This past season of Game of Thrones was undeniably and univocally the Season of Arya Stark. The finale—watched by a whopping 7.1 million people—ended on an Arya-centric cliffhanger, details of which we won’t reveal for anti-spoiler sake. (You’re welcome.) Maisie Williams, the 17-year-old British actress best known for playing the youngest daughter of Winterfell, deserves major props for her earnest, tempestuous portrayal. But with an IMDb page also riddled with work aside from Thrones, it’s time for us to take her broader acting chops into consideration.
Last week, I was invited to chat with Williams about her new film Heatstroke, now out in U.S. theaters. The starlet plays Josie, a teenager who is forced to protect herself from arms dealers while on a family trip in the African desert. There are no stallions, no Valar Morghulis coins and certainly no Hound, but nonetheless, Williams is in her element throughout. Read on to learn how Williams would describe her Game of Thrones alter ego, why shooting in the Sahara was so dangerous and which surprising Thrones co-star she’d take to prom.
Lucky: With so many years of experience on the Game of Thrones set, how was it transitioning back to the real world (well, more or less!) for Heatstroke?
Maisie Williams: When I got Heatstroke, it was a couple years ago now and I was new to shooting in general: Thrones’ Season One had just aired and I was still unknown. I hadn’t done much, I wasn’t used to the industry and I was still learning. It wasn’t like I had an original idea of filming. But Heatstroke was a lot more intimate. It was a much smaller crew—we would go for dinner after work, and it was a lot more personal, I guess.
In Heatstroke, your dad’s girlfriend has to protect you from some pretty scary arms dealers. After holding your own as Arya for the last few years, was it difficult letting someone else do the protecting onscreen?
Well, it was definitely a really interesting character to play. I feel like Arya’s constantly making her own decisions and instigating things. For Heatstroke it was on the other end of the spectrum, to not have that confidence, but still be very determined and not to be the instigator. I guess it was nice to see the other role and be a lot more relatable, but no one is born as a hero. I love playing characters who are very willing to fight and take control of the situation.
And that being said, this movie is insanely action-heavy. Do you see yourself doing any less-physical or dramatic work in the future?
I actually did a movie last year called The Falling and it’s a completely different character. Her name is Lydia, she attends an all-girls school and it’s set in the ‘60s. It takes a look into a real person’s life, like people who you pass in the street and you’d never look twice at, but everyone’s got a story. It’s nothing life-changing to you and she’s not a hero, but you realize that everyone’s got a story and no one’s boring. There’s always something going on behind closed doors.
…Which is a very profound mindset! For Thrones, you clearly had to learn a lot of sword-fighting and horse-riding. Were there any special skills—combat or otherwise—that you needed to learn for Heatstroke?
No, not massively. I didn’t have very many stunts to do. My co-star Svetlana [Metkina] had more of that sort of thing, so I’ll admit, it was nice to be able to sit back and not do any of that physical work. But the thing I really struggled with the most was the sun. On set, there wasn’t a lot of shelter anywhere, and the ozone layer is a lot thinner down there, so we did have to be careful. I’m a person who burns quite easily; I do have to be really careful, even in the U.K. It sounds so silly, but actually, the sun is far more dangerous than we lead ourselves to believe.
You and Sophie Turner [who plays Sansa Stark] are such close friends. What noteworthy style and beauty tips have you learned from her through your friendship?
I feel like Sophie takes to all that a lot more naturally than I do. She could just be in a tracksuit and her hair could be up in a ponytail, but she’s still so lovely and graceful. She’s mastered the no-makeup makeup look, which I need to get onto. She has so many different tips about contouring, like how to make your face look skinnier. Dammit, I have to keep up! She’s absolutely beautiful.
I used to follow your Vines religiously—which is maybe not something I should admit to you in a professional interview. But anyway! Since you vowed to stop using it in February, have you found a replacement yet?
What happened with Vine is that, well, I didn’t consciously choose to leave. As my Vine got more popular, I’d find my Vines on popular pages and all the other ones on there were racial or sexual stereotypes that were essentially saying those jokes were okay. People said it was okay to make those jokes, but part of me was just like, it’s easy humor and I didn’t like that. I wanted to find other things and I wanted to make those things very intelligent. I just didn’t really like the place that Vine was becoming; that wasn’t the community I wanted to be in.
So, do you have something that you’re using for that outlet right now?
It’s on the way! There is something new that I will be starting soon, so stay tuned!
I have to ask this because I’m still personally devastated about the Red Wedding: was there one death on the show that you—not Arya—would like to avenge?
It’s Roz, the redheaded whore. With the crossbow, you know?
Oh, I know.
In Thrones, all these people kind of die for a reason with people treading on territory that should just be left alone. Like Ned, who was asking questions about things he probably should have just let be. But Roz, she did absolutely nothing wrong, and that was just so heartbreaking. Also, there was a continuity picture of that scene and it was up on my makeup mirror for a week, so I had to see her sort of hanging there for so long. It was just so powerful. I got upset every time I looked at it.
One last fun question: you’re 17, which is about the age that most students in the U.S. go to prom. If you had to take one of your fellow Thrones co-stars to prom, who would it be?
Sophie Turner! We’d just have such a laugh. She’d wear a pretty dress, but I’d still wear a suit because I feel like that’s what we would do. We’d do the whole awkward prom pose and everything.
Heatstroke is now out in select theaters nationwide.