It’s hard to think about any other actress playing Daenerys on HBO’s Game of Thrones other than Emilia Clarke. However, one actress did play the Mother of Dragons in a TV pilot that failed to launch. Tamzin Merchant was twenty-one-years-old when she was cast as the iconic character for a GOT pilot that was filmed back in 2009. The pilot was swiftly scrapped, redone, and most of the cast was replaced – like Merchant.
In a recent interview, Merchant talks about shooting that ill-fated pilot:
“Shooting that pilot was a really great lesson. It was an affirmation about listening to my instincts and following them, because I tried to back out of that situation and, during the contract process, I did back out. I was talked back into it by some persuasive people. Then I found myself naked and afraid in Morocco and riding a horse that was clearly much more excited to be there than I was.”
“It was a lesson that if my guts are telling me a story isn’t something I’m excited to tell, then I shouldn’t try to be excited just because other people are telling me that I should be excited. I didn’t have any training as an actor, I only have my instincts. And what excites me and what drives me is a compelling story and a compelling character. So for me, Game of Thrones was never that. I think it’s a testament to Emilia Clarke for making that role iconic — she was obviously excited to tell that story, and she was epic and excellent. But for me, it wasn’t in my heart to tell it.”
HBO executive Michael Lombardo cited Merchant’s scenes with Jason Mamoa not working as part of the reason why they didn’t continue with her:
“There was a piece of casting we had to rethink, [a role] that was compromised. We all knew Daenerys’ journey was critical. Her scenes with Jason just didn’t work.”
Co-executive producer Bryan Cogman added:
“I thought Tamzin did a really good job. It’s hard to say why things didn’t work out. Ultimately, it’s obvious Emilia Clarke was born to play that part.”
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