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Taking the throne: Nathalie Emmanuel

ON THE RISE: Nathalie Emmanuel

SOMETIMES THE fans do get to star in their favourite TV shows, just ask Game of Thrones actress Nathalie Emmanuel.

The 24-year-old ‘Essex girl’ joined the critically acclaimed HBO drama last year during the third series.

The medieval fantasy show, based on the collection of novels Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, has a record of hiring the cream of British acting talent. Names such as Lord of The Rings actor Sean Bean have each ‘inhabited’ the fictional world, often compared to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth for adults - and Emmanuel’s star certainly seems to be on the rise with her cool, calm and collected portrayal of freed slave Missandei.

“It’s a bit of a surreal experience,” she explains. “I watched the show as a huge fan, and then I appear in a few scenes, which is a weird experience.”

Although she has not yet read all of the books in a bid “to keep in sync with the series”, she admits that she has found them addictive.

“The books are very hard to put down, so it has been a challenge to not read them all in one go,” she says.

The process of getting a part and joining the production shoot in Morocco seems to have been a seamless experience for the former Hollyoaks actress, who played the character of Sasha Valentine in the popular Channel 4 series between 2006 and 2010.

Her audition tape was sent off to the casting executives, and there were no further auditions. She had nailed the role first time - a feat she is sweetly humble about: “[it] was just a little bit amazing.”

Not content with taking the easy path, Emmanuel makes it clear that she loves roles that challenge her.

And there will not have been anything quite as daunting as having to learn ‘Valyrian’, a fictional language created especially for the series.

“It was a huge challenge, but an amazing adventure,” she laughs. “I’ve never done anything like that before. When I first got it, I was quite intimidated by it.”

But her personal iPod came to the rescue as she listened to language inventor David J. Peterson read out her lines in Valyrian on a pre-recording “every day for about four to five months”.

Emmanuel, who had not learned any other languages until this point, explains: “You have to learn it by breaking it down phonetically, and then it eventually comes together and you start recognise the sounds and in some cases you learn what some of the words mean.”

Another challenge, she says, was having to work with Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) during scenes involving dragons and other mythical characters – a task that, for her, sums up the art of acting.

“Obviously, you’re reacting to something that’s not there, so that can cause some difficulties, but at the same time it makes you have to use your imagination. For me that’s what being an actor is about.”

Like the novels it adapts, Game of Thrones has a sprawling ensemble cast, estimated to be the largest on television. It is also famous for its portrayal of its believable and diverse characters.

Emmanuel adds: “The characters have different levels and layers, which make it quite realistic, even though it is set in a fantasy world – that’s why I love the show.”

Perhaps more infamously, the show is known for its frequent use of female naked form. Some fans and episode bloggers even keep a nudity count. Would Emmanuel, who was listed in FHM’s 100 sexiest women in the world, be comfortable changing into her birthday suit for the sake of art?

“I feel the nudity on the show is not out of place. For me, to see someone naked, doesn’t overly offend me,” she says.

“We’ve all got the same bits and I’ve not got anything that no other person’s got.

“For me, it depends on circumstance and what it’s for. But I personally am not ashamed about my body, and there’s nothing offensive about me showing my body.”

There appears to be a natural ascent developing in Emmanuel’s career, from national teen soap opera, to a global smash-hit fantasy drama series, what could be next in line for the actress who cites Meryl Streep as a role model?

“I would like to be doing films, I think that would be so much fun and be such a challenge,” she says without much hesitation.

“I just want to do a job which pushes me a little bit further than the job before did. That’s my main goal – to keep progressing, learning and developing as much as I can.”

Ambition to reach the top is common in most walks of life, and in such a notoriously stressful and judgemental industry, Emmanuel uses her time to relax off the camera with family, friends and yoga.

“I’m a bit of a yogi - I love my yoga. I really enjoy the physical side of it - what I love is that even though I’m pushing my body really far, it doesn’t feel like that. And when I come out of it I feel so relaxed, it’s like I’ve put all my stresses out into the world and I don’t have to take them home with me.”

Without question, there are multiple layers to this self-described “normal girl, who likes to pretend to be other people sometimes.”

For more information follow @Missnemmanuel on Twitter

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