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Emilia Clarke Feared Being Fired from Game of Thrones After Brain Injury

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Emilia Clarke.
Mike Marsland/WireImage

Emilia Clarke is revealing how she felt when she experienced two brain injuries during her time on Game of Thrones.

The Daenerys Targaryen actress suffered a brain hemorrhage in February 2011, around the time the first season of the HBO fantasy drama premiered. She had another brain bleed in 2013.

“When you have a brain injury, because it alters your sense of self on such a dramatic level, all of the insecurities you have going into the workplace quadruple overnight,” Clarke, 37, said in an interview with The Big Issue published on Monday, June 10. “The first fear we all had was: ‘Oh my God, am I going to get fired? Am I going to get fired because they think I’m not capable of completing the job?’”

According to the Big Issue, both hemorrhages occurred between seasons so the actress only told a few people she worked with about her condition.

However, after returning to set just weeks after her first brain bleed, Clarke worried she might experience another brain bleed due to the stress and pressure of working on such a large production.

“Well, if I’m going to die, I better die on live TV,” she recalled thinking at the time.

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Emilia Clarke on Game of Thrones.
Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO

Clarke first opened up about her brain injuries in an essay for The New Yorker in March 2019, just before the final season of Game of Thrones premiered.

“The diagnosis was quick and ominous: a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain. I’d had an aneurysm, an arterial rupture,” she wrote of her first aneurysm in February 2011. “As I later learned, about a third of SAH patients die immediately or soon thereafter. For the patients who do survive, urgent treatment is required to seal off the aneurysm, as there is a very high risk of a second, often fatal bleed. If I was to live and avoid terrible deficits, I would have to have urgent surgery. And, even then, there were no guarantees.”

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Following the surgery, Clarke recalled how she suffered from aphasia and couldn’t remember her name.

The actress’ second injury was in 2013 after filming Game of Thrones season 3. She was in New York and underwent a procedure to treat a growth that had increased in size on the other side of her brain.

Clarke said she was “promised a relatively simple operation, easier than last time,” but awoke from the surgery “screaming in pain.”

“The procedure had failed. I had a massive bleed and the doctors made it plain that my chances of surviving were precarious if they didn’t operate again. This time they needed to access my brain in the old-fashioned way — through my skull,” she wrote, adding that the recovery from her second injury was “even more painful” than the first one.

As a result of the surgery, Clarke has pieces of titanium in her skull and a scar that “curves from my scalp to my ear.”

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