We are proud to present another Winter-is-Coming.net exclusive – an interview with Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark on Game of Thrones.
Maisie is an actor and a dancer who comes from the vicinity of Bath in the south-west of England and is going to turn 14 just a couple of days before the premiere. Already early on, with weeks and months to go until the big day, Maisie became a fan favourite in her portrayal of Ned Stark’s youngest daughter. The combination of her cheerful attitude, serious approach to the role, and disarming cuteness (which I swear she should need a special dispensation for under the Geneva convention) makes this utterly unsurprising.
The interview was conducted over the last week, with the kind help of Maisie’s mum Hilary, who acted as a go-between, and also provided some additional photos with permissions from those portrayed. Hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as I enjoyed doing it.
Hear Me Roar: Hello Maisie, thank you for taking your time for this interview.
Most, if not all, fans of Game of Thrones think you will make a great Arya based on what we have seen so far. You met some of the fans in Belfast last year; I hope they made a nice impression.
Maisie Williams: Yes they did, that was a great experience, I remember walking into Easons in Belfast and seeing all the people queued up around the shop, we had no idea there would be so many. Everyone was so nice, and it was all really surreal. The increased attention is all good but as it’s mainly on the internet I can dip in and out. I am pleased that generally the fans like me as Arya but I know it may not always be like that.
HmR: Have you chosen to follow fan reactions online and elsewhere?
MW: We often have a look at WiC, George’s blog and the Facebook page and I did start to twitter but found it difficult to keep up so I’m sorry if you have twittered me and I have not responded! It gets a bit much sometimes.
HmR: What do your parents and friends think about it?
MW: My family are really pleased for me and so are my friends. They find all the photos from the internet and YouTube clips and put them on Facebook to try and embarrass me (unfortunately, it works!).
HmR: How did you get into acting, and how did you learn about this casting opportunity?
MW: I have always been in school plays and enjoyed drama but always really thought of myself as a dancer. I did not have the opportunity to start dancing lessons until I was ten when I started at Susan Hill’s School of Dance. After I had been there a while Sue suggested I attend a talent show in Paris. I came away from this with an agent and an audition with Pippa Hall, a children’s casting director, for Nanny McPhee 2. During the audition process, I met Eros Vlahos (who plays Lommy Greenhands)! I didn’t get the part but did get down to the final two. At the time I was really disappointed but I now realise that I did well to get that far.
My agent Louise Johnston then put me up for an audition for Arya. I have to say that at first I wasn’t too keen, I was still thinking about Nanny McPhee 2. But all auditions are good experience so I went along and after the first audition in London I knew I wanted to be Arya!
HmR: Could you describe the audition process for us?
MW: I had three auditions in total. The first audition was in London at the end of June, it was very quick, recorded on video with lots of others all auditioning for Arya, Sansa or Bran. I was thrilled when after a few days I got a call back. The second audition was much longer, I had to do the same scene (a Kingsroad scene not used in the actual series) about 5 times with three different girls auditioning for Sansa. One of whom was Sophie Turner!!! We immediately got on well and both wanted each other and ourselves to get the parts so that we could meet again! I also did an Arya and Gendry scene from book two. The final audition was a screen test with David Benioff and Nina Gold at the beginning of August. I really enjoyed it and I thought it went quite well. Afterwards, David spoke to my mum and asked her if she had read the books, which she had … well, the first one anyway. I think he wanted to make sure she knew what her daughter was auditioning for! We were supposed to be going on holiday to Scotland the day before the audition. The rest of my family were already there so mum and I spent the rest of the day in London then took a coach to Glasgow overnight and arrived early the next morning.
HmR: How did you learn that you had been chosen for the role?
MW: We were packing up to go home from the holiday in Scotland a few days after the final screen test when Louise, my agent, called and asked to speak to me! I knew there was good news when Louise asked to speak to me before she spoke to my mum; bad news comes from Mum, good news from Louise! I was so excited I couldn’t believe it … then a few days later we found out that Sophie was playing Sansa … I WAS SO EXCITED! It was a dream come true! It took a while to sink in but it was the best thing ever!
HmR: The story of your insisting on using your left hand in sword fighting is well-known, and much appreciated as an example of how devoted you are to portraying Arya as she is in the books. How did you go about learning about your character?
