What do we say to the god of death? Not today.
It’s difficult to imagine anybody more fearsome than Arya Stark, the sassy, merciless warrior played by Maisie Williams on Game of Thrones, the world’s most famous television show. Then there’s Maisie Williams.
Williams, like Arya, has had to mature quickly. Both she and her character are self-reliant, zealous defenders of their beliefs. They’ve all endured and overcome adversity (for Williams, a relentless onslaught of cyberbullying in her teens; for Arya, the brutal murder of most of her loved ones, culminating in the defeat of the Night King, the harbinger of death himself).
Both challenge what is expected of young girls. Maisie Williams is figuring out how to leave Arya Stark behind as the show approaches one of the most widely anticipated finales in television history.
Williams is excited about her numerous interests and objectives when we meet in an East London café near the offices of her company, Daisie, which was launched in 2018 and attempts to unite creative newcomers through friendly cooperation. She comes across as unconcerned by the trappings of fame.
She resembles her role as little as possible in terms of appearance. She’s got her hair coloured purple, nails painted, and at least three colours of glittering makeup daubed on her lids after spending eight years on set with greasy hair, no make-up, and bland clothing that ranged from brown to beige.
I’m reminded of one of her character’s important moments in Game of Thrones when speaking with her. In season five, Arya discards the filthy clothes she wore as a runaway during seasons two, three, and four in an attempt to shed her old self and transform into no one: a girl without a name who can take on the form of another by donning their face as a disguise. However, in another case of art imitating life, her inherent uniqueness triumphs.
Williams’ identity is fluid, as is the new standard among her contemporaries. She was a dancer before becoming an actor, and she is now a tech start-up entrepreneur, film producer, and industry mentor. I had planned to ask Williams about her experiences on Game of Thrones, as well as her newest business venture, London Creates, and her upcoming role as Wolfsbane in the new Marvel superhero film The New Mutants, as the show’s eighth and final season, is now screening, feverishly followed, documented, and hyped.
Instead, we spend the majority of our time laughing about pets, dolls, and the dangers of DIY hairstyling.
Before we parted ways, she mentioned that she had set her sights on ascending the UK’s highest peaks. We’ll have to follow her wherever she goes after that.
Where are you coming from today?
I took my dog to the hardware shop after getting some pictures framed. He’s got a stomach bug, so it was entertaining.
Oh no, poor creature! Tell me more about your canine companion.
Sonny is his name, and I acquired him from a dog pound, so I have no idea what he is. He has long hair, his eyes leak a lot, he has horrible ears and a dribbly mouth, and he’s extremely cute, yet he has a savage appearance. I’m crazy for him.
I’m pleased we started with dogs because your character on Game of Thrones, Arya Stark, is such a loner. How do you feel now that the series is coming to an end?
It’s a peculiar situation. I feel like I’m stuck between the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. There was a gloomy atmosphere among the cast during our New York press week. When we’re all together, there’s never a dull moment, yet there was a palpable sense of grief in the room as if we were all attending a funeral. It’ll never be the same again. We may stay in touch and attend each other’s weddings, but it’ll never be the same as when we were filming Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland.
When was the last time you shot?
Last year, in mid-July. I was one of the last people to finish filming, so I was able to hold back a lot of emotion. I’m still not completely recovered. People want to know how it feels, and I want to be completely honest. It’s difficult for me to respond in a single sentence because I have such strong feelings.
The only thing I can think of is that it has something to do with the conclusion of school or university.
Exactly. The last time I felt like this was in primary school, which was absurd considering we all ended up at the same secondary school within six weeks.
Is it difficult for you to move on?
Just a smidgeon. Playing Arya will be the most defining role of my life, and it’s over now. It was my first acting job. Arya contains so much of what I know about the world, and I can’t imagine anything being as valuable to me as she is—was. That’s depressing. A bit of Arya will always be with me. I know where my limit is now, and I don’t think I’ll ever want to lower it.
Are you being extremely selective regarding the next ventures in which you participate?
To my agent’s chagrin, yes. I believe success can be defined in a variety of ways, but for me, it means playing fantastic characters and accomplishing things I never thought I was capable of. It’s pointless for me to do this work that I’m so fortunate to have if I’m miserable doing it. What I’ve learnt in my 22 years on this planet is that it’s not all of these things that come with being an actor that makes me happy. It’s having a pleasant routine, enjoying what I’m doing, and seeing my friends.
Let me ask you a question regarding your newest large endeavour, London Creates. Could you explain what’s going on?
London Creates is a movement that seeks out talented individuals and provides them with the opportunity to collaborate with others who have already established professions. Bill Milner, my flatmate, and I formed a production firm a few years ago, and we’re working on a new short film. We have the power to assist anyone who is just getting started. Everything, including the narrative and music, will be created by people we meet through this campaign, which is incredibly exciting. These people will one day rule the globe, and what an honour it is for us to be able to work with them now, when they may not even have done anything. The campaign will promote collaboration in the fields of film, music, fashion, photography, and design, and it’s part of my firm, Daisie, which is an online platform that celebrates fluidity among disciplines.
