The last time Emily Carey was on our screens, she was sharing the spotlight with several dragons and a variety of platinum blonde wigs in Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon.


The fantasy epic, which charts the history of noble dragon-wielding dynasty House Targaryen 200 years before its forerunner, boasts an extensive ensemble, at the forefront of which was Carey.

She starred as Alicent Hightower, the daughter of the King's Hand who marries the royal and produces who she hopes will be the next heir to the most coveted chair of all, the Iron Throne.

It was far from Carey's first foray into 'lights, camera, action' – her 10-year spanning CV includes playing younger versions of Wonder Woman and Tomb Raider, and over 40 episodes of British institution Casualty – but it was undoubtedly her rising star moment.

And yet, despite her rapidly growing profile, celebrity is something that still feels alien to Carey.

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"I can't even comprehend that people know me," she told "Even when people compliment my work or I get recognised, which is few and far between, it completely catches me off guard. I'm like, 'Oh, I forgot people watched that.'"

Carey described House of the Dragon as a "surreal" experience.

"I think I blacked out for most of that summer [in the run-up to the release and the premiere]. I don't really know how I handled it. No one ever prepares you for it. There's no guidebook. You can talk to people who have been there and done that, but this was different and strange."

Carey talks about not knowing "how the show was going to be received, especially with such a mammoth predecessor", and with "people's opinions on how Thrones ended".

"And I remember on day one of rehearsals," she continued, "Bill Paterson, who is obviously legendary, and has been working for centuries, I remember him turning to [co-star] Milly [Alcock] and I and going, 'I'm a bit nervous.' And we went, 'You're nervous?!' And he goes, 'Well, it doesn't get much bigger than this.'

"It still feels so surreal. When people talk about it, I have a weird disconnect to it. It was such a strange bubble, and it was very whirlwind. It had a start and a finish. Having the older versions take over [Carey was replaced by Olivia Cooke following a time jump], the attention and the eyes were then sent elsewhere, so I got a second to breathe."

But only just. She's now back at it in Netflix's Geek Girl, the highly anticipated adaptation of Holly Smales’s hugely popular YA novel series, which Carey has described as an "extension to the book".

"I was a huge fan growing up, and so book Harriet is very close to my screen Harriet. And Holly had such a hand in adapting the book for screen, there's so much of her essence and flavour in it that it didn't feel too far removed, at least character-wise."

Emily Carey as Harriet Manners in Geek Girl. She is stood against a blue background and has sunglasses on which say the title, Geek Girl
Emily Carey as Harriet Manners in Geek Girl. Netflix

Carey plays Harriet Manners, the titular "geek girl", as she's snarkily dubbed by some of her peers, a fiercely intelligent high school student who unexpectedly becomes a fashion model after being scouted on a class outing.

It's worlds away from House of the Dragon – although there are wigs, and dragons (of a different kind) – which immediately appealed to Carey.

"It was definitely something my team and I spoke about," she said of wanting to go in a different direction with her next role.

"I didn't want to be stuck in a niche. I think I’d already created some sort of typecast for myself, unintentionally, of the sort of quieter role. And Harriet is the opposite. She's very eccentric and very loud – not loud in a literal sense, but she's got a lot of character."

And that is paramount for Carey when considering which roles to go for.

"It's important to have loud women on-screen. And I don't necessarily mean literally in the sense of shouting. I mean loud as in big characters; multifaceted, three-dimensional women on-screen who aren't just there to serve the purpose of feminism. They're there because they have stories to tell."

That's one of the ways in which Harriet and Alicent, although very different, are aligned.

Carey also notes that they're both "strong-willed", another detail she looks for when deciding which projects to attach herself to.

"I was raised by just my mum. I've grown up with, in my opinion, the fiercest woman in the world, keeping a roof over my head. To this day, she's my biggest inspiration, always. So I can always find parts of my mum in characters I play, and the correlation between that is the strength. It's always something that I land on."

Harriet's inner steel certainly comes in handy across the 10 episodes.

