Name: Emma Zia D’Arcy
Birthday: June 27, 1992
Place of Birth: Enfield, Greater London, England
Emma was bitten by the acting bug in year six, when they were cast as Titania in a musical production of Shakespeare’s classic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “I remember coming out of the school hall and just running, running, running around the field,” they say. “I guess it was my first dose of that very specific adrenaline-endorphin cocktail that I’ve always found pretty addictive.” They then went on to study Fine Art at the Ruskin School of Art through St Edmund Hall, Oxford. And they graduated in 2011. During their time at university, Emma took up theatre along with their friends. They began working in set design before moving up to acting and directing. Their earliest appearances were in Jack Thorne’s Bunny at the Burton Taylor Studio,Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman at the Oxford Playhouse, Romeo and Juliet at London’s Southwark Playhouse, and Clickbait at Theatre503. In August 2017, D‘Arcy appeared alongside Ben Whishaw in playwright Christopher Shinn’s Against, at the Almeida Theatre. Writing for the arts desk, Aleks Sierz praised D’Arcy’s performance as well as the production’s “marvellous moments of wry humour and acute emotional insight.” Emma would later appear in a short film with Whishaw called O Holy Ghost.
While Emma continued to appear on stage, they made their television debut as Naomi Richards in Nick Payne’s 2018 BBC One and Netflix series Wanderlust. In 2019, they appeared as Alma Smith in the drama series Wild Bill. In 2020, they played Sonia Richter in the Amazon Prime Video action drama streaming series Hanna. They also starred as Astrid in the 2020 Amazon Prime Video series Truth Seekers, a comedy horror series starring Nick Frost. Unfortunately, Truth Seekers was cancelled after one season. In December 2020, it was announced that Emma had been cast as Rhaenyra Targaryen in the HBO fantasy series House of the Dragon, a Game of Thrones prequel and adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s companion book Fire and Blood. They admitted that while they had been aware of Game of thrones, they had not actually seen the House of the Dragon predecessor until after being cast in the role of Rhaenyra. “I have not read all the books. I’ve read the book that relates to the work we’re making, Fire & Blood. Not least because it’s very exciting to read ahead and get spoilers on your own story. Highly recommend that.” The series began production in April 2021, and its ten-episode first season debuted in August 2022. It was being cast in HOTD that inspired Emma to come out as non-binary.
This is the first job in which I’ve brought my nonbinary identity to work. And part of that was because HBO asked me what pronouns I use, and I thought a lot about whether this was the right time. The reason it’s important is that there was a point, earlier in my career, where I really worried that it wasn’t possible to be an actor if you aren’t a cisgendered person. Typically, within casting sites, there are two columns, and I wondered if those two identities were going to have to live separately in order for me to have a career.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner and executive producer Ryan Condal revealed D’Arcy’s Rhaenyra to be, in many ways, House of The Dragon’s most important character, with Director Miguel Sapochnik labeling them as “the face of the show.” The importance of the role led to Emma being placed under much scrutiny, particularly after Milly Alcock’s rendition of the character in her younger years had been positively received. Emma’s take on the character however was an instant hit, garnering them widespread critical acclaim with critics including it among some of the best performances of the year. In November 2022, D’Arcy was honored by GQ magazine as one of the breakout stars of the year.