Nathalie Emmanuel is perhaps best known these days for portraying Missandei on Game of Thrones. As the Khaleesi’s right-hand woman who met a tragic end, Emmanuel’s steely expression while uttering her final cry (“Dracarys”) served as a message of strength and helped fuel the series’ final episodes. Emmanuel is also voicing a key member of the resistance in Netflix’s upcoming The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a puppet-filled epic that will stream in late August and holds more than a few similarities to Thrones. The series acts as a prequel of sorts to Jim Henson’s 1982 film, The Dark Crystal, which cultivated a cult following that will likely pounce on the series once it streams.
Emmanuel was gracious enough to speak with us about both these series, along with her current experience on the Fast and Furious 9 production. She also told us about her time with Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral series (by Mindy Kaling) and a certain viral video that’s beloved by Thrones fans.
We’re here to mostly talk about The Dark Crystal, but I simply can’t move past your last line in Game of Thrones. Do people yell it at you when you walk down the street?
Not really like that, but I definitely get it a lot on social media. On all sorts of different posts, even if it’s not at all about Game of Thrones, people write “Dracarys!” under them.
You’ve said that ending Game of Thrones was like a breakup, but has that changed with all the projects you’ve got going these days?
Of course. I guess when I made that comment, I was also talking more about when it comes time to sign up for new shows, where it was a thing like, “I’m not ready yet, I’m not over the last one.” But lately, I’ve definitely been keeping myself busy, so that’s good.
Well, The Dark Crystal feels more than a little bit Thrones-y.
Absolutely. There are a lot of themes that are similar, you know, like different families and clans and especially the kinds of power struggles and hierarchical systems that they have in both shows. In The Dark Crystal, they have the threat of The Darkening, and with Game of Thrones, they have the threat of Night King and the dead. So, it’s really fun that I get to live in that fantasy world a bit in The Dark Crystal. And also with both, I was able to get a really good character.
Did you get up-close and familiar with your puppet, Deet, before you began voicing her?
I didn’t! Sadly no, but I met her today, though.
For the first time?
Yes, and Deet is so cute!
She’s seriously adorable. Did you have any idea how she’d be rendered, though?
I saw a picture of her early on, but it was so much fun to meet her for the first time just now. I’m also very excited to soon meet Beccy [Henderson], her puppeteer and who basically established the performance that I then voiced, so that’s really exciting to meet her, too.
This world is so complexly rendered, including the puppets. Did you have a sense of that early on?
Oh, I had no idea. I knew that there would be a lot of technical details, and I had an idea that it would be pretty intense, but I had no real idea. Then when I saw the behind-the-scenes stuff and the rough cuts and the episodes on their own, you could see just how much went into it. It was incredible.
And had you watched the Jim Henson movie before getting started?
I had seen it as a kid, yeah. It was really cool because I hadn’t revisited it, so just the idea and the realizations of that world, well, I’d thought about it. Kids were terrified about the Skeksis, and it was really great to reopen that Jim Henson box and see what they were going to do. It was just amazing that they kept with the vision from the original movie but brought it into this time with more context and more technology. It was such an amazing experience to witness that.
The Skeksis are villains, but they’re also very entertaining. Did you get to witness those voice actors raising a ruckus?
It’s funny because recording these things, you stay so isolated, really. You become so comfortable working with other actors, but here, because of how technical it is with the puppets, you don’t get to see many of the other actors, like the Skeksis actors in action. When they were recording and shooting, I was somewhere else, not in England. It was a shame that I didn’t get to witness that, but one day, Benedict Wong was in the recording studio next door, and he popped into one [session], which must have been amazing.
Did you even get to work alongside Taron Egerton, who voices Rian? Your characters were so tight.
Nooooo. I’ve never met Taron!
That’s wild. You guys somehow still made your chemistry work.
That’s good to hear!
One thing that’s cool is that the Gelflings are a matriarchal society.
Yes. I mean, I didn’t realize that until I read the script, which I didn’t receive until I signed on, but I’m very, very happy to learn that because obviously we’ve brought this into 2019, and with their women sort-of being the leaders, you get to see that onscreen.
You’re in another big franchise (Fast And Furious) with lots of female and male energy.
Yeah, we’re still shooting.
What’s it like to get almost all of the gang back together for part 9?
It’s really lovely and sort-of warm, almost like going back to visit family after a long time. It’s really nice, and we’ve got some people back like Michelle [Rodriguez], and it’s wonderful to be working again with her. When you bring everyone back together after so long, I didn’t realize how much it meant until I saw them. And it always comes with some sadness because not all of us can come back, like Paul [Walker], and I only knew him for a few months, but the rest have this whole history with him. He’s always talked about, he’s always close to this thing.
You’ve been a part of long-running franchises, but Four Weddings and a Funeral is a limited series. Did you enjoy that finite aspect?
Well, with doing a limited series after being on a TV show for so long, I definitely wasn’t ready at the time for the commitment of doing something for another six years or seven years. So I think a limited series was a really great way to essentially get back on the horse and know that when it’s done, we did it, and it’s sort-of a contained little piece, but it was just very different. For me, having that challenge and also the inclusive nature of it and the writers’ room, and working with Mindy [Kaling], it was a huge difference from what I’m used to playing.
Let’s finish by talking about that video of you and Jacob Anderson in costume as Missandei and Grey Worm, dancing to Ghost Town DJ’s “My Boo.” Did that video going viral feel like a fitting goodbye?
With that video, we didn’t release it of course until the final season had happened. I think that video is about four years old, I think? Yes, we were shooting season 6 when we shot that video, and Jacob and I were like … “in time.” He [tweeted] that in such a lovely way, like it was “[s]omewhere in the [multiverse].” Some alternative universe, and it was very sweet. It was such a beautiful way to process the horrific way their story came to an end. It was very nice to reflect that way after such a brutal stunner.
Netflix’s ‘The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance’ streams on August 30.