Nathalie Emmanuel is no stranger to nudity. As Missandei on Game of Thrones, it was almost a given that at some point she was either going to die violently or be in some form of nakedness. She was prepared for both, but what she wasn’t prepared for were the offers she received after she finally did disrobe for Game of Thrones.
NATHALIE EMMANUEL BEFORE GAME OF THRONES
British-born Nathalie Emmanuel had a familiarity with soap operas before she nailed the role as Missandei on Game of Thrones. Her very first role out of the gate was on the British soap opera Hollyoaks as Sasha Valentine, a part that would last her four years and 191 episodes.
It led her to two other British series, Casualty and Misfits before she completed her first feature film, Twenty8k. Obviously there was no one asking Nathalie Emmanuel to do nudity on television back then. It took HBO for that to change.
Nathalie Emmanuel Naked On HBO
When the opportunity arose for Nathalie Emmanuel to audition for the part of Missandei she was, believe it or not, working as a floor assistant at the clothing chain Hollister. Having left the Hollyoaks series a couple of years prior, her career, even with the brief series and one film, had pretty much shut down. Emmanuel was persistent, pressing her agent to get her a chance to audition for Game of Thrones.
She prepared extensively when the role for Missandei came up. She mastered various accents and learned the Valyrian language. Nathalie Emmanuel was fully prepared. It took five weeks after her audition to get the call saying she got the part, for which she broke down in tears on the phone.
Looking back, Nathalie Emmanuel loved her role and the direction it took, even though it ended up involving nudity. “I really loved Missandei’s journey,” she says via The Guardian. “In the grand scheme of the show, Missandei and Grey Worm didn’t have a lot of time, but we had some lovely scenes. I also loved my relationship with Emilia Clarke as Daenerys – that female friendship and respect for each other. It was such a joy to do.”
Missandei came to Westros freed from slavery by Clarke’s Daenerys, turning into Daenerys loyal and most capable handmaiden. Her character spoke upwards of 19 (made up) languages while forming a very close bond with Daenerys. But there was more, visually speaking, to Missandei for the world to see.
When joining Game of Thrones, one must be comfortable in their own skin and thusly even more comfortable baring it for all to see. Nathalie Emmanuel’s comfort came into question early on. “When I did Game of Thrones, I agreed toward certain nude scenes or nudity within the show,” the actress tells Insider. Nathalie Emmanuel had no issue being naked for the sake of the show, as long as the scene’s nudity made sense.
Unfortunately, Nathalie Emmanuel’s willingness to strip down for Game of Thrones left a perception that nudity would be okay for her in any future project she would be involved in. That simply wasn’t the case.
The World Wants Nathalie Emmanuel Naked
Nathalie Emmanuel’s acceptance to doing nudity in Game of Thrones brought her more and more film opportunities, obviously. “And the perception from other projects, when the role required nudity, that I was just open to do anything because I did it on that one show,” she explains via Indiewire. “I’ve had people challenge me and be like, ‘But this part requires that,’ and I said, ‘That’s fine if you require that in the part; I don’t feel comfortable doing that level of nudity. I will do this amount, you know, I can do this, which I think is necessary for the part.’”
To those that insist Nathalie Emmanuel does more nudity than she is comfortable with, for instance, full-nude scenes, she tells them, “Well, thank you very much, I appreciate your interest but that’s just not what I feel is necessary for this part and it’s a difference of opinion and creative differences and that’s fine.”
She’s turned down a number of roles because of requests for nudity. But, as she explains, many of the creative folk are becoming much more receptive to her stance, which is how it should be. “Nine times out of 10, people are much more solutions-based and want to come to a compromise.”
Nathalie Emmanuel also feels her approach toward those people who insist on being naked just for show has helped in them seeing her point of view. It’s all about respect. “Nobody can have a go at you for just expressing your opinion as long as you are respectful,” she says via USA Today. “That was one of the earliest lessons of challenging people of power or systems of power.”
DON’T LOSE YOUR HEAD OVER IT
Then there was that death. For those of you who have not yet watched Game of Thrones, there are some heavy spoilers on their way.
It wasn’t only Nathalie Emmanuel’s nudity that got the tongues a-wagging. It was her death. In chains. As a woman of color. “Obviously, Missandei’s demise sparked a big conversation,” Emmanuel says. At first, she explained, the show was heavily criticized for the lack of diversity, with her and Jacob Anderson being the only people of color in prominent roles on the show. So, to have Missandei meet her end the way she did (a beheading in chains) was an outrage to many.
“The reaction to Missandei’s death was so big because she was the only one,” she explains to The Guardian. “I think a lot of the people who felt othered or disenfranchised had connected with her, or felt represented by her, especially women of color. When she died – and in the way that she did – it was so painful for people because they were like, ‘Wait, no! That’s how they’re going to do the only woman of color?’”
Many spoke out as to how Missandei’s death was handled, including director Ana DuVernay, who tweeted out at the time, “So … the one and only sister on the whole epic, years-long series? That’s what you wanna do? Okay.”
SPEAKING OF NUDITY
Nathalie Emmanuel has not been the only actress from the series that has come out on women and nudity. Emilia Clarke, who was required to do a bunch of nudity early on in her Game of Thrones stint told Dax Shepard on his Armchair Expert podcast that she felt pressured into doing the amount of nudity she did in her first season.
Salma Hayek also opened up to Shepard on his podcast, stating that when she was performing her love scene in Desperado, she was in tears. “When we were going to start shooting, I started to sob,” Hayek says via USA Today. She kept telling director Robert Rodriguez, “I don’t know that I can do it. I’m afraid.”
Keira Knightley and Amanda Seyfried also have both spoken out recently about doing nudity with Knightley stating she is no longer interested in doing nude scenes unless the films were directed by women. Seyfried was more succinct in her assessment stating the older you get the more you realize how “funky and uncomfortable” it can be.
Nathalie Emmanuel is doing just fine, nudity or not. She joined the Fast & Furious franchise in their seventh installment, Furious 7, and has since been seen in The Fate of the Furious and now the recently released F9. She was also part of another successful franchise, The Maze Runner, as well as two other series, Mindy Kaling’s rom-com Four Weddings and a Funeral and Kevin Hart’s Die Hart.
Next up for Emmanuel is the prequel to Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, titled Army of Thieves, and then she will be seen in another series, Unsinkable. Clothes on or clothes off, Nathalie Emmanuel’s talent is what’s getting her notice in Hollywood, as it should be.