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Emilia Clarke on Game of Thrones Critics: ‘It’s Like I’m Voluntarily Walking Into the Fire’

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Daenerys might be cool under pressure on Game of Thrones, casually setting her enemies afire, but the actress who plays her says that with each new season of Thrones, she feels the pressure building. It’s an experience Emilia Clarke has become familiar with: She’s now starred in several adaptations of beloved books and franchises, including a Broadway version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the Terminator sequel Terminator Genisys, and now the romance Me Before You based on the bestselling Jojo Moyes romance.

“I’ve made the naive choices to take on roles that are beloved in books, that’s literally everything I’ve done. For better or worse, I’ve worked really hard on all of them and tried very hard to make sure all the fans were happy and that I was on the right track,” Clarke said in a recent interview with TIME. “For the first time ever in [Me Before You], I read it and said I know her. I’ve got this.”

That’s not true of Daenerys Targaryen, whom Clarke said is her complete opposite in terms of temperament. While Clarke is a bubbly jokester, Daenerys rarely smiles. And although Clarke has earned two Emmy nominations for her performance, every year fans of George R.R. Martin’s books, A Song of Ice and Fire, loudly let her know what she isn’t getting right about Dany. Meanwhile, critics have skewered the show’s treatment of women in general.

“It’s like I’m voluntarily walking into the fire every time,” she said. “I’m like, ‘hello I’m sorry I’m currently having a good time, I would quite like to be in pain.’ With Game of Thrones there’s always that pressure. And the bigger it gets, the bigger the pressure. I’m like, don’t let this be the season where she f—s it up because I really could.”

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com