Nathalie Emmanuel played Missandei, an advisor to Emilia Clarke's character Daenerys Targaryen

By Christina Dugan
July 31, 2019 12:00 PM

For Nathalie Emmanuel, her time on Game of Thrones was more than just a job.

The actress, who played Missandei, an interpreter and advisor to Emilia Clarke‘s character Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO series, opens up in this week’s issue of PEOPLE up about her character’s sudden death in the final season, the bittersweet ending, and the lifelong friendships she made — especially with Clarke, who recently revealed she underwent two life-saving brain surgeries over the last eight years to correct two different aneurysm growths.

“Emilia, as a friend and colleague, is just such a joy,” says Emmanuel, 30. “I really have thoroughly loved working with her. I loved learning from her. And we just check in with each other every so often.”

RELATED: Emilia Clarke Says Game of Thrones ‘Shaped Me as a Woman’ in Emotional Tribute Before Series Finale

Emilia Clarke (left) and Nathalie Emmanuel
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Continues Emmanuel, “I remember coming back to work and hearing about [her surgeries] and being like, ‘Wow, it’s just so crazy and there you are, ready to go back to work.’ She’s such a beast. As a woman, she really picks herself up and keeps going.”

“She’s really inspiring, I’m so proud of her,” she adds. “And then what she’s chosen to do with that experience, to help other people, is so amazing and I’m just incredibly happy for her and how important her work is.”

From left: Nathalie Emmanuel, Emilia Clarke and Conleth Hill in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan/HBO

The two characters were suddenly separated after Missandei was brutally beheaded in the last season, leaving fans (and Emmanuel!) shocked and distraught.

“I basically cried my eyes out when I read [the script,” says Emmanuel, who will next star in Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral adaptation. “To be honest with you, I was sort of expecting it to an extent, but I’ve expected it with every season. And I think that finally I was like, ‘Oh, she’s gone. That’s sad because of how much I love her and how much I love playing her.'”

“She definitely went out with strength and she went out with a ferocity that we probably hadn’t seen from her before,” she adds. “I was very proud of her journey throughout the show.”

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The actress says she’s not only proud of her character, but the show’s overall run and ending as well.

“Reading the final episode, I felt hopeful when I read it,” she says. “I felt slightly hopeful. I thought, ‘This sounds like the beginnings of democracy in Westeros.’ It’s such a hard plane to land at the end of the day, because everybody, they’re all very wrapped up in the characters and stories. Everyone has their favorite. No one is going to love everything that you do. And whilst keeping everybody happy, I just didn’t see that as being possible. But I think that they ended it in such a lovely way. I very proud of it.”

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