Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones fame: ‘People have a sense of ownership about you . . . And I think, how do you know? This is exactly who I am. F**k you’
School’s a challenge, Twitter’s a minefield and growing up in public is no picnic. But Games of Thrones star Maisie Williams wears her adolescent fury well
Maisie Williams: ‘I realised leaving school that I was leaving behind a lot of people who wanted to see me fall.’ Photograph: Simon Lees/Getty Images
Bright, articulate and opinionated, Maisie Williams is, in the nicest possible sense, a right old chatterbox. We say old. The Bristol-born actress was just 12 years of age when she first came to global prominence as Game of Thrones resident tomboy noble, Arya Stark. It’s a role for which she is recognised “more and more, every day”, she says.
It’s a role that also comes replete with an army of hardcore fans. They are a faithful throng that runs the gamut from late bandwagon hoppers who like to chastise George RR Martin, author of source novels A Song of Ice and Fire, for jeopardising the sequence’s future with his age (he’s 66), to early adopters who like to taunt TV fans with spoilers from unread books.
“It’s just frustrating,” says Williams. “I understand that you read the books years ago. But Dave [Benioff, scriptwriter and producer] and Dan [Weiss, scriptwriter] also found them and pitched them to HBO and made a series. You may not like the series. But there’s no need to ruin it for anyone else on my Twitter feed. If I tweeted a spoiler from the books I’d get sacked.”
Her visibility has left little margin for error. Every corner turned brings fresh shout-outs for Arya. Every new dress launches a thousand comments.
“People have a sense of ownership about you. You wear something and they say ‘Oh, that’s not Maisie. She’d never wear that. Who is dressing her like this?’ And I think, how do you know? This is exactly who I am. F**k you.”
No wonder she sometimes fantasies about being a broke student: “I know it sounds stupid but I’d love to be the 17-year-old who works part-time in a coffee shop to get their Glastonbury ticket. I miss being normal among my peers.”
Today, she’s sporting a girlie ensemble and a neat nose piercing. She’s in Dublin to promote a new, entirely dragon-free movie. In Niall Heery’s Gold, ageing ne’er-do-well Ray, played by David Wilmot, returns to his hometown to discover that his ex-girlfriend Alice (Kerry Condon) and his daughter Abbie (Williams), are living with his ludicrously competitive former PE teacher Frank (James Nesbitt).
“When you turn up at an audition for a role like this one, every girl you know from every other audition is there,” says Maisie. “It’s so rare to get a good part when you’re 17. But when it happens there’s usually something wrong with the character. They’re on drugs or something. This is very real.”
She seems to know what she’s on about. Despite her celebrity, Williams is a real-life adolescent. Between jobs, she can be found availing of cut-price Orange Wednesday cinema tickets with her friends and listening to electronic dance music (EDM). “Though I don’t call it that in America; it means something different there. I love music without words anyway.”
Maisie is the youngest of four children born to Hilary Frances, a former university course administrator. An artsy clan, her eldest brother James is a history major who dabbles in body art, her sister Beth sings and her brother Ted is a breakdance instructor. At school, her lengthy absences reduced her to being a “black mark” at roll call punctuated by brief returns to the classroom between shoots.
“It was very, very difficult to find the right balance at school,” she says. “I was always very loud. Never a queen bee, more a class clown. And I remember that when I’d come back to school the other girls sat there with questions, questions, questions. So if you don’t answer you’re a bitch. And if you do, the next week you’d hear, ‘What a bitch, I wish she’d stop going on about it all the time.’”
She remains in contact with two schoolyard friends. But that’s not because of any airs and graces: “It’s such a fantasy that you’ll always stay friends with the girls at school. You were thrown together because you share a postcode. Often, you’re making the best of a bad bunch. Best days of your life? What bulls**t.”
The fourth estate, meanwhile, are apt to express disapproval that the youngster left school before her GCSE exams. “I hate when people say that I’m uneducated,” says the actor (she had a tutor on the set of Game of Thrones). “I’ve been given this amazing opportunity. I’d probably be working in an office now. I’ve got my toe in the door and I am not moving my foot. And I’m not sorry. I realised leaving school that I was leaving behind a lot of people who wanted to see me fall.”
It’s not easy spending one’s most hormonally-erratic years in the limelight. And while Williams isn’t about to point a giant foam finger at Robin Thicke, she understands why Miley Cyrus would.
“It’s very hard growing up in public,” she says. “You’re going through all these bodily changes, you’re laughing one minute and crying the next. I understand why some girls want to make a big gesture with a foam finger. I’m more about drip feed. I remember the first time I swore on Twitter. But once you’ve done it, you can do it again.”