The art of subtlety is way of life – Nathalie Emmanuel | Sunday Observer

The art of subtlety is way of life – Nathalie Emmanuel

19 December, 2021

Nathalie Joanne Emmanuel (born 2 March 1989) is a British actress and model. Emmanuel began her acting career appearing in theatre in the late 1990s, acquiring roles in various West End productions such as the musical ‘The Lion King’.

In 2006, she began her on-screen career by starring as Sasha Valentine in soap opera ‘Hollyoak’s, after which she appeared in various British television series until her debut film appearance in ‘Twenty8k’.

Emmanuel gained international recognition for her role as Missandei in the HBO fantasy series ‘Game of Thrones’ (2013–2019), and continued her career with supporting roles in ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’ (2015) and its sequel Maze Runner: ‘The Death Cure’ (2018), and in the ‘Fast & Furious’ films ‘Furious 7’ (2015), ‘The Fate of the Furious’ (2017), and ‘F9’ (2021).

Early life

Emmanuel was born on 2 March 1989 in Southend-on-Sea, a seaside resort town in Essex, England. Emmanuel is the second child of a half Dominican and half English mother, and a father of half-Saint Lucian and half English ancestry.

Emmanuel recalled that her mother first took notice of her passion and desire to become an actress during Emmanuel’s attendance at the independent St Hilda’s School (now closed) and later the Westcliff High School for Girls grammar school.

In an interview with the ‘New York Daily News’, she commented, “When I was 3, I always cause drama that my mum decided maybe I should channel it properly—so she started me on acting, singing and dancing classes”. At the age of 10, she played Young Nala in the West End production of the musical ‘The Lion King’.

Professional career

In 2006, she made her television debut, starring as Sasha Valentine in the soap opera ‘Hollyoaks’. Emmanuel appeared on the show until 2010, her character’s storylines included prostitution, and heroin addiction.

In January 2012, Emmanuel presented BBC Three’s ‘Websex: What’s the Harm?’, investigating the online sexual habits of 16–24 year olds in the UK. Later in the same year she made her film debut in the thriller Twenty8k.

The following year, she was cast as Missandei, Daenerys Targaryen’s interpreter, in HBO’s fantasy drama series ‘Game of Thrones’. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, she confirmed that she received the news about winning the role when she was working in a clothes store as a shop assistant. In 2015, Emmanuel was promoted to a regular cast member on the show.

Missandei was the only prominent character that was a woman of colour in the show, and her death scene, which took place whilst she was in chains, was unpopular among fans, being called an example of fridging and evoking an image of slavery. Emmanuel later told ‘The Guardian’.

The reaction to Missandei’s death was so big because she was the only one. I think a lot of the people who felt othered or disenfranchised had connected with her, or felt represented by her, especially women of colour.

When she died – and in the way that she did – it was so painful for people because they were like, ‘Wait, no! That’s how they’re going to do the only woman of colour?’

Also in 2015, she played computer hacker Ramsey in the action film ‘Furious 7’, and Harriet in the science fiction adventure ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trial’.

For the former Emmanuel won the Screen Nation award for Best Female Performance in Film. She played Harriet once again in the movie ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ in 2018.

In 2017, Emmanuel said that she learnt “the art of subtlety” playing Missandei, and that as she was working on soundstages and with greenscreens when playing Ramsey, that role developed the use of her imagination when acting.

She reprised her role of Ramsey in ‘The Fate of the Furious’ in 2017; she played Ramsey again in F9, which was due to be released in May 2020, but was postponed until June 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Emmanuel played Maya, a political speechwriter, in the romantic comedy television series ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ for Hulu, and was the voice of Deet in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Netflix series, both released in 2019. In July 2020 Emmanuel costarred opposite Kevin Hart and John Travolta in the Quibi original action-comedy series ‘Die Hart’.

In the media

‘FHM’ magazine ranked Emmanuel as 99th in their 100 Sexiest Women of 2013, and 75th in their Sexiest Women of 2015. In 2015, she also appeared in the April issue of ‘InStyle and GQ’ magazines.

Personal life

Emmanuel follows a plant-based diet for health reasons, and told ‘Glamour’ magazine in 2017 that “I don’t trust the food industry, I don’t trust what they put in our food – it makes me feel sick actually.”