Did you begin your career in dance?
I did. “I want to dance like Usher,” I stated as I walked into my first dance class. Hip-hop, ballet, tap, musical theatre, lyrical, and contemporary were among the styles I learned. I did it until I was about 16 when my acting career took off.
So you dance and act—is there anything else you’ve tried or would like to try?
Making dolls. I want to construct a small doll with unusual proportions, such as lengthy arms, a large head, and a small doll face. “I just had an insight,” I emailed my boyfriend after seeing a picture of this doll on my Instagram Explore tab. I believe I was destined to build dolls.” I’d like them to have tiny small hands and fingers, as well as skin suits that you create for them. Do you remember the scene in Coraline where they construct the doll? That is my favourite scene from Coraline, my favourite film.
Isn’t there already a doll of you out there somewhere?
There are dolls of myself, but they aren’t the same. I want to construct a bespoke Blythe doll, therefore I’m going to start casting faces and making lace-up or zip-up outfits. I’d like them to be tiny little people with skin. Even the armature wire I bought is red, so it looks like veins, and when I do the body felting, I want to include a small heart. Nobody will ever see it, but I’ll know it’s there.
This is your speciality! It’s providing me with a glimpse into your artistic preferences.
I suppose I’m drawn to a variety of things, but I’m particularly fond of 1940s French, K-pop, and Kawaii vibes—yet I’m also quite fluid at times. I do some things that are a touch macho at times. The spice of life is variety!
Right now, your hair is purple. Is that just for you or a role?
To be honest, it’s a very sensitive subject, and I’m not going to bring it up. No, I’m not joking. I enjoyed having it pink for a long time. The pink was fantastic. Don’t worry about the purple.
What colour are you by birth?
Pink! I’m a brunette. I had it bleached by a professional before doing it myself. It was dyed pink. I ran out of pink hair colour and needed to fly to New York, so I decided to just buy some in New York and do it myself. I didn’t do it well because I’m not a hairdresser. I dyed my hair a horrible hot pink colour. I get it—it looks! It’s just not my cup of tea. I tried to rinse it out, but it wouldn’t go away and became patchy. I should have gone to the hairdresser, but I didn’t, so I tried to remove it myself. Finally, I gave it a strange grey-blue hue. Hated it. For the Game of Thrones premiere, I decided to simply dye it purple.
To be honest, I believe the more DIY hair dying, the better.
With coloured hair, I blended in fairly well in East London.
When did you decide to relocate to East London?
I didn’t truly leave two and a half years ago. I have a studio where I do a lot of my painting. Every day, I take my dog for two and a half hour walks. I simply enjoy thinking and setting aside time for myself. Read something and write something.
Are you one of those persons that appears outgoing but is introverted?
Yeah! I didn’t recognise it until last summer when I realised it was the solution to all of my problems.
It must be an Aries thing because I’m the same way. What are your plans for your birthday, which is approaching quickly?
Scafell Pike is my destination. Last year, I celebrated my 21st birthday with a big party and stayed up until 7 a.m., but I’m over it now. I want to feel like I’ve accomplished something worthwhile. So I wondered, what is the UK’s highest peak? Scafell Pike is a mountain in the English Lake District. That kind of thing means a lot to me in life. That’s what I’m going to remember, not what I did professionally. To be honest, I’ll look back on Game of Thrones—it changed my life forever—but it’s the simple things that make me proud and happy. Climbing mountains and possibly running a marathon are on my bucket list. That is what distinguishes me. I believe that the meaning of life is found in the small things that everybody can do. It isn’t about something that no one can accomplish.
I have a question for you about the show’s conclusion. Do you have any idea what will happen?
I do. Nobody will see it coming since there are so many diverse alternatives.
Is it going to be unexpected?
No, I didn’t think so, but I’ve been asking folks what they believe the finale would be, and they’re all wrong. Just based on what I’ve heard, I don’t believe it’s predictable. Because it is the final season and there are 35 core characters, the writers must have had a lot of fun working on it. It isn’t exactly what people anticipate.
Is Arya the character with whom you most identify on the show, or do you, Maisie Williams, identify with someone else more than others?
I empathise with Samwell Tarly, who has a low opinion of himself yet is still accomplishing amazing things and has been through this entire trip. And I relate with Jon Snow in that everyone tells him, “You’re the king of the north,” and he says, “I’ve never wanted to be a king.” “You’re going to be a highly successful actor now,” everyone says to me now, especially as the programme nears its conclusion. You must take action. “That’s what you were born to do,” she says, “but no one has ever seen you do anything else.” Maybe I’ll make some very cool dolls. Who can say?