Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen, supposed rightful heir to The Iron Throne, has had a wild ride over the course of Game Of Thrones’ many seasons, going from being sold off to a warlord by her brother to becoming a crusader against slavers and the proud mother of some dragons, but a real-life health scare almost cut Daenerys’ run for the throne—and Clarke’s actual life—short. In a piece for The New Yorker, Clarke has revealed that she suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage (“a life-threatening type of stroke”) shortly after filming the first season of the show, requiring her to receive urgent brain surgery to fix the aneurysm.
Clarke explains that one of her initial surgeries had seemed like a success, but a few days later she woke up with a condition called aphasia that prevented her from being able to speak clearly or even recall her full name. Clarke says she went into a “blind panic,” believing that her dream of being an actor was over, with her saying she “wanted to pull the plug” in her worst moments and have the doctors just let her die. Instead, she stayed in the ICU for a few days and allowed the aphasia to pass, and she was able to leave the hospital a month after being admitted—knowing very well that the majority of the people who go through a stroke like that don’t even survive.
Clarke says she told her bosses at Game Of Thrones but kept it quiet because she “didnt’ want it to be a subject of public discussion. A few years later, after filming season three, Clarke had another surgery on her brain after a scan revealed that a growth had gotten twice as big. After that surgery, bits of her skull had to be replaced with titanium and there was a scar going from her scalp to her ear. Nothing as bad has happened since, but Clarke says she started to feel a similar pain in her head at Comic-Con one year but agreed to do an MTV interview anyway because, as she says, “If I’m going to go, it might as well be on live television.”