Warrior by heart

Warrior by heart

In conversation

Warrior by heart

I’ve been told by a lot of people that I should keep my mouth shut. But that just fuels me to do the complete opposite,” says Maisie Williams. It’s fair to say that the actor, who plays Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, has a reputation for speaking her mind.

“I’ve always been opinionated,” she agrees. “I’ve always been bossy. I’ve always wanted to take control. Every girl should feel like that — that they can take control of their future. I want to inspire people to make those decisions based on what they want to do — not what they think they should do.”

Little wonder the Brit actor is being hailed as the ‘voice of a generation’. “I think about it all the time. I sit at home with mum and panic about what I’ve said,” she explains. “But I’m true to myself. What I say is always going to be taken the wrong way by somebody.”

Each other’s support

One example came during a newspaper interview, when Williams seemed to criticise Emma Watson’s He for She speech at the UN and dismiss it as ‘first world feminism’. “I actually emailed her saying ‘I want to apologise for how this turned out’. She said to me that it’s going to happen and was really supportive. And I thought, actually this is what it’s all about — women supporting each other in this industry, where it’s like being thrown to a pack of wolves and it’s really scary.”

One of Williams’s most recent big screen performance was in the film The Falling, where she played a teenager caught up in a fainting epidemic. It’s also been widely talked about as containing her first sex scene.

Girls’ sexuality is something she thinks we desperately need to confront. “It’s a big taboo,” she says. “Girls are growing up and exploring their sexuality and we’re all too weirded out to talk about. But how does that make girls feel? They have all these questions and worries — but every time you talk about it people frown on you”.

The Bristol native might spend her days posting videos on social media that show her messing around at home with her pet tortoise, or at Glastonbury, but her 1.1 million Instagram followers are nothing short of devoted. The biggest problem she sees online at the moment, she tells me, is how we reward girls — celebrating their perceived successes and failures but never talking about the work they put in.

“I see it all the time on the internet. If they do something right then we tell them ‘that was really smart’ but if they do it wrong one time then they’re dumb. It should be about the way girls overcome struggles — the journey rather than the outcome. Also with appearance — we praise people on that more than what’s on the inside.”

Arguably there’s no place that’s truer than Hollywood. Williams nods. “I’ve looked at girls who have got roles that I’ve auditioned for and I’m just like — it’s all about looks, and it’s so sad because I know those girls and they’ve got fantastic personalities. But it’s not even thought about.”

“I turn down scripts all the time because the characters are not real people. How do you expect to make a good film when all the girls are boring? I always want to play people who have a real narrative and purpose. I believe that every women should have a real purpose in this world. So why are we still portraying women that don’t exist?” she reflects.

Epic comeback

Williams’s Game of Thrones character could never be called 2-dimensional — Arya Stark is a girl who dresses as a boy and goes on a quest to fulfil her ‘kill list’. At the end of Season 5, Stark is left blind.

How will she deal with this new vulnerability? “It’s going to be something that she’s going to push through. And that’s the way all of us should see our problems and smash through those limitations. Obviously with Arya it’s her eyesight at the moment — but it could be anything. It’s something she’s definitely going to be a lot stronger for.”

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