Nathalie Emmanuel is having a heady 2019, whichever way you slice it. She was involved in one of the most controversial TV moments of the year, when her “Game of Thrones” character, Missandei, was decapitated in Episode 4 of the HBO megahit’s final season. The moment divided audiences, with many online fans calling for a better ending to the character that Emmanuel had brought to life for six seasons.
Now, the British actress is moving on to the Hulu miniseries “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” adapted from the 1994 picture written by Richard Curtis. Emmanuel spoke with Variety about being whisked into “Four Weddings” at the last minute and the mixed emotions of leaving “Game of Thrones” behind.
What attracted you to a “Four Weddings” adaptation?
I knew that Mindy [Kaling] was writing it, which is why I wanted to get involved. I turned up for the audition, but they cast somebody else. Right before filming, I got a phone call asking me to come back in. I started a couple of days later; it was all very quick.
You’re playing an American. Did the accent come quickly?
Well, I’ve generally got an American accent in my locker, but it definitely wasn’t much time to prepare. Luckily, the execs were so supportive and gave me all the resources I needed: I had a dialect coach; I had an acting coach too. There’s such a difference in how American people and British people articulate themselves and their body language, and I made the decision that when I was at work, I’d stay in an American accent all day; that just made it easier. What often happens is you learn lines in an accent, and when you have to say words you’ve never said before, it can completely throw you.
Are you a fan of the original movie?
Definitely. It’s a British classic, a rom-com classic. I was probably too young to watch it when it came out, but I thought it was really funny, and Hugh Grant is just great. I was really curious as to how they were going to adapt it when this came along.
How does this adaptation twist on the original?
It’s a very modern take on the messiness of life, friendship and love, which is true to the movie but in a much more modern context. The casting is much more inclusive and culturally diverse, and that’s really cool. It’s very 2019. It’s young people figuring out their lives with all the technology and the way that’s changed dating. But we also pay tribute to some of the more famous moments in that movie and other Richard Curtis movies.
There’s one kiss in the pouring rain that looked familiar. But you didn’t say, “Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed.”
I really tried to get that line in, but it was just too on the nose!
What was it like to say goodbye to Missandei and “Game of Thrones”?
It was sad. “Game of Thrones” changed my life professionally. It’s been wonderful, and I may never have anything like that ever again. Saying goodbye to that character was kind of like saying goodbye to a part of yourself. Sometimes in order to connect with a character you have to find situations that you’ve been through, feelings or thoughts you’ve had, and with those try and build a bridge so you can walk toward the character. Missandei had such an amazing road from an enslaved, voiceless person, an oppressed woman of color, to becoming a free-thinking, opinionated person who opened up her heart to intimacy and love and became a brilliant adviser and translator. I’ve been through a lot too during those seven years as a woman, finding my own voice, figuring out who I am, what do I want for myself, finding love, being heartbroken, all that messy stuff. I’ve gone through that while being that character, and it feels strange that I won’t ever wear her clothes again or say her words. But onwards and upwards.
Things You Didn’t Know About Nathalie Emmanuel
Age: 30 Birthplace: Southend-on-Sea, U.K. Favorite romantic comedy: “Love Actually” Inspirations/idols: Ava DuVernay, Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lawrence First stage appearance: Young Nala in the West End’s 1999 “The Lion King”