movies and television shows, and I’ve had incredible experiences with fans in a way that I do believe is quite unique. So I feel very at home in that community, and as a kid, not only was I reading comics, but I was reading fantasy literature as well. When Game of Thrones came about, I was like, “Yeah, this is the kind of book I would pick up and read myself.”
But the comics were a huge part of me, and I’ve watched the movies and loved them. I grew up with Wonder Woman, but now, you’ve got Brie Larson nailing it as Captain Marvel. So I started to see this incredible change, but the thing that I wanted to make was something a little more Deadpool meets Fleabag. Because I love Deadpool. Like, I love it. When that came along, my mind was blown. I was like, “Whoa, comics can now do this?” I didn’t read Deadpool as a kid, but I watched it and absolutely adored it. Also, I’m a part of the change that you’re seeing in Hollywood with women’s stories being told and being told more authentically, truthfully and relatably. And now you’ve got Fleabag. So I was like, “Well, what if the comic is that? What if the comic knows the lineage of female superheroes, but makes her truly relatable?” So I wanted Maya to have a super suit that she could pee in and undo the fly of when she had a big pizza for lunch. I wanted that to be there and all of the things that are truthful. I wanted her to be funny because people think only boys can be funny and that’s just not true. So I wanted to see Deadpool and then move that conversation into a more female perspective.
The comic that I hope we’ve reached, which I sure as hell didn’t do on my own, is this mix of the comedy, but there’s also the emotional truth within it because Maya doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing. I also wanted that because the relatable and modern way of looking at heroes is that they are like us. They do have the same issues. So I approached it with this 2020 perspective because the world that we’re living in now is incredibly different to 2, 3 or 5 years ago. So I wanted the comic to feel now and current. But that’s an incredibly long-winded answer to a very simple question. (Laughs.)
Yes, I wanted everyone who takes part in the creation of this comic to be female because we’re telling a very female story, so that makes complete sense. And I got [comic book writer] Marguerite Bennett, who’s just incredible. She’s been my guru and has guided me. Whilst I’ve lived a lot in the comic book world, I don’t know how to make one. Hell no. (Laughs.) So I needed someone to come along and be like, “Here’s all the stuff you don’t see.” And since she’s got the American sense of humor and I’ve got the British sense of humor, we tried to mash those together to make something that was funny for both sets, and for the world. I dare to even dream that this comic will reach everybody in the world. (Laughs.) But I wanted to test the edges of both of those funny bits to make sure that everybody was able to be with us on the journey.
I never would’ve done it without it. I’m saying this now. I mean, my pandemic was still quite busy, but I’m not someone who sits idle very well. So to say it’s been enjoyable would really be pushing the boundaries of that word. (Laughs.) But it has been profoundly insightful for me. I’ve figured out a lot of stuff that I didn’t realize the extent to how much I needed to figure out, and it’s been a journey. Global pandemic and everything that is horrific about that aside, yeah, it’s been interesting.
Oh massively! Massively! Between me and the team that made it, there was a lot of, like, “I just read this. I just got reminded of this. I just overheard this conversation at the bus stop.” So it was a lot of that, where you’re like, “Oh my God, we can fit that in! We can put that in and this talking point and this conversation.” I don’t know if this translates to America, but one of the biggest bugbears [source of fear or anxiety] that I think a lot of women have is if you’re not smiling and a man asks you to crack a smile. And if you want to see the rage… But we’re also not allowed to be angry. If I can call it this, we’re using the vehicle of the menstrual cycle, hormones and periods as a vessel with which to describe, “I am a human, I have feelings, I am told to feel bad about those feelings, which makes me feel worse, and now here I am.” So we’re attaching superpowers to those feelings, to those emotions and to those things that we hate about ourselves, and we actually see that they are unique and beautiful. And they should be acknowledged, accepted and reveled in. Whilst this is an inherently female comic, part of it is talking about shame, emotions, and all the stuff we hate, so we can try to loosen our grip on them and see them as something that shouldn’t be shamed. They’re something to be celebrated.
