(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAST CHRISTMAS")
WHAM: (Singing) Last Christmas, I gave you my heart...
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Any excuse to play George Michael - in the new movie "Last Christmas," Emilia Clarke plays Kate. She dresses like an elf. She works in a year-round Christmas ornaments shop. And her life is a mess.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LAST CHRISTMAS")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) You must just love your job.
EMILIA CLARKE: (As Kate) Love it.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) It's like being in a dream - all the joys and the love of Christmas every single day of the year. Now, which baby is it going to be?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Enter the dashing Tom, played by Henry Golding of "Crazy Rich Asians" fame. He's handsome, kind and quirky. But there is something elusive about him. The movie takes place in a glittering winter London set to George Michael tunes and co-written and co-starring Emma Thompson. Yep. Grab your hot cocoa and snuggle in for a delicious holiday rom-com. And here to talk about the film is Emilia Clarke. Welcome.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hi (laughter).
CLARKE: Thank you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is such a fun movie. And can I just start by saying, is there any more beautiful city than London at Christmas in the many of the parts where this was filmed? It was magical.
CLARKE: Yes. I know. And we shot it last Christmas, in fact.
CLARKE: And we shot it, I mean, about three weeks before Christmas. So all of the lights and everything were up. And we shot it in the middle of the night...
CLARKE: ...Largely speaking because on Regent Street, if you were to do it at any other time, it would be kind of rammed with tourists.
CLARKE: And so to do that, we had to use the available light. So the only light that we could bring was soft light. And so we just brought an obscene amount of fairy lights.
CLARKE: So the London that you see in our movie is already beautiful. And then we made it 10 times sparklier, which just...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. It was very sparkly.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I loved it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So tell us about your character Kate - the mother of dragons, she's not.
CLARKE: No. She's not the mother of dragons. She's got mother of dragon tendencies.
CLARKE: Yeah. So Kate - she is your antiheroine. We're quite used to seeing, I think, in rom-coms, a sort of perfect depiction of a young lady. And that ain't Kate. And it's in her flaws is where she becomes so relatable. So she is struggling to get herself together. And she's struggling to take care of herself. She's struggling to take care of those around her, not really accepting help kind of. You can tell she's hiding from something. And life isn't bringing her much joy when we first meet her. But she is trying.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. She's a failing singer, she's drinking too much.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: She's having inappropriate relationships that might not be helpful...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ..To her.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is delightful about the film, of the many things, are the well-drawn characters. And I do want to talk about your mom, played by Emma Thompson.
CLARKE: Yes, the glorious Emma Thompson.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So she, in this, is playing a refugee essentially who has fled...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...War to come to the United Kingdom. And she's a very sort of morose character.
CLARKE: Yes. She is. So she - Emma co-wrote this with her husband, Greg Wise. And the character that Emma plays is loosely based on Greg's mum. And she is really struggling to find peace in the United Kingdom, which they have fled to because her memories of where she had to run from, former Yugoslavia, and the war that they escape kind of haunt her every single day and lead her to be slightly more anxious and worried and vocal.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And Emma co-wrote the script. And I understand she got permission to use the George Michael song From George Michael himself before he died in 2016.
CLARKE: Yes, she did. Emma had the good fortune of meeting George pretty soon before he died and seeing him in the flesh and hearing his kindness and his intelligence. And his just care of others was really impactful for her.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Did you do your own singing in the movie?
CLARKE: I did. Yes, I did. Yeah.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And, I mean, obviously, you are a singer. You have a great voice. What was that like?
CLARKE: Oh, it was incredibly nerve-wracking because I care so much about singing. And I'm genuinely at my happiest when I am singing. However, doing it on camera, in front of a lot of people and doing it, you know, with George's perfect song was I - every time, before I sing, I just think I'm getting tonsillitis or...
CLARKE: ...My throat is closing up or something. So I took a lot of courage, but I got there.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We don't want to give too much away about your character, Kate, because we - as you mentioned, it sort of unfolds what we learn about her. But she does have health issues. And you spoke out recently about your own challenges when you were first doing "Game Of Thrones," you suffered two brain aneurysms and went through a really hard time. Did this role connect that to you? Is that something that brought you to this role?
CLARKE: I wouldn't say it was the defining thing that brought me to it. Dame Emma Thompson probably was that. But it definitely allowed me to bring quite a lot of truth to what Kate struggles were because, for Kate, she had her health crisis in her early 20s. And that's when I had mine, too. And that time for any young person is incredibly, you know, intimidating.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And the movie just doesn't shy away from the headlines. It's not set in a fictitious world. Kate's families, as we mentioned, are refugees. And there are a few scenes where Brexit is shown And its effect on immigrants.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And there's even a scene where a white man sort of on a bus shouts that a couple who are speaking, I think, Serbo-Croatian - I'm not sure...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...To go back where they came from. Why was it important to include that?
CLARKE: Well, we're showing a movie that is now. That is today. And I don't think that Emma or Greg could have written something about London today without mentioning it and without having it. And they're both politically outspoken and cared deeply about the refugee crisis and care deeply about Brexit and about inclusivity and community and the diverse, multicultural thing that is London.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. What are your views on Brexit?
CLARKE: Oh, heavens. It's heartbreaking. We've just heard now that we will have a snap election, which I think is a very good thing, indeed, because I think it's going to put a full stop to - a stop - maybe a comma after this very long, drawn-out situation we've been in since 2016, really. But I mean, I'm pathologically hopeful as a human being. And I'm pathologically hopeful that maybe we'll just, you know, see the error of our ways and remain and just stay.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You have been in one of the most successful shows of all time. So I am curious. What does your next chapter look like? What are the kinds of roles that you're looking to sort of define this new period in your acting career?
CLARKE: So I've been - had the good fortune of being in this incredible show with this incredible character. And my goodness, if I were to get stereotyped as a mother of dragons, you know, I could...
CLARKE: I could ask for worse. It's really quite wonderful. But what it's left me with, after 10 years of seeing that and being a part of that and of doing quite big movies in my hiatus and all of these things, is a yearning for a kind of different sort of creative ownership. So I started my production company about three years ago very, very quietly because I didn't want it to go wrong and have it be public knowledge. And now I've got six or seven things on my slate that I'm writing and producing and - because there is - I mean, you know, the landscape has changed for young actresses and actors for the sort of roles that are out there. I struggle to find them because the thing that I've learnt, from being on 10 years in the show, is that the biggest luxury in life is time and space. So I sort of wanted to take those two things, which I have very luckily been able to have now and really consider what my next option is because I care about what I'm doing with my time.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I have one final thought on this film. The London park bench...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Is such a staple of British rom-coms.
CLARKE: Yes, it is. Yes (laughter).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Notting Hill" famously - so tell me you do sit in park benches in the snow and read books. It seems impractical and chilly. But I think we all need to believe that.
CLARKE: Oh, absolutely. I do. I really do.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Good - I'm glad to know that.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Emilia Clarke, who stars in "Last Christmas," which opened this weekend. Thank you very much.
CLARKE: Thank you so much. Thanks.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
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