Maisie Williams: ‘When I was 12 people were like, Ooh, are you gonna get a drug habit and ruin your life?’
Sep 4, 2020
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The 23-year-old New Mutants star talks to Craig McLean about making revenge comedy ‘Two Weeks to Live’, why she wouldn’t jump to watch ‘Game of Thrones’, and why women have to create their own stories to escape tokenism

Maisie Williams zooms into view, all Eighties club-kid fashion, heavily kohl’d eyes and shaggy, bleached blonde hair. It’s a bold look, one she probably couldn’t rock while filming eight seasons of Game of Thrones – that eye-popping ’do wouldn’t exactly fit with Arya Stark’s stealthy revenge mission – but it’s of a piece with the chic open-plan kitchen from which she’s speaking.

This, it turns out, is chez Williams, but not in the way we might expect.

“I’m in Paris, and learning French, which is going… well!” she says, falteringly, laughing. This isn’t preparation for a production, she clarifies, “but I’d love to do a French-speaking film. It’s just for me, for now, but with the intention one day of making a movie. We came here three, four weeks ago – my boyfriend is working remotely like most people, so we thought it’d be a good opportunity because we love it here so much.” Spoken like a true, globe-trotting young acting A-lister who “isn’t really in love with any city that I’ve been to. I’m really happy just moving around and I have a wonderful job which allows me to do that.”

We’re not here to discuss the 23-year-old’s return to the world of fantasy little more than a year since that fan-frustrating final season of Game of Thrones. At the time of talking, the cinema release of would-be blockbuster superhero movie The New Mutants – in which Williams plays a mutant who can turn into a wolf (handy) – is still up in the air. Equally, she shot the film three years ago and it’s had a tortuous post-production process, so it’s probably as far in her rear-view mirror as all the hoo-hah about who really should have won the Iron Throne.

Plus, it was another alternative universe-set story. As the Bristol-born actor says, somewhat tellingly, “I’ve worked on a lot of different projects in a lot of different mediums – but I don’t know that I’ve worked on something that I would jump to watch!” she adds with another laugh. “They’ve been very commercially successful, but I don’t really watch that sort of thing that often. So I’m looking to work with someone who I can just feel my most creative with.”

Which probably explains her first proper post-GoT project. Two Weeks to Live is a zingy comedy series/revenge drama, the violence set in motion by a practical joke gone wrong concerning a fake apocalypse (way funnier, not to mention credible, than it sounds, honest).

Williams plays a young woman, Kim, who’s grown up in the remote Scottish Highlands with her mum Tina (Fleabag’s Sian Clifford). But when life off the grid and killing deer for dinner starts to lose its lustre, Kim heads out into the real world, pursued by her mum. With what it seems is characteristic no-BS playfulness, she admits it was the right thing at the right time for someone who started on GoT when she was 13.

“It probably wasn’t the most challenging thing that I’ve done. But I guess that’s also why it was great timing, because I’d just come off 10 years of HELL!” Williams hoots, leaning her face into her laptop. “No, 10 years of joy!” The six-part show was, clearly, a blast to make. She and Clifford, who has just won the Female Performance in a Comedy Bafta for Fleabag, clicked instantly, bonding over their shared experience of playing fan-favourite characters and the challenge of moving on from those.

“When you watch us onscreen, you can just tell we’re having a lot of fun. That’s an infectious thing for the audience. That’s what’s it’s all about, right? Moving the audience and them being able to feel what you’re giving, and I think this show really does that. And for me, it’s different to anything I’ve done before.”

This explains why she hasn’t use her global GoT fame to springboard into Hollywood blockbusters, as her Westeros bestie Sophie Turner has done with the X-Men franchise. “There are so many parts of the industry that I’ve never really experienced. And I didn’t want to price myself out of that, or run away from the opportunity to work on something like this.

“I’m sure every single person who was on Game of Thrones has been asked: what are you gonna do now?” she wonders in her relaxed, slangy speaking voice. “There’s always the accusation, or query, as to whether you’re going to do anything that was that successful again. But what we did on Game of Thrones was unprecedented, and if you try and do something like that again, you’re only gonna fail. Because that sort of thing only comes around once. A big box office smash viewed by millions and millions of people around the world – it’s never gonna top that. So that’s just not a fulfilling thing to go after.”

Two Weeks To Live, then, was a smart pivot, one that enabled her to flex comedy muscles while also show off her old fighting and stunt skills. “This was a really intense shoot, three, four shots per scene, and snappy and quick. You miss out on opportunities like this if you’re just trying to go for status.”

