She’s just 14, but Maisie Williams is already proving to be an acting powerhouse on the small screen.
As Arya Stark in the first season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the British teen held her own in tender father-daughter scenes with veteran actor Sean Bean, crafted a convincing sibling rivalry with Sansa (played by her off-screen pal Sophie Turner), and managed to wield a sword with expertise. And in Season 2, her role is set to show off even more of this rising star’s blossoming talents.
When the hit fantasy drama returns to HBO April 1 at 9 PM, things are about to change in a big way for the little lady, now disguised as a boy.
As viewers will recall from the season finale, Night’s Watch member Yoren, chopped off the now-fatherless Arya’s hair, strongly suggested she now publically appear as a “he,” and stuck her with the party of leftover boys, poor young men – like King Robert’s illegitimate son Gendry – and criminals he’s taking for service at The Wall.
And in the seventh installment AccessHollywood.com’s “Game of Thrones” Season 2 Q&A countdown series – Maisie explains that Arya is a young girl about to learn some very important lessons.
AccessHollywood.com: Last time we saw Arya, she found a sort of stand-in older brother with Gendry, who defended her when a boy tried to take her sword. Will his sort of brotherly-inclinations continue as the season begins?
Maisie: At the beginning of the season, she still doesn’t really trust him because everyone who she’s trusted before has been taken away from her, and she doesn’t think she’s going to see most of them again, and she knows she’s not going to see her dad again. I think she knows that she can trust him, but for some reason she doesn’t because she doesn’t want to get emotionally attached to anyone, just in case they get taken away from her.
Access: Arya learned really quickly at the end of Season 1, when the boy tried to steal her sword, that her world is more treacherous by the minute. How dangerous is it going to get?
Maisie: I think because Needle’s the only thing she’s got left of home, and that’s really the only thing worth something that she’s got with her, she’s really protective. Because she was quite sensitive anyway, and this boy she never even met before came up to her and was trying to take her sword away, she didn’t stick up for herself. After that happened, and when we start off Season 2, she’s not gonna be pushed around… She can now stand up for herself and people won’t sort of laugh at her because she’s a girl, because everyone think she’s a boy.
Access: Joseph Dempsie who plays Gendry — you worked so well together at the end of Season 1. Are you friends in real life?
Maisie: Yeah, all of us are – me, Joe, Ben [Hawkey] and Eros [Vlahos] — who play Hot Pie and Lommy. We all got on really well… We always went out to dinner… [and] to the cinema. We’re all sort of like brothers to each other and they all had a laugh and we all went and played mini golf together.
Access: Who won?
Maisie: Well… Eros did.
Access: You cut your hair this season to play Arya in disguise. What was that day like when you first saw yourself?
Maisie: When I was about 7 — I think — I had really long hair. It was down to my elbows… and then I just decided to cut it all off. So, I’ve had sort of long hair/short hair on and off for several years… When I decided to really grow my hair long — after getting the part of Arya — when they [eventually] said, ‘We’re going to cut off your hair!’ I kind of thought, ‘I don’t really want to, because I’ve been there before, and I’ve decided to grow it out now because I’m getting older and I prefer to have long hair.’ But after thinking about it, I thought, ‘It’s just hair, and it grows back!’
Access: What did your own brothers think of the short hair?
Maisie: Both my brothers are older than me, but the younger one, he isn’t that much older than me. We look really alike anyway, and when I had my hair cut short and I got out of the shower and it was all like, wavy, we looked exactly the same because his hair’s really curly, and it was really funny (giggles).
Access: I talked to Tom Wlaschiha, who plays Jaqen H’ghar, and he raved about how talented you are. Tell me, what he’s like, because he’s playing this super-mysterious character involved with Arya. Click HERE to see Tom in character as Jaqen!
Maisie: I think it was when I was gonna go and get my wig done last season, was when I first met Tom… He came in and I knew he was from ‘Game of Thrones’ just because he had that look about him and he looked really mysterious… I think he already knew who I was, but I wasn’t sure on who he was. And yeah, he came in and introduced himself, and later on, we Googled him and saw a bit more about him and we kind of put two and two together and realized that maybe he was going to be playing Jaqen.
Access: And when he hit the set properly?
Maisie: When it came to actually working with him and acting with him… he’s just got this voice, and, I don’t know – when he just spoke to me, it was, I don’t know what it was. But because English is not his first language, he had a lot of work with the dialect coach and he would always ask me, ‘Oh, how would you say this?’ just so he got the accent right… And, you know, we worked really well together and I got on really well with him and — I don’t know — it’s just his look and the way he speaks — it just captivates you like that, and it was great fun.
Access: I know you haven’t read George R.R. Martin’s books – your mom does. Not to spoil anything, but do you know what’s in store for Arya?
Maisie: Yeah, my mum’s read all the books and she told me what happens all the way through and where Arya goes and where she ends up and things like that, and I think it’s nice to have an idea, but from what I heard of Season 1, some of the storylines changed and some of the character’s weren’t there… It’s nice to have an idea of where Arya’s heading, but I don’t think anyone can be sure on what’s going to happen because (breaks out in laughter) I don’t want to tell you – but yeah, they change it up a lot.
Access: So you’re in the British equivalent of high school – like American students, do you have a reading list of books for school?
Maisie: Yeah, our school, we read a lot of Michael Morpurgo… I’ve finished reading a series of books about a girl who’s quite — she’s a bit like Arya, I guess. She gets like, bullied in schools and things. She’s always been a bit different and she doesn’t really realize why… and it’s just the story of how she grows up. It’s really nice. A really nice sort of ending as well.
Access: What series is that?
Maisie: I don’t think it’s got a whole series name, but it’s a series of five books and all the book titles are about water, so it’s like, ‘Out of My Depth’ and things like that [from author Helen Bailey]. All the names are related to water. It’s quite nice.
Access: Have you read anything yet that you thought – as you get older – you’d love to play that role?
Maisie: When I first watched ‘Coraline,’ I thought , if that ever got adapted… if it was done by real actors, I think that would be a really fun thing to do, just because it’s a kind of whole new universe. And just the way [they] show Coralline on screen… I kind of think she looks a bit like me, and she’s the same sort of character as me, and the same sort of character as Arya too — very curious and says what she thinks and things like that, so I think it’d be great fun to do.
Access: Speaking of female characters — there’s a couple new girls in the ‘Game of Thrones’ cast this season — Carice Van Houten (Melisandre) and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne). Did you get a chance to spend time with them?
Maisie: I got to meet Gwen. I didn’t get a chance to meet Carice. But Gwen was very nice and we both had to have our hair cut, so that’s how we got talking. We both [have] these kind of female characters that are really strong and that a lot of people look up to…
Access: And you and Gwendoline both wield swords!
Maisie: [We were] both talking about different moves that we learned. We’ve both got a lot in common [in] the way we were taught… We had a lot of things to talk about and I think that’s why we get on so well… She’s really funny and a real pleasure to be around.
Access: So finally, with your short hair, you’re really recognizable. Have you been spotted in [British supermarket] Waitrose with fans screaming ‘Arya!’?
Maisie: I’ve only been stopped, I think three times… But that was when I had long hair. Because people haven’t seen me with short hair, no one really knows what to look out for, I guess. When I went over to America last year, I did a thing on the radio, and when we were just down in the lobby of the hotel we were staying at, I overheard a lot of people talking about hearing me on the radio and they weren’t even aware that I was sat right next to them.
“Game of Thrones” Season 2 premieres April 1 at 9 PM on HBO.