Munawar Hosain/Startraks; Inset: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO
Kara Warner
June 02, 2016 02:15 PM

As Game of Thrones‘ resident Mother of Dragons, star Emilia Clarke is in the enviable position of riding dragons, leading armies and being able to walk through fire – sometimes naked.

The only downside, however, is that Clarke, who also stars in the upcoming romantic drama Me Before You (out Friday and costarring Sam Claflin), received criticism for appearing naked onscreen, no matter how empowering or memorable the scene.

“I get so much crap, people being, ‘You’re anti-feminist, the show’s anti-feminist,’ ” says Clarke of dissenting commentary about the HBO fantasy series. “I personally have had a lot of [criticism] where people are like, ‘Oh, the chick who takes her clothes off,’ as a kind of derogatory thing, and I’m like, ‘Excuse me, [those scenes] couldn’t be more empowering.’ The fact that I’m naked is just like a ‘screw you’ to all the haters, do you know what I mean?”

For more from our interview with Clarke, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Amber Heard on the cover of PEOPLE

The most recent example featured Clarke’s Daenerys taking control over the Dothraki people by burning the former leaders to death and then calmly walking out of the fiery scene, unscathed, but also sans clothes because the fire burned them away.

“I don’t think the audience would be as caring about Daenarys as a character as they are, had they not seen, seen everything,” Clarke continues. “It’s been done really tastefully and the beauty of all that naked stuff is that it’s all in the book and I think it all serves the character, which is my go-to for acting.”

VIDEO: Ouch! Sam Claflin Recalls How Emilia Clarke Had a Mishap on Set of Me Before You – but Danced Through the Pain

So what does Clarke do to mentally and physically prepare for those empowering scenes?

“It’s kind of scene-dependent,” she says. “If I’ve got a ‘I’m-going-to-burn-everyone’ scene, then I think of all the haters – everyone’s got people who sting you or who upset you or who grind your gears, I get very upset with injustice — so I get all of those in me and I think about ’em and I’m like, ‘What would Dany do? Oh, she’d burn them.’ And go. To the soundtrack of Beyoncé.”

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