MW: My mum and step dad had read the first book by this time and filled me in on Arya’s character including the fact that she is left handed. It’s not that they wouldn’t let me read the books, I just don’t have time to read much and when I do, it has to be school stuff mainly. They would read me parts that showed Arya’s character. I started practicing with my left hand before we started filming because I wanted to get it right but was not able to use my left hand all of the time because of camera angles so Arya is now a little ambidextrous!
HmR: How long have you been dancing for? Did you feel that your dancing experience helped a lot with sword fight training for your ‘water dancing’ lessons with Miltos Yerolemou?
MW: I have been dancing for 4 years now; I do Musical Theatre, Ballet, Pointe, Tap, Street and Freestyle as well as gymnastics and trampolining.
Yes, it was just like choreographing a dance, it took time and practice to get it right but working with Miltos was great and we really had fun. Miltos is very good at stage fighting he liked to put in some ideas and suggestions as to what he thought ‘Syrio’ would do.
HmR: What would you say are Arya’s most important traits?
MW: She’s feisty, a bit of a rebel, a tomboy, she is also quite brave and quick thinking, she wants to be listened too but sees everything very black and white … bit like me really!
HmR: What notes did you get from the directors on what Arya should be like?
MW: They would say how they thought the scene would go but were also happy for me to say how I thought Arya would react to things. They also emphasised about Arya having to grow up really quickly in the first series.
HmR: How was it to film with dogs standing in for the direwolves? Did you get along well with Nymeria?
MW: Nymeria was played by two dogs Saxon and Indi. Saxon was the acting dog and Indi was the stunt dog, they were great to work with very well trained and very big! Saxon was really easy to work with and quite calm but Indi was a little more boisterous. Working with animals always takes twice as long, though, they needed far more takes than me!
HmR: How much of Arya’s storyline beyond the first book are you familiar with?
MW: I know the outline of what happens to Arya in all the books and can’t wait to see what is in store for her in the new books.
HmR: What are you looking forward to filming most, if further series of the show are commissioned?
MW: I am looking forward to being with the Hound … I like Rory, and really want to work with him. I’m also looking forward to the Weasel soup! Harrenhal, going on the run, receiving the coin … all of it really!
HmR: You have become good friends with the rest of the actors playing the Stark children. Do you recognize in them any part of the characters they play when you hang out in real life as well?
MW: A little, Isaac likes to climb anything and everything and Sophie is very sophisticated and likes to take charge, but none the less a great friend! But she is definitely not an air head!
HmR: Are there other people you have grown close with during the whole experience?
MW: Julie Austin, the on-set acting coach has become a real friend! It was great to have her around … she is real fun and completely mad but that never stopped her!!! We met George, Parris and Ty [Franck, George’s assistant] a few times and that was great, they are all so lovely as are David & Dan. Kit, Richard and Alfie are always good fun, and Jamie S[ives] was really nice too, we made up a cool secret handshake and everything! The crew were amazing, they all work so hard.
HmR: Would you care to share any funny moments that happened during filming?
MW: The cat catching was funny. In one take, I kept catching it … it wouldn’t run away, it was just a pro! Some of the directors were American, they would say how they wanted me to say a line in their American accents and sometimes it would be really tricky because they had said it to me so many times that I would copy the accent by mistake! That was always funny and quite embarrassing!
HmR: Did you have any difficulty managing the filming of Game of Thrones and travelling to Malta for it on the one hand, and school and other activities on the other?
MW: One downside was keeping up with school work and dancing, if we are lucky enough to get a second series there are some things we may try to do differently next time to make it better, like maybe basing ourselves in Belfast so we don’t have so much travelling and I would get more tutor time.
HmR: What are some of the interests you have, what do you like doing?
MW: I like textiles and arts and crafts. I’m constantly shopping for new trends and looks and I hope to do more clothes making in the future!
HmR: What are your plans and goals in the near future, and maybe later in life?
MW: There are a couple of acting things going on at the moment but nothing definite yet. My aims at the moment are to get through school, knuckle down and get good grades then maybe go to a stage school for 6th form then move to London because I want to be in the centre of things and I love London! Then, who knows?!
HmR: When do you gather you will be allowed to watch the whole of Game of Thrones?
MW: On 18th April! I was at the whole cast read through for all 10 episodes so I know what to expect – it is acting after all!
HmR: Thank you for all the answers, we are very glad to have been able to talk to you.
MW: Thank you for asking me to do this interview, it was great fun!!! :)