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Tamzin Merchant Breaks Her Silence On Playing Daenerys In Original Game of Thrones Pilot

January 30, 2021 | Posted by Ashish
Game of Thrones - The Wars to Come

While it’s hard to imagine Daenerys being played by anyone other than Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones, it was Tamzin Merchant who originally played the iconic character in the original 2009 pilot of the show, which ended up being scrapped. The role of Daenerys was recast and the rest is history.

Merchant was 21 at the time and fresh of Showtime’s The Tudors, and has finally broken her silence about the pilot, telling Entertainment Weekly that it was a “really great lesson.”

“Shooting that pilot was a really great lesson,” she said. “It was an affirmation about listening to my instincts and following them, because I tried to back out of that situation and, during the contract process, I did back out. I was talked back into it by some persuasive people. Then I found myself naked and afraid in Morocco and riding a horse that was clearly much more excited to be there than I was.”

Merchant seems to be referencing the scenes in the scrapped pilot that apparently included a sex scene being interrupted by a horse having an erection, which was described in the Game of Thrones oral history, Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon. ET described the scene this way:

Merchant is referring to Daenerys’ wedding night in the pilot, which included nudity when the exiled Targaryen princess was claimed by her brutish horse lord husband, Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa). The Merchant version was filmed as more of a seduction than in the eventually aired pilot starring Clarke. One shot of the sex scene was interrupted by the horse having an erection (the pilot reshoot and horse anecdote were detailed in my Game of Thrones oral history, Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon).

“It was a lesson that if my guts are telling me a story isn’t something I’m excited to tell, then I shouldn’t try to be excited just because other people are telling me that I should be excited,” she added. “I didn’t have any training as an actor, I only have my instincts. And what excites me and what drives me is a compelling story and a compelling character. So for me, Game of Thrones was never that. I think it’s a testament to Emilia Clarke for making that role iconic — she was obviously excited to tell that story, and she was epic and excellent. But for me, it wasn’t in my heart to tell it.”

She also acknowledged the awkwardness of how big the show ended up becoming.

“It was kind of funny riding to auditions on buses with Emilia Clarke’s face on it,” she said. “Like, ‘oh my mode of transport is quite interesting today!’ It’s been a thing I felt like I watched unfold and it’s been fantastic for the film industry in Northern Ireland and Croatia, and that has been really great.”

Merchant is currently starring in Amazon’s Carnival Row.

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Game of Thrones, Ashish