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Why didn t Emilia Clarke wear purple contacts?

Emilia Clarke rose to fame portraying Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons, in HBO’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones. With her blonde hair and ethereal beauty, Emilia was perfectly cast as the Targaryen queen – except for one detail. In George R.R. Martin’s novels, the Targaryens are described as having silver hair and purple eyes, yet Emilia Clarke wore blue eyes instead of purple contacts. This was an intentional choice by the showrunners and Emilia herself. Here’s an in-depth look at why Emilia Clarke never wore purple contacts as Daenerys.

The Practical Reasons Against Purple Contacts

On a practical level, colored contact lenses can be quite uncomfortable and challenging for actors to wear, especially for extended periods of time. Game of Thrones had very long filming days, and Emilia was in nearly every scene as Daenerys. Having her wear purple contacts all day long would have likely been an ordeal.

Colored contacts can severely restrict oxygen flow to the eyes and cause vision problems. They also limit the actor’s ability to emote properly, as their eye expressions and movements can appear unnatural. Emilia relied heavily on subtle eye acting and expressions in her nuanced portrayal of Daenerys, which would have been hindered by contacts.

Additionally, coloured contact lenses often need to be specially fitted for each actor. The show would have needed custom purple contacts made for Emilia in the exact right shade and size for her eyes. With how much her violet eyes are described in the books, the contacts would need to look very realistic and not artificial.

Creative Concerns About Purple Eyes

Beyond the technical issues with contacts, the showrunners had creative concerns about obscuring Emilia Clarke’s naturally expressive eyes. Showrunner D.B. Weiss explained:

“Her eyes are just too expressive and too beautiful to cover up.”

Director Alan Taylor also shared:

“We did tests with all kinds of contact lenses, but it was tricky to get the right color that wasn’t overly fake or distracting. Plus, we were always fighting against the whiteness of Emilia’s eyes and skin that was such a strong signature of her look as Daenerys. In the end, we felt not having purple eyes would be less distracting for the audience than having lenses that were fake-looking.”

The showrunners ultimately decided it was more important for Emilia’s emotive eyes to be visible rather than making them purple. They did not want to detract from her compelling performances by obscuring her natural eyes.

The Character Reasons Against Violet Eyes

Beyond practical and creative concerns, there were also character-driven reasons that Emilia Clarke did not wear purple contacts. One of the most compelling aspects of Daenerys in the show is her gradual character development and humanization over the seasons. She starts out seeming like an untouchable Targaryen queen, but becomes more complex and relatable as she forms relationships and experiences hardships.

Having Emilia keep her natural blue eyes aided in making Daenerys feel like a real, vulnerable human being instead of just the alien, otherworldly Targaryen conqueror with strange violet eyes described in the books. Showrunner David Benioff explained:

“Emilia has such an expressive, beautiful face and blue eyes. We felt having her eyes be purple would distract from the emotional depth she brought to the character.”

Emilia’s blue eyes made Daenerys more accessible and grounded. The showrunners chose to sacrifice the purple eyes described in the books in order to gain a much more relatable and humanized character onscreen.

Fan Reactions to the Lack of Violet Eyes

Most Game of Thrones fans understand why purple contacts were not practical for Emilia Clarke and Daenerys on the show. However, some hardcore fans of the books wish she had violet eyes to accurately match the physical descriptions of Targaryens in the novels. Certain fans feel the lack of purple eyes lessened the otherworldly, almost magical essence of the Targaryen dynasty.

Overall though, most fans recognize the benefits gained by having Emilia’s natural eyes visible. Her emotional expressions and ability to form intimate human connections onscreen may have been diminished by contacts. And the contacts could have appeared quite artificial and distracting compared to her natural eyes.

How Eye Color Factors Into Daenerys’ Character Arc

Despite not having purple eyes, Daenerys’ unnatural hair color still signifies her as the blood of the dragon. But the show’s choice to keep Emilia Clarke’s natural blue eyes may have also served a symbolic purpose in the story.

Daenerys begins with the blue eyes of the innocent young girl sold into marriage by her brother. But as she grows stronger and more ruthless in pursuit of the Iron Throne, her eye color reflects her shifted morals. She’s no longer the wide-eyed, helpless girl at the start – she’s a powerful woman who will stop at nothing to rule the Seven Kingdoms, at any cost.

Some fans speculate the blue eyes foreshadowed that she would turn from heroic savior to murderous villain in the climactic final season. While purple eyes may have pleased book fans, Emilia’s blue eyes allowed for a more nuanced, visual portrayal of Daenerys’ entire character arc.

How Daenerys’ Eye Color Compares to Other Targaryens

Character Eye Color in Books Eye Color on Show
Daenerys Targaryen Purple Blue (Emilia Clarke’s natural color)
Viserys Targaryen Purple Brown (Harry Lloyd’s natural color)
Jon Snow Grey Brown (Kit Harington’s natural color)
Rhaegar Targaryen Purple Blue (Wilf Scolding’s natural color)

As the table shows, other Targaryens on the show like Viserys and Rhaegar also did not wear the purple contacts described in the novels. The showrunners opted to keep the actors’ natural eye colors instead of the iconic Targaryen violet eyes for practical reasons, and to allow for more emotional performances.


While book fans may feel cheated out of the classic Targaryen purple eyes, there are many compelling reasons Emilia Clarke did not wear violet contacts as Daenerys on Game of Thrones. The showrunners chose to prioritize Emilia’s acting abilities and the character’s humanity over matching every physical detail from the novels. And that choice resulted in a Daenerys that felt real, relatable, and human rather than an otherworldly fantasy character.

Overall, not having purple eyes allowed Emilia Clarke to deliver a richer, more nuanced and emotionally engaging performance as the Mother of Dragons. The decision provided practical benefits for the filming process while also serving important creative and character goals. So while it may have sacrificed a beloved book detail, keeping Emilia’s natural blue eyes was likely the best choice for adapting Daenerys to the screen.

In the end, Emilia Clarke’s legendary portrayal of Daenerys made her one of the most popular and iconic characters in television history – with or without the purple eyes.