Williams clearly has a calm, cool head for her business, and for herself, and always has – I met her on the Northern Irish set of GoT when she was 14 and she was as unflustered and down-to-earth as they come, even as Thrones mania was exploding around the world. As she advanced through her teenage years, she navigated child superstardom with apparent ease, even as she was becoming one of the best-paid teenage actors in the world – by the final season, she and Turner were reportedly earning £158,000 per episode. But there were no tales of excess or indulgence, no paparazzi shots of drunken stumbles outside nightclubs.

Her mum, she says, deserves much of the credit for shepherding her through onrushing fame, but at the same she time herself was “always so aware” of the possible pitfalls.

“Even when I was 12, people were like: ‘Ooh, are you gonna get a drug habit and ruin your life?’ That is the problem, I guess: the fact that you’re doing interviews when you’re 12 and no one’s ever addressing why that’s a really difficult and dangerous thing for you to do. Everybody wants you to have an opinion on something when you don’t know who you are yet.

“So I was really quick to understand that: these people aren’t my friends. People just want to go where the money and drama is. And I wanted to really protect myself.” So she had to “grow up really fast” while also recognising that that “can also mess you up. It’s a minefield [and] it’s a challenge every single day.”

As for her next professional steps, she’s looking… and looking. One area of firm interest is women-led projects. “Women telling female stories [is] really important, I think, if you want to create something that really does speak to women and that is really emotionally in tune, and powerful. We’re going through this phase of hiring women as, like, a token – they’re always onscreen, but they’re never behind the camera. There’s just a real mismatch there, because how can you expect a male director to know what it’s like to be a woman?”

She mentions The Falling, a critically acclaimed indie by Carol Morley that she made when she was 15. “I’m so proud of that, and I would love to do something in that vein. That’s a movie I would have watched if I wasn’t in it. Everyone sees me as, you know, 16, which is cool. But I mentally don’t feel like a 16-year-old, and it would be nice for me to play a woman who is as complex as I am.”

Female writers and directors with a possibly French-language project in need of a star who’ll bring talent, smarts and budget? You know who to call.

Two Weeks to Live starts on Sky One on Wednesday 2 September

Maisie Williams shares her hopes for season 2 of ‘Two Weeks to Live’
Sep 4, 2020
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Interviews / News & Updates / Press / Two Weeks To Live

“First of all, she’d have to be introduced to Elvis Presley…”

Maisie Williams has opened up about her hopes for a second season of Two Weeks To Live.

The Game of Thrones star, returning to TV for the first time since the HBO show ended, recently told NME what she would like to see for her character Kim if the series were to return.

“I think that her little mind would be completely blown by so many things,” Williams said. “I’d love to see her experiencing tribute acts. They’re so weird and we don’t think they are.

“First of all, she’d have to be introduced to Elvis Presley or whoever and then she’d have to understand that he’s dead and this person is just acting like him. It just makes no sense. Or I’d love to see her looking at doll’s houses.”

Williams continued: “The fact that we keep houses in our houses that are full of really tiny things?” she says. “People actually put in wiring and plumbing and shit like that, it’s just so extra. Kim really does call everything out, like, ‘Why do we do this? It’s so strange.’”

In a five-star review of Two Weeks To Live, NME said: “One of 2020’s best new shows, Two Weeks To Live leans into the witty humour of classic British comedies like Hot Fuzz and Brassic.

“There’s attitude and the story rolls along with a real swagger, but it never does the expected or takes itself too seriously. Season one’s final episode leaves the door wide open for a second series and lays to rest the ghost of Arya Stark.”

Maisie Williams on ‘The Owners’ and the Original Night King Ending on ‘Games of Thrones’
Sep 4, 2020
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2020-The New Mutants / 2020-The Owners / Interviews / News & Updates / Press
The actor talks going indie for her first post-‘Thrones’ role and the secret Kit Harington was told during season three of the HBO hit.
After devoting a decade of her life to HBO’s global phenomenon, Game of Thrones, Maisie Williams is going indie. In her first post-Thrones role, Williams plays Mary in Julius Berg’s The Owners, which explores a botched home burglary involving a group of friends and an older couple who practice medicine from the aforementioned manor. William’s character gets caught up in her boyfriend’s (Ian Kenny) muddled plan, and has to deal with the unexpected fallout.Coming off of the biggest television production of all time, Williams jumped at the chance to go back to basics via the horror-thriller, as her indie ambitions were inspired by a couple of familiar faces.

