In a new interview with Vogue, the 31-year-old actress reflects on what it was like portraying Missandei on the popular HBO series. Emmanuel tells the outlet that after stumbling upon the casting, she "pretty much gave it all" she had and studied for the audition by watching "millions of videos of translators" to prepare her for the fictional language in the script.
"Once I landed the role, I got completely thrown in at the deep end – especially when it came to languages. Missandei is obviously this great linguist, and I became really committed to learning Valyrian – high Valyrian and low Valyrian, which are as different as Latin and Italian," she recalls. "David [J Peterson], who created the languages for the TV series, is an absolute genius. Sometimes when I was being really obsessive, [show creators] Dan [Weiss] and David [Benioff] would be like, 'Nathalie, there is literally only one person on earth who knows this language and whether you're pronouncing that correctly.' And I'd be like, 'I know, but I'm still going to get it right.'"
Emmanuel admits, however, that not all her memories from filming were positive. She specifically remembers one moment on set where her co-star, Emilia Clarke (who played Daenerys Targaryen) defended her when a remark was made over her revealing costume.
"Emilia and I got on like a house on fire from the beginning. When I joined the cast, she had already been shooting Game of Thrones for a few years, and she was definitely ready to have some female energy around her," Emmanuel remembers. "She and I always looked out for each other. If you're the only girls on a male-dominated set, it bonds you in a certain way."
"In my first season, my costume was pretty revealing, and there was an incident with an extra who made a comment about it on set – I mean, typical – and Emilia straightaway had my back," she added. "It got handled."
Amid the Black Lives Matter movement, Emmanuel has also given a lot of thought to the way her character died (Spoiler! She was chained and brutally beheaded in season 8, episode 4) and being the show's sole Black female lead.
"It definitely caused me to reflect a lot more – about race and diversity more generally," she says. "At the end of the day, if there’s ever a show on the level of Game of Thrones again, representation has to be part of the conversation from the beginning. That way, there’s no single person who has to represent every other person of colour."
"It’s a conversation I used to have a lot with Jacob [Anderson], who played Grey Worm, the only other major non-white character in the series," she adds. "We were always really conscious of how much our being part of Game of Thrones mattered to people. It made us really protective of Missandei and Grey Worm."
Back in September 2018, ET spoke with Clarke about what it was like filming the series' final scenes at HBO's Emmy Party.
"We've just been making the best season ever," she teased at the time, laughing and reiterating, "Best season ever!"
Fans, of course, know what she meant now, as the final season was met with many mixed reviews. More on that in the video below!