In her latest role, as a vengeful girlfriend in the gruesome thriller “The Owners,” Williams isn’t afraid to get down and dirty in the name of survival. The ’90s-set movie — directed by Julius Berg and written by Berg and Matthieu Gompel — follows childhood friends who break in and attempt to rob their elderly neighbor’s empty mansion. But when the owners come home earlier than expected, chaos ensues.
“I liked the script and I liked that it was set in the ’90s,” Williams says. “I just thought doing a psychological thriller would be really good fun. I’ve always loved the genre.”
Before “The Owners” is released digitally and in theaters on Sept. 4, Williams will hit the big screen in the superhero epic “The New Mutants.” After two years of delays, the final chapter in the “X-Men” franchise is premiering on Aug. 28.
One perk of the pandemic, Williams says, is getting to promote projects from the comfort of her house in the U.K. In the last few weeks, she’s made rounds on the late-night circuit with virtual appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “The Late Late Show With James Corden.” She does occasionally miss the glitz and glam involved with dressing up for TV interviews and Hollywood premieres, but she’s mostly relieved she doesn’t have to think twice about lounging in her favorite pair of sweats.
“I find live appearances to be quite nerve wracking, so doing these live shows from your own home is really lovely, actually,” the 23-year-old British actress says. “Even now that I started leaving the house a bit more, I don’t know that I’m ever going to wear jeans again.”
Ahead of her next two movies, Williams spoke to Variety about “New Mutants” finally being released after many, many delays, her post-“Game of Thrones” career and the hobbies she’s picked up in quarantine.
How did filming an indie movie like “The Owners” compare to big studio productions like “Game of Thrones” or “New Mutants”?
It never really feels that different. “New Mutants” was an exception, but that was because we filmed in the States, and I feel like the money spent on food in America is so much more than we do in the U.K. It’s also rare that your heater in your trailer really works in the U.K., whereas in the U.S., there’s a running shower and hot water and a little incense stick.
Otherwise, it’s like you’re always pushed for time. You always could be filming for longer. It’s always stressful days. Everyone isn’t getting paid anywhere near as much, and so people are kind of just doing it more for the art of it. And I think that has a real difference on set. Creativity can really flourish when there’s less time and more pressure and less of a budget.
“New Mutants” was delayed so many times over the last two years. Did you ever reach a point where you thought it wouldn’t open in theaters?
I knew that they spent $80 million on it, so I thought, if this movie never comes out, that is such a huge waste of money that really could have made a huge impact in the world. I’m so glad that it is coming out, finally. I hope that people enjoy it. I did definitely think in the middle that maybe it would go straight to streaming. But it’s going to come out in the theater, so I hope that maybe we’ll get a good turnout. I don’t know if anyone’s really going outside.
How do you feel about people going to see it in movie theaters during a pandemic?
I just hope that people wear masks and that cinemas are clean. I know there is quite an intense cleaning that happens in between films anyway. So I would hope that the extra precautions can be knitted in fairly easily to the viewing schedule. But I just hope people are safe. If people don’t feel comfortable, don’t go watch it. It’s going to come out on DVD at some point, you can watch it then.
Did you know from the start that your character Rahne in “New Mutants” would be part of a same-sex romance?
I knew in the comics, the two characters Dani and Rahne had a telepathic connection. When I was speaking with [director] Josh [Boone], he was like, “We’re going to amp that up into a romantic relationship” — which I thought made a lot of sense anyway. If you could actually read someone’s mind, I think that’s kind of what love is — being able to detect someone’s body language and understand how they’re feeling and try to make them feel better, even if you’re in a social setting. If these two characters do have a telepathic connection, I think that is kind of synonymous with love.
I think it’s really important to have a relationship like this at the forefront of a superhero movie or any kind of action movie. I love that a relationship like that is normalized in a film of this scale. I don’t think it’s even labeled at all, and I don’t think the girls ever even ask each other out. They just fall in love when they first meet each other.
Now that Disney owns 20th Century Fox, would you ever want to revisit your X-Men character in a Marvel movie?
Potentially. I think it’s a standard thing with a lot of studios now. If you sign on for one film, they write it in [the contracts] that they can do sequels or they can bring you back for other pictures. I would be excited to play Rahne again. I mean, who knows? I love this story. I think these characters are really interesting for the youth of today to see. And if the movie does well, I would happily come back and do more. It’s up to the people I guess. If teenagers hate it, we will leave it here. But if they liked it, then I wouldn’t deprive anyone of that.
What kind of roles are you interested in?
A lot of the stuff that I’ve done recently has been in an alternate world, and I miss the honesty of playing a girl who isn’t a mutant or she’s not saving the world. I [want to play] a complex woman of now and today. I think these films lack some kind of vulnerability, and I really crave to feel vulnerable on set. There’s a real comfort in doing something that has a lot of effects or blood because there’s so many other things to distract the audience from you. But doing something which is more raw is something that I’m craving at the moment.
After “Game of Thrones,” did you worry about being typecast?
It was never a worry, but it is something that could happen very easily. I’ve always felt so confident that I have a lot of other things to give. If I knew that was all I could do, that is probably all I would do for the rest of my career. And people will happily cast me as similar characters to Arya or Rahne, and that’s very easy for me to do and there’s a lot of that available to me. But I’m really interested in changing people’s opinions of me and showing people all of the other sides to myself that I can bare on screen. I think that’s already happening. I’ve had a lot of really lovely meetings during this lockdown, which have made me feel very excited for the future.
How have you been keeping busy during the pandemic? Have you taken up any new hobbies?
I started learning French, which is going really well. I’ve always wanted to learn other languages, honestly, so I started with French. I’ve been painting and reading and I’ve had a lot of free time, so I just tried to do things that made me really happy. I have found it to be a really meditative and joyful few months of my life.