“I Feel Myself Coming Back To The Surface”: Maisie Williams On Her Cathartic Quarantine
Sep 4, 2020
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“I Feel Myself Coming Back To The Surface”: Maisie Williams On Her Cathartic Quarantine

Maisie Williams returns to our screen this week in revenge comedy Two Weeks To Live as Kim, who leaves her overbearing mother (Fleabag’s Sian Clifford) behind to avenge her dead father’s killer. Along the way, our heroine encounters obstacles that allow Williams to utilise her Game Of Thrones-era combat skills once again – albeit with Needle swapped out for rather more 2020 ammunition.

“The original storyline was that a virus broke out and the world was going to end,” Maisie told Miss Vogue, having dialled into a call from her current base in Paris. ”I had to do ADR [dubbing] from my bedroom, because there actually was a virus going on, so we changed it to a nuclear war. The storyline we had chosen became real — it was our reality and not just a story.”

Williams delights in the fact that Two Weeks To Live has a young female lead at its heart, but is still keen to see even more opportunities for women both in front of and behind the camera. “There are such wonderful characters written for women at the moment, and I’ve been lucky enough to play some of them, but there are still a lot of interesting stories to be told. We need to find great female teams to be able to tell them.”

Playing Kim gave the actor an opportunity to get her teeth into a comedy role for the first time. “I first read the script about four years ago when it was a film, and thought it had real potential. If something can make you laugh, then the chances are it will make other people laugh, too,” she explained. This isn’t to say that nailing comic timing was without its challenges. “Comedy is terrifying and intimidating to do,” said Maisie. “Even if I could do this show again I would do so many things differently, and I’ve learned so much for the next comedy role that I do. I always see things that I would want to do differently. I think watching yourself is painful!”

While seeing Maisie do full-blown funny will be a new experience for fans, other elements of her role in Two Weeks To Live are more familiar. Aside from being more than capable of holding their own in a fight, further comparisons can be drawn between Kim and Arya Stark. They’re both headstrong and tomboyish, and both offer a different version of the young female experience than those we’re used to seeing on screen.

Maisie appears to have no qualms about the dearth of damsels in distress on her CV. “I don’t usually get to read [for roles] like that, because aesthetics-wise, I don’t really look [like] the stereotype of a damsel in distress, which is also all made up and all in our own heads anyway. I just think that people don’t see me that way, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself that way either.” According to Maisie, her body of work reflects a feeling she’s had since she was a child. “I have always felt very different to the girls and women I grew up around, and a lot of that comes out in my art. I think that I do wear that with me everywhere I go. I do feel different, but that’s something that I embrace.”

It’s all part of an ongoing journey towards acceptance for Maisie, who says she has recently begun to rediscover the confidence she lost during her teenage years. “I got really lost and I didn’t know what to do, and would second guess everything about myself. I really feel myself coming back to the surface again, and I think this lockdown has helped that. I feel very different from the girl who went into quarantine, and I feel so much more confident.”

Her advice to other young women who have experienced similar struggles? “No one else is as cool as you are, and trying to be like anyone else is going to cause you a lot of pain. I think that people just need to let go of the expectations in their head – expectations of other people but also of themselves – and learn to exist in this world as they are, and learn to be better to themselves and other people.”

Maisie’s cathartic quarantine also coincided with her settling into a new city: she moved to Paris just before the lockdown was introduced. “I’ve been learning French which is something I’ve always wanted to do, so that’s been really enjoyable. I’ve also just been reading a lot and drinking tea. I didn’t have anything to complain about, and I know it hasn’t been that way for everyone,” she told us. “I’ve been trying to be happy with what is happening today – even if that is just being stuck in your house – and being grateful for everything that I have. I can definitely relate to that feeling of wanting tomorrow to come, and wanting things to be better or different or more – or whatever it might be. I can see why Kim escaped her mother’s clutches and went after a more exciting life.”

Two Weeks To Live will air tonight on Sky One and is available to stream in full.

Maisie Williams on Success and Being Part of an Empowered Generation
Sep 4, 2020
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Maisie Williams on Success and Being Part of an Empowered Generation. Famous for her portrayal of the young and tenacious Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, British actress Maisie Williams reflects on her success, the responsibility her generation holds, and the watch she feels is the perfect embodiment of achievement, confidence, and class. Here’s our exclusive interview with the up and coming star.

