'Terminator: Genisys' Star Emilia Clarke on Becoming Sarah Connor

In the realm of action movies, there aren't many roles more legendary than Sarah Connor, who was portrayed by Linda Hamilton in James Cameron's first two Terminator movies. Undergoing a radical transformation and fascinating character arc, young Sarah went from naive waitress to battle-hardened warrior training her son John to be the future leader of the resistance against Skynet. And even though she isn't the only who originally leads humanity to victory, she's just as important to our race's survival as her child is.

Hamilton put such a stamp on the character that it's difficult for some viewers to see anyone else play the part. That, however, is what's happening in this week's Terminator: Genisys, which starts Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke as Sarah. This time though, things have changed, and the Sarah Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) meets in 1984 is closer to the Sarah we know from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, having spent a majority of her life being raised by the aged T-800 "Pops" (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in preparation for her role in the Future War.

Krisily Kennedy had the opportunity to talk with Clarke on behalf of Screen Rant about what it was like to try to fill Hamilton's shoes, and help lead the Terminator series going forward.



How are you?

Very well, thank you.


Thank you. thank you so much.

This was so much fun to watch.

Oh, good. Very good.

I have to ask. You are no stranger to big sets and big productions. But you said that this one was still amazing…

Yeah. It really was. There’s big sets and then there’s sets with Arnold Schwarzenegger in them. And they are different sets. You know what I’m saying? It brings a whole other bigness to it. Lucky for me, I got to play the kind of…What we do in this movie, there’s a lovely father/daughter relationship that we have. So kinda had that on my side to be able to kind of have a bit more banter with him than maybe I would have felt confident enough to were we to not have that relationship.

Emilia Clarke and Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Terminator Genisys' (Review)

Who doesn’t want Arnold Schwarzenegger to have their back?

Who doesn’t? Exactly.

It’s amazing.

Exactly. I’m very lucky.

And this was a really physical role for you as well.

It was.

What was maybe the most challenging part of taking on Sarah Connor?

The most challenging part I think is sort of two different things. one was the mental challenge of trying not to mess it up, because Linda Hamilton did it already pretty well. And then also, yeah, getting to grips with a new skill set that I didn’t have, really didn’t have at all. So the guns and kind of having the strength to wield those guns like I knew what I was doing.

It’s so funny that you say that, because when the first pictures came out, I was like, “I don’t know if I believe her holding a gun yet. I don’t know how I feel.” And then to see you on screen it was just amazing.

Oh, good stuff!

You nailed it. you had some really big shoes to fill.

I did! I’m like a size nothing. And her, she’s definitely got bigger feet.


Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor in 'Terminator Genisys'
Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor in 'Terminator Genisys'

And you are on with these huge…I mean Jai. I sat and talked to him. You walk into the room and you are just like…

Whoa! Exactly. Yeah. “That dingo ate my baby” [laughs] is what you’d say to him, I think. [laughs]

You had to have some fun with the both of them on set, too, because they are both pretty funny guys.

They are. They really are. And that was the beauty of the movie is that there was so much to do. There was so much stunts and so much kind of very serious producers. When you are dealing with the big stunt things, you can’t afford for it to go wrong. So you need to have people around you who are going to be able to release some of that tension.

I have to ask. When coming into a franchise like this and filling shoes like Linda’s, I mean people start to talk, like, “Can she handle it? Will she be able to do it?” Does that affect the way you approach the role? Do you read that stuff or do you just kinda not let it bother you?

No. I think that the key to happiness within this framework, within being an actor that’s kind of out for public opinion, which is exactly what we sign up for. It’s completely understandable. But I think the best way of preserving any kind of feet on the ground is to not read any of the stuff that’s kinda not meant for you. no one is putting that stuff on the internet saying, “Dear Emilia, you suck.” Unless someone did that, then maybe I would read it. but I think other than that, it’s just safer to avoid, because whilst you’ll definitely read lovely things, you’ll read horrible things as well. So why put yourself under that pressure? I think if you feel that you have the confidence to be able to take on that role or to be able to try and fill those shoes, then you…I am also my own worst critic. No one could critique myself as badly. So there’s that. [laughs]

I am now starting every article I write with “Dear Emilia”…

“Dear Emilia, you suck….” [laughs]

Every one! Thank you so much.

Thank you.


Terminator: Genisys is now playing in theaters.

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