“I found myself naked and afraid”: Original Daenerys Targaryen Actress Had a Miserable Time After Game of Thrones Replaced Her With Emilia Clarke

Tamzin Merchant gets candid about her horrible experience filming pilot episode of HBO's Game of Thrones.

“I found myself naked and afraid”: Original Daenerys Targaryen Actress Had a Miserable Time After Game of Thrones Replaced Her With Emilia Clarke


  • Tamzin Merchant, the original Daenerys Targaryen actress, shares her experience filming scrapped pilot episode.
  • The actress was replaced by Emilia Clarke because her scenes with Jason Momoa were not convincing.
  • Merchant has no regret leaving the franchise knowing it would have held her from pursuing other projects.
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Before fans met Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen from the hit HBO show Game of Thrones, it was Tamzin Merchant who was the original Mother of Dragons. The actress, then 21 years old, snagged the coveted role in the ill-fated pilot episode of the series. It was scrapped due to several reasons, and recasting also took place.

tamzin merchant
Tamzin Merchant

Merchant is known for her works in Showtime’s The Tudors, WGN’s Salem, the CW’s Supergirl, and Amazon’s Carnival Row, though she would have achieved global fame had she retained her contract with the studio.

RELATED: Game of Thrones Writers Might Have Secretly Hinted Emilia Clarke’s Return as Daenerys Targaryen in Kit Harington’s Jon Snow Spin-Off


Tamzin Merchant, The Original Daenerys Targaryen, Shares Experience Filming Scrapped Pilot Episode

During a Zoom interview with Entertainment Weekly, actress Tamzin Merchant finally spoke about her experience shooting the pilot episode of Game of Thrones. She was not particularly happy with the outcome, a lesson she learned the hard way:

Shooting that pilot was a really great lesson. 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.”

Merchant clearly did not listen to her guts the first time, so she returned and completed the first episode, a decision she regretted later on:

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.”

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen

The actress referred to Daenerys Targaryen’s wedding night with Jason Momoa’s Khal Drogo. The scene filmed with Merchant was different from what Emilia Clarke did in the aired episode. One shot of the intimate scene between Merchant and Momoa was interrupted after a horse in the background displayed an erection. The actress continued:


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. 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.”

wedding scene in game of thrones-2
Wedding scene in Game of Thrones

Regardless, Merchant thought Clarke did an amazing job portraying the Khaleesi, admitting that, on her part, it was not the kind of story she wanted to get involved with:

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.”

Merchant’s failure to deliver the performance the producers wanted was not really a loss because, after Clarke stepped in, the show had a remarkable Daenerys Targaryen.

RELATED: “We owe everything to her”: Fans Claim House of the Dragon Was Made Possible Because of Emilia Clarke’s Legendary Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones After Being Called Dumpy By Foxtel CEO


Game Of Thrones Executives On Replacing Tamzin Merchant

In the same report by EW, HBO executive Michael Lombardo shared why Tamzin Merchant had to be replaced. A source revealed it was the “hardest phone call” they had to make:

There was a piece of casting we had to rethink, [a role] that was compromised. We all knew Daenerys’ journey was critical. Her scenes with Jason just didn’t work.”

Meanwhile, co-executive producer Bryan Cogman praised Merchant for a job well done. Despite her efforts, it was Emilia Clarke who was destined to play Daenerys Targaryen:

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.”

tamzin merchant 2
Tamzin Merchant

Finally, Merchant expressed her relief at being released from her contract. She noted how Game of Thrones would have held her from pursuing other creative passions and exploring other projects she thinks would suit her preference:


If I hadn’t been released from my contract—I think it would have taken me to a place far from the creative person that I am today. Also, if I was very rich and famous, I wouldn’t have time to do all the things that my soul needs to do. Expressing myself creatively is a need that’s more important than any amount of riches that I could have gained from that part.”

Merchant has no regret over her replacement in Game of Thrones. For the actress, there is no monetary compensation that would help her get over the fear she felt while shooting the pilot episode.

RELATED: House of the Dragon vs. Game of Thrones: Is Rhaenyra a Better Dragon Queen Than Daenerys Targaryen


Written by Ariane Cruz

Articles Published: 1893

Ariane Cruz, Senior Content Writer. She has been contributing articles for FandomWire since 2021, mostly covering stories about geek pop culture. With a degree in Communication Arts, she has an in-depth knowledge of print and broadcast journalism. Her other works can also be seen on Screen Rant and CBR.