How would you describe yourself and where you are in your career?
I guess my career has been pretty extraordinary. Until this point, I’ve never really had a direction and I’ve allowed myself to be pulled through this industry. Me as a person? I would say I’m a control freak so from here on I see myself having a clear plan and goal.

What achievement are you most proud of so far?
To be recognized by the Academy [of Television Arts & Sciences] for my role on Game of Thrones is something that I’m really proud of.

What does it mean to be successful today?
Success is a positive mental attitude. You take from the world what you put in; I’m currently manifesting my happiness and success.

What’s the main thing you’ve learned from success?
Success is entirely personal – it’s never about the status which comes with the work that you’ve achieved. It’s always about the way you feel about the work you’ve achieved, and if you’re doing something which you find unfulfilling you’ll never see it as success.

What’s left for you to achieve? What other achievements are you striving for?
Too many to count. I want to direct and produce; I see art and creativity as fluid, so I’m interested in pushing the boundaries of what film and television can be.

At what point did you realise you wanted to use your celebrity status towards something bigger, grander and more personal?
When realised people had a preconceived idea of the sort of person I was before getting to know me.

Anyone has the power to change the world, especially those with influence. I believe we were put on this earth to do more than just exist, I want to leave the planet in a better state than the way I found it because I think that’s my purpose. I don’t want to only be a mother for my children, but I will also be a mother for the world.

How important is collaboration for you?
I rely on other people for energy. I find conversation to be an excellent way to understand the thoughts within your brain. I think we need other people to be a better version of ourselves and for that reason collaboration is the most important thing in creativity.

You used to one of the youngest actors of your generation. What’s it like to grow up in your industry?
Growing up in the industry is like being the youngest child in the family. You watch the people before you, you see their decisions and actions. You learn from their mistakes and you choose the way you want to be similar, and also different.

What distinguishes your generation from those of the past?
Generation Z has an experience unlike any generation that’s come before. We’re on the cusp of something so monumental, we can’t even see it or understand it yet. To be growing up in this era and creating art feels other-worldly. I know the emotions captured today will be around for hundreds of years, because this new age of technology will inhabit the veins of our society for the rest of eternity.

Describe your generation in three words.
Mischievous, compassionate, riotous.

Do you have a motto that you live by?
Get that head, get that bread, then leave – peace out.

How did you start your career?
My career came to fruition through persistence. I love to perform more than anything in the world. At every opportunity to be seen by a new audience or to meet new people who were linked to the industry, I made sure I was there even from the age of eight.

As a young woman in the film industry, what challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I faced as a young woman in the film industry would be my body image. There’s immense pressure on young women to look a particular way. We need to be striking but in a soft, appealing way. To be curvy but with a slim waist and skinny arms. At a certain level the decisions stop focusing around talent and they purely come down to aesthetics.

Maisie Williams is part of the Pasha de Cartier community, which also includes Rami Malek, Troye Sivan, Jackson Wang and Willow Smith
What does time mean to you?
I used to feel like I was running out of time, but that was because I used to fill my time with pointless things. Now I see time as being precious and I don’t want to waste it.

What’s more challenging, being an actress or an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur is pretty stressful. Business brings out the worst in people and having to compete with personalities like that is draining.

What’s your message to young women like yourself?
Never let the people who don’t care for the real you distract you from loving who you are. Don’t waste time being anyone other than yourself.

Who’s your favourite actor from the ’80s?
Linda Hamilton or Sigourney Weaver.

What was your reaction when Cartier approached you?
I was extremely flattered. It’s such an honour to be approached by a brand as famous as Cartier.

Maisie Williams wears the new Pasha de Cartier watch
The Pasha watch was initially created in 1985. What’s the first image that comes to mind when you think about the ’80s?
Princess Diana and her athleisure.

We are surrounded by devices that tell time. Why do you choose to wear a watch? What does it represent to you?
My phone represents chaos – every five seconds it’s a notification or an email or a text. My watch literally gives me more time in my day, it’s magic.

How would you describe the watch you’re wearing?
It’s a subtle reminder of how far I’ve come without being flashy or insensitive.

The distinct design of the Pasha watch challenges the predominance of round shapes in watchmaking and amplifies its presence, originality and singularity. How do you relate with the watch and the spirit of Pasha de Cartier?
I see my style as being fluid in terms of gender and I think this watch is empowering to wear for women like me.

Prada 2020.

Maisie Williams says it was “pure joy” working on comedy after Game of Thrones
Aug 28, 2020
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Interviews / Maisie Williams / News & Updates / Press / Two Weeks To Live

Two Weeks to Live comes to Sky One next month.