In the world of “Game of Thrones,” all men must die. But Missandei was not a man.
From the massive fan backlash, it’s clear Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) wasn’t the only one upset after the death of Nathalie Emmanuel’s character. Following the brutal moment in the final season where Missandei died in chains, “Game of Thrones” was heavily criticized for its lack of diversity and even faced accusations of “racist overtones” for the way it killed off its one major woman of color.
Speaking recently to British Vogue, Emmanuel reflected on the reaction, saying, though she understood beforehand what her role meant to people, the days after the episode “really brought it home.”
“I loved that character, and I wish she had had a happy ending — but Westeros is this brutal, heartless world, so you have to keep that in mind. When it comes down to it, the backlash stems from the fact that, when there’s so few non-white characters on-screen, a death like that registers as a massive loss,” Emmanuel said.
The actor said the reaction caused her to reflect more about diversity and offered one important takeaway.
“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,” she said.
Emmanuel added that she talked about it “a lot” with Jacob Anderson, who played Grey Worm.
“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,” she said.
Speaking with ET last year, the actor had similar thoughts, calling for more inclusivity in casting.
“I was kind of excited that that conversation was being had. But it’s something we can learn from going forward, about how we cast things, especially because it was a fantasy series. There’s fantasy, there’s so much more possibility,” she said.
Following her character’s death, Emmanuel posted a heartfelt message on Instagram thanking fans and the show, and saying playing Missandei was one of her “greatest joys.” She also said in her fantasy Missandei is “sipping a rum on a beach” somewhere in the sky.
Long may she sip.