With the worldwide popularity of Game of Thrones, it seems like everyone actor on the show has used it as a springboard to land other projects.Nathalie Emmanuel is no different. After playing Missandei, Daenerys Targaryen’s assistant, Emmanuel landed big roles in both Furious 7 and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.
Last week at the Los Angeles press day for Furious 7, I landed an exclusive interview with the busy actor. She talked about what the last year has been like, the experience of making Furious 7, the popularity of Game of Thrones, how she got cast in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and who she plays, and a lot more.
Collider: What has the last year or two been like for you?
NATHALIE EMMANUEL: It’s been an incredible journey, it’s been an unexpected journey. It kind of has been a whirlwind, in a way. I joined Game of Thrones in 2012, and I could not believe my luck. To have my character grow as it did, as it has, and to see how the show has become so successful. It just opened so many doors and I’ve been presented in such an incredible way because the show is just so well done. It’s been amazing how much people love it and to be a part of that has been incredible, and then to now come on to this, where the fans and people are such fans of it and love it as well. I just feel kind of like the luckiest girl ever and I have to pinch myself and think, ‘Oh, my goodness. Is this really my life?’ it’s crazy. I’m just enjoying every second of it and trying not to take anything for granted because this business is so volatile, you never know what’s going to happen. But I am just so blessed to be here and I’ve had just the best year.
From when you were pitched the character in Furious 7, to what people are seeing onscreen, did a lot change or is it pretty much what you were told?
EMMANUEL: Obviously I think once you’ve allocated an actor to the role that the character will evolve slightly. I think fundamentally what they wanted from her was that she was incredibly smart, incredibly quick, and I like to think that I brought my own sort of flavor and energy to that character, too. But she’s kind of on the same thing as what they wrote. She has a very specific role in this film, and I like to think that I fulfilled that, too; but then also brought something of my own.
I would imagine you have a lot of friends that want to visit you on-set of Game of Thrones. What was it like when you’re filming Furious 7 with this cast, was it like the next level with people like, ‘I really need to visit you today’?
EMMANUEL: [Laughs]. You’d be surprised because I was in LA a lot and in America a lot, obviously all my friends are mostly in London. So I think if they could have got a ticket and come out to visit me, they probably would have. But yeah people were really keen to sort of know everything that was going on, wanted to hear stories from the set, who did I work with today, and who have I met. Because obviously this cast is so incredible and I was working with them, and it was amazing. So a lot of people were interested and wanted to know stories and behind-the-scenes anecdotes. I t was cool.
Was there one day that you were filming Furious 7 that you’re like, ‘Get the f*ck outta here. I cannot believe we’re doing this today.’?
EMMANUEL: My first day. I think my first day was the most surreal experience of my life. It was the scene after they’ve rescued me and I sort of come around from my concussion or whatever it is that she’s got going on, and I had a very kind of wordy scene where I kind of call everybody out a little bit; and it was with the principle cast of Fast and Furious and I’m this new girl from England who just sort of walked in. It was just crazy. That morning I kind of was like, ‘OK, keep it together, keep it together’. But everyone was so cool and so relaxed and just let me know how excited they were to have me, so it made it much, much easier. But I think the whole time I was just thinking, ‘OK, just get the words out, just get the words out. You can do this’.
Who ruined the most takes from laughing? Was it you, or was it Vin [Diesel], who was it?
EMMANUEL: [Sigh]…I don’t know. I’m really bad for that. I think maybe it was me, I don’t know, I don’t know. Everybody had their moments but I’m really bad for cracking up if someone makes me laugh. I’m quite annoying actually, and sometimes I’m like ‘Come one Nathy, get it together!’ But sometimes it’s hard when you’ve got these brilliant, quick, funny responses coming from the people you’re working with.
Kevin Hart told me that he breaks like every other day, where he just can’t get it together.
EMMANUEL: Yeah it’s so hard. I think it’s happened to me before a couple of times, where it gets to the point where I get really cross on myself, it goes up and I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ and then I get really mad, and then I’m like, ‘OK, now’ and then I can do it. It’s almost like I have to go through that ridiculous half an hour or whatever it is that I’m going through, to then be like, ‘OK, come on. Get your act together’.
I definitely have to touch on –I don’t want to get into any spoilers in Game of Thrones because I’m a huge fan and I don’t want to know any of that yet.
EMMANUEL: I wouldn’t tell you anything.
Everyone I’ve interviewed on the cast says that the first few seasons it was manageable, you could go out to Starbucks, it was all good. But now it’s reached a point where it’s crazy, how popular it is around the world.
