The Carnival Row star was coming off of The Tudors when she was tapped to play the key Mother of Dragons role in HBO's Game of Thrones pilot, filmed in 2009, that was famously scrapped and almost entirely reshot. She was later replaced by Emilia Clarke. Since then, Merchant has never discussed playing Daenerys -- until now. "Shooting that pilot was a really great lesson," Merchant told EW via Zoom from London. "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. 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." Merchant says she never felt attached to the role, adding: "What excites me and what drives me is a compelling story and a compelling character. So for me, Game of Thrones was never that. 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."