That’s exactly what it was. When I feel scared, I want to disappear, so Maya should. When I feel happy, my laugh follows me around like a foghorn. And it’s also this idea about loud women, so I wanted her laugh to break glass. I wanted to hone in on the idea that when you’re angry, you get super strong. You hear about those moms who, to save their child, have superhuman strength and can lift a car themselves. And it’s this weird phenomenon that happens, so I was like, “That’s logical. That makes complete sense.” And when you’re happy you just feel light and wibbly and wobbly. I love Elastigirl [from The Incredibles]. I absolutely adore her, and I’ve always thought that elasticity is so cool. So that power made logical sense for when Maya is happy. So those are the main hitters. Ultimately, I wanted it to all be very logical, so the reader can go, “Yeah, I get that.”
Yeah, massively. I mean, I do it from a safe distance because I don’t like pop culture that includes me. But yeah, I try and stay aware of it, but I’m a granny in a lot of respects. TikTok done passed me by, do you know what I mean? (Laughs.) So there’s plenty of stuff that I’m missing. But I think it’s important, as a creator, to keep abreast of what the temperature is out there and to not live in an echo chamber and to be aware of all the stuff. Game of Thrones, Star Wars and Terminator all live there. So having an awareness of how your work is going to be consumed by what other people are living in amongst is important when you’re creating something. If that isn’t making pop culture sound too pompous… (Laughs.)
(Laughs.) Yeah, that joke was definitely put in before I got the job. (Laughs.) 100 percent.
It’s now difficult to unsee it. It’s just like when you make your first anything on screen. Game of Thrones was the first thing, and I’ll never forget going to the cinema for the first time after making it and being like, “Why I am wondering what take that is? Why am I wondering where they are filming? Oh no, I can see that they did this.” With every new medium, you learn a lot about it just by making something in it, and then you view that medium in a different way. And I grew to tell the calibre of what I was watching if I was just fully engrossed in the story. And I think the same thing will happen with comics when I’m reading them. You can’t turn off the bit that’s like, “Ah, OK. I know what all the technical terms are now. I know what this splash page means.” So forever and a day, when I read a comic, I think I will have that awareness in my head, which is glorious. Learning new stuff is always brilliant, I think.
I mean, I should be so lucky is what I’ll say to that. Everyone I know and everyone I’ve spoken to who is a part of the Marvel universe — and actors talk! Everyone has only the highest praise to offer. There’s a reason why actors stay in it. They’re so loved because they’re having loads of fun. So I’m down for that. Sure! (Laughs.)
Well, for the record, I really have to state that that isn’t why I made the comic. I made it for all the reasons that I’ve said, but let’s just cross that bridge if and when we come to it. (Laughs.) The reason why I chose comic books as a medium to tell this story is because anything and everything is possible here in this world. And from a storytelling point of view, that allows your brain to just go, “OK cool, we can do anything.” And so when thinking of the movie side of what this is, it just wraps me up in knots, because then I’m like, “Well, what could you actually even do?” So then I stop thinking about it. (Laughs.)
(Laughs.) I would applaud it. It didn’t come out of nowhere. I wanted Maya to be a single mother; I wanted that first and foremost. And I like coming up with names; I name everything. It’s like a weird twitch. My car is called Tallulah, and it’s an alliteration. So I was thinking about it, and then I suddenly was like, “(Gasps.) That’s it! Oh my God, and M.O.M. stands for… (Gasps.) Oh yeah!” So I’m not going to say I’m Jenny from the Block, but it’s an acknowledgment of how I’m able to give this beautiful fanbase this other thing that I did because they supported me and gave me the props when I was doing [Game of Thrones]. And also, David [Benioff] and Dan [D.B Weiss] made me a necklace once for surviving a brain hemorrhage, if I’m really remembering this correctly. (Laughs.) Anyway, it said “M.O.D” on it, and my dad forever was like, “Why are you wearing a Ministry of Defense necklace?” He just couldn’t get his head around it. (Laughs.) So there’s a bunch of reasons why Mother of Madness made sense, but when I was coming up with ideas, I jokingly was like, “Well, I mean, it could be…” And then I was like, “Do you know what? Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s have that be it.”