Smale is autistic, and it was only after she finished writing the book that she realised her protagonist is too, which can sometimes work in Harriet's favour, but it also presents challenges, particularly when navigating unknown territory.

And that's something that Carey can also relate to. Like Smale and Harriet, she is autistic, which the actor addressed herself on Instagram when it was announced that she would be taking on the role.

"There were a lot of similarities between me when I was younger and the Harriet that I play," she told "It felt like I was revisiting myself."

It's that personal connection which first drew her to the books, and what makes this such an exciting project for her to be involved in.

"I became so attached to the books because the character made me feel so incredibly seen... at a time when I felt so strongly like I didn't belong anywhere. Finding Harriet Manners, I felt like I belonged with her in that world.

"And now playing her, when I had to sit there and sob, it felt weirdly cathartic, like I was releasing something that my inner child needed to release somewhere - which sounds so overdramatic, but it's so true."

But while Harriet's neurodivergence is central to Geek Girl, this is also a universal story.

"As Harriet says at the beginning of episode 1, this is a story for anyone who's ever felt like they haven't fit in. And I'm assuming that's most of us. Everyone has had a circumstance or situation or room where they feel they don't belong.

"And it would have meant everything to me to see a character like this on-screen [growing up], someone who is so unapologetically weird and geeky but finds her people and finds her tribe."

Harriet lying on her bed
Emily Carey as Harriet Manners in Geek Girl. Netflix

With Geek Girl's release imminent, Carey's profile is set to expand once again. But with that excitement and the possibility attached to that comes some anxiety.

"Of course that crossed my mind," she said of feeling the expectation to be a role model for her fans. "I think anyone who is rapidly gaining some form of following, whether that be through acting or even just in the age of TikTok where people can blow up overnight, it's scary, suddenly feeling eyes on you.

"And I did feel this responsibility to suddenly not just talk about things and be conscious of what I was putting out, but also be conscious of how much of myself I was sharing with the world. You do have to suddenly take a step back and find a disconnect.

"I have a very complex relationship with social media and my following. As I said, you can't really process and comprehend that people can see you. It's just numbers on a screen, and it's just noise."

Although she does feel some guilt about taking a step back in the "current climate".

"Especially with all of the things that are going on in the world, it is now more than ever so important to talk about things," she continued. "I'm a huge advocate for queer rights, as a queer person myself.

"Free Palestine, I will also say that. And I know that there will be people who will be raising eyebrows, and I hope my agent doesn't tell me off for making political statements, but it isn't political. It's human rights. And as I said, with the platform that I have, it's so important for me to speak, now more than ever.

"So I think I'm learning to step into it when I want to or when I need to, and then I have an ability to sort of disconnect when I can."

Emily Carey in a light grey suit jacket looking into camera
Emily Carey at the House of the Dragon premiere. Amy Sussman/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images

What does Carey tap into away from acting to centre herself?

"My friends are everything to me. I'm so, so lucky to have an incredible support system who keep me very sane and grounded in a world in which it's so easy, especially in this industry, to become a hermit and come home from work after a really long day and just not want to talk to anyone and just be in your own space, which sometimes you have to do."

And then there's LEGO.

"That's my way to disconnect. It's so easy to just switch off and I go on autopilot. You just sit and follow instructions, and it keeps my hands busy. I love my LEGO."

She's currently building the Pac-Man Arcade, which she's enjoying immensely, but she's "proudest of" the Vincent van Gogh The Starry Night, which is hanging on her wall.

"It looks like a piece of art. I'm obsessed with it."

While there's no LEGO in Geek Girl, Harriet could probably benefit from investing in some more (she's a fan, according to her dad) if Carey's extolling is anything to go by.

What does she hope viewers will gain from watching the show?

"I hope people find joy, especially with the last episode and how it ends. [I hope people feel] a sense of belonging and comfort.

"The show is so much about taking ownership of your situation and that's exactly what she does. As Harriet says, sometimes to change your life, you have to stand out."

Geek Girl arrives on Netflix on Thursday 30th May – sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.


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