EMMANUEL: For me, my life hasn’t changed a whole lot. I think in London –it’s such a busy place– I can go everywhere on the tube and get on the bus or whatever, walk around because everything’s so close together; I’m always running around. I personally don’t think I get recognized that much, maybe I do, but maybe it’s that very English of not saying it, being like, ‘Oh, it’s that person!’. That very polite thing of not sort of intruding in somebody’s day or personal space or whatever. Obviously there are cases where I do get recognized and that’s fine, but it’s not in a way that’s not manageable for me. I quite lucky, I think, in that sense.
I will say though. Would you say, without spoiling anything, that this that this season is fucking crazy? Sorry for cursing so much.
EMMANUEL: It’s fine. I’m English, we curse.
What can you tease people about the season without revealing anything?
EMMANUEL: Obviously I’ve read the scripts for the entire season, but I really can only have an opinion on what our thread of the storyline is. It’s just really tense throughout the entire thing. There’s people gaining power, losing power. It’s always that –not to be cheesy, it would be cliché– game, it’s always changing. Particularly for us, we’ve come to Meereen and now Daenerys is ruling, so we see what that entails and it’s not always smooth sailing. It’s a really exciting, exciting season.
I would expect nothing less. You also were part of Maze Runner.
I’m a big fan of Wes’ [Ball] work.
He did a lot with a little, on the first movie, very impressive what he did. What was it like working on the sequel and who do you play?
EMMANUEL: I was great, again, I walked into another franchise, in a way; an established group. They were just the best, the sweetest people and so chilled and so cool, and it was a lot of fun. Working with Wes, he’s brilliant, he’s so passionate, and you literally have to kind of tease the camera out of his hands to kind of get him to go home at the end of the day, you have you kind of force it from him. He’s so excited to be there and you feel the energy and it’s a really great environment to work in. I play a character called Harriet who –if you’ve read the book– is basically the leader of the group B, so in the first movie we see the boys in the Glade, somewhere in that crazy world there was a second maze full of women or full of girls. My character is basically the equivalent of Alby in that maze, and she helped some of her people escape the maze. I won’t tell you what happens, but we kind of meet up with this gang at some point. So it’s more of an introduction to meeting Harriet and the people that she’s rolling with. It’s really cool. I got to sort of wield guns and it was a very kind of badass role. I look very different, as well, we did some cool hair and costume.
Was it a role that you went after, did it come after you?
EMMANUEL: Well, I got sent the script and the audition sides, and I put myself on tape for them and sent the tape off to my American agent. So yeah, it all sort of went off and then they were like really interested. So yeah, it kind of worked. I definitely wanted it and they wanted me, as well, so it was kind of like a mutual thing.
I have to ask, what gifts have you gotten David Benioff and Dan Weiss? For the casting on Game of Thrones, it seems like everyone I’ve spoken to has made a huge jump after being on that show.
So are you guys constantly giving them gifts or –You know what I mean? I’m teasing but not really.
EMMANUEL: Yeah. Well, whenever I’m in LA or whenever they’re in England, I always try and meet up with them, have dinner and catch up and see how they’re doing. They’re just like the greatest guys, they’re so funny and great to be around. We have such a laugh with them. I invited them to the Furious 7 premiere, hopefully they can come, that’s definitely a way of saying thank you to them for everything the show’s done for me.
People don’t realize that this is their first gig, this is their first big show. I’m very impressed with what they’ve managed to accomplish.
EMMANUEL: Well, they’re very, very brilliant. They’re very clever guys. But I think what they have is just passion and I think when they approached people about making those books into a show, they really knew their stuff and just planned it, how they wanted to do it. Obviously George R. R. Martin’s books are so brilliant and it’s the reason why we have this TV show, this world that he created. But Dan and David and Bryan [Cogman], who writes it, and everything, they’ve just done something so particular with it to make it even more brilliant for the screen. They just amaze me every year.
What are you thinking about for the future now? Is there a role you’re going after? Are you going to emerge into comedy?
EMMANUEL: I’d love to do comedy. I’d probably have to get my laughing fits in check, because generally if I’ve done comedy, I’m usually the straight character that plays against the very obviously funny character, so that’s really hard when the person is really hilarious. So yes, I’d love to do comedy, I love going to watch comedy movies, so yeah I’d love to do them. But I’m definitely a fan of sort of dramas, independent sort of social dramas where you play really challenging roles. Every actor wants to play those dark roles and it’s definitely true for me and I’d love to kind of challenge myself in any way possible.