Oh my God, I did not hear that. That’s horrific. Well, it’s a female story. “I can’t afford my tuition fees. I can’t afford to put food on the table. I’m a paramedic saving lives, and I can’t afford to live. I can’t afford to support my family.” And so what is there? That is there. Yeah, I really wanted to go to a bunch of different places with this and all the nods to it. It’s also a nod to the incredible social media world that we live in and the way you can have a complete other life online and be profitable from it. So there’s a bunch of other little details that you’ll see if the comics go on that I think is the modernity that I’m speaking of. I didn’t only want Maya to be relatable; I wanted the world to be familiar for people.
Oh my goodness! That’s a really, really juicy one. I wrote pages about Qi’ra — behind-the-scenes Qi’ra — and all of the other stuff that was going on. But I think it is only when she sees Han that she realizes that there is a way out. That’s what I was playing. That’s definitely where I was at. I don’t think she felt herself to be strong enough at that point to go on and escape Dryden’s grip. I think that Han is the slap around the face that made her go, “(Gasps.) I was a whole person. I was this other thing. Where have the last 3 years gone?” So it was that kind of thing, but I think your theory is very good. (Laughs.)
Yeah, the ultimate sacrifice.
100 percent. She had to have a plan before, you know what I mean? She had to go into that situation with her own agenda and with her own plan, that the audience then catches up with after the fact.
I know. There’s always someone.
Oh, I know, and I agree. I really had pages about what her life was and what it would be afterwards. But I’m afraid I’ve heard nothing of [Disney+] being the case, so maybe I’ll just write it and send it to them. I’ll be like, “Hey guys, I’ve got a few ideas.” (Laughs.)
She’s the one that has the most unfinished business. So I would agree with that.
It’s very surreal. I mean, I’ve been prepped for this because Miguel [Sapochnik], who’s the co-showrunner, is a really dear friend of mine. So I’ve been chatting to him about it for a while. So I was prepped. But yeah, it’s crazy! Those pictures came out and I was like, “Whoa! Whoa!” I was on my own last time. I didn’t know I had pals. (Laughs.) I could’ve had a bunch of friends to hang out with, but yes, it’s mildly surreal to be seeing all of that again. But good luck to them is what I would say. I really mean that.
No, it is not worth it. I’m speaking from the other side, and it’s not worth it. I literally cut off all my hair because I killed it with a load of bleach. (Laughs.) If you like your hair, keep it your natural color. That goes for everyone. (Laughs.)
I really have. I really, really, really have. I think it’ll take me to my 90s to be able to objectively see what Game of Thrones was, because there’s just too much me in it. (Laughs.) I have too many emotional reactions for what Emilia, herself, was experiencing at that moment in time when we were filming it. You know what I mean? I watch a scene and I go, “Oh, that was when [such and such] happened,” which you didn’t see on screen. And I think there’s something timely about the prequels and the continuation of the Game of Thrones story coming about now. I look at it and I’m like, “Wow, yeah.” So I see it with only peace. I’m still friends with people from the show, and I know I will be friends with these people until the day I die. So it’s had a lasting impact on my life, and it starts to become, like, “Hey guys, remember when we were in college?” Hey, remember the fourth grade?” (Laughs.) You start to see it from that point of view. Daenerys has a part of my heart. She is in there, and I’ll never forget. I can’t remember who I was talking to, but they were like, “Oh my God, when you say ‘she,’ you’re talking about Daenerys.” (Laughs.) And I was like, “Yeah! Because she’s a whole person. She’s got her own life that I explore.” So I think that there’s the show, the impact of the show, the impact of the show on me, personally and professionally, and the zeitgeist-iness of it. And then there’s Daenerys. So that’s my own private little space that I don’t need to make peace with because it’s just a beautiful memory. It’s just a beautiful memory.
(Clarke breaks into her ‘Callie from the Valley’ character.) Oh my God, thank you! (Laughs.) I think about this, like, all the time. Um, I’m, like, always waiting for when, like, someone’s going to come up to me and be, like, “Oh my God, I’m ready for you to be a Valley girl. It’s going to be so rad.” (Clarke breaks character.) Yeah, 100 percent [interested]. The comic has been such a release of creativity that I relished because I really love doing accents, characters and character stuff. But I’m just not at a point where anyone else agrees to the point where they’ll hire me to be this whole other person. But yeah, I would love to do a stupid, silly comedy about Callie from the Valley. I think that would be excellent.
The M.O.M.: Mother of Madness three-issue miniseries releases on July 21 and is now available for pre-order from Image Comics.