Tamzin Merchant in The Tudors

Tamzin Merchant Talks Discomfort Playing Daenerys in Original Game of Thrones Pilot

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Tamzin Merchant, best know for playing the doomed 5th wife of Henry VIII, Katherine Howard, in The Tudors, was the original pick to play Daenerys Targaryen on HBO’s Game of Thrones and was part of the infamous original pilot. The actress has been very hush-hush about the topic, but spoke about it recently in Entertainment Weekly.

“Shooting that pilot was a really great lesson,” Merchant told the report. “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.”

Of course, we know what this is referring to: the scene in which Dany is given to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) and is raped by him. According to the reports in Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon: Game of Thrones and the Official Untold Story of the Epic Series:

Then came the filming of the wedding night. In the Emilia Clarke version, it’s rape. It’s not rape in my book, and it’s not rape in the scene as we filmed it with Tamzin Merchant. It’s a seduction. Dany and Drogo don’t have the same language. Dany is a little scared but also a little excited, and Drogo is being more considerate. The only words he knows are “yes” or “no.” Originally it was a fairly faithful version. So we’re by this little brook. They tied the horses to the trees and there’s a seduction scene by the stream. Jason Momoa and Tamzin are naked and “having sex.” And suddenly the video guy starts to laugh. The silver filly was not a filly at all. It was a colt. And it was getting visibly excited by watching these two humans. There’s this horse in the background with this enormous horse schlong. So that didn’t go well either.

Merchant was intimidated by these scenes, and even Emilia Clarke, who would eventually get the role, was as well. Clarke spoke about feeling terrified herself, since this was her first major role.

“I’ve never been on a film set like this before. … and I’m now on a film set completely naked with all of these people, and I don’t know what I’m meant to do, and I don’t know what’s expected of me, and I don’t know what you want, and I don’t know what I want. … Regardless of there being nudity or not, I would have spent that first season thinking I’m not worthy of requiring anything. I’m not worthy of needing anything at all,” she said.

Still, Merchant says that she knew in her gut that the series wasn’t for her and that she “shouldn’t try to be excited just because other people are telling me that I should be excited.”

She continued, “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.”

And in the end, I can’t imagine anyone other than Emilia Clarke as Dany. She came into the role in the end, and I think she has done the best she could with fame and trying to grow as an actress.

Merchant was recast, according to HBO executive Michael Lombardo in Fire Can Not Kill a Dragon, because “Her scenes with Jason just didn’t work.”

Co-executive producer Bryan Cogman added, “I thought Tamzin did a really good job. It’s hard to say why things didn’t work out. Ultimately, it’s obvious Emilia Clarke was born to play that part.”

And the rest … is history.

(via EW, image: Showcase)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.