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Maisie for The Telegraph Magazine

Maisie has a brand new Photoshoot for The Telegraph Magazine. In it she talks about the ending of Game Of Thrones. Enjoy viewing the photoshoot in our gallery.

TELEGRAPH MAGAZINE– At 12, she landed the part that would change her life. Seven seasons later, Maisie Williams’s character is one of the most formidable on TV. Emily Cronin meets Game of Thrones’ murderous Arya Stark

Arya Stark is one of Game of Thrones’ great survivors, murdering her way round Westeros in a pitiless org y of revenge. Maisie Williams, who has played her since she was a 12-year-old Bristol schoolgirl, is no less resilient – though perhaps not quite so bloodthirsty. Emily Cronin meets the breakout star of the world’s biggest TV show. Photographs by Tom Craig. Styling by Sophie Warburton.

Who knew Arya Stark would have such a thing for home-organisation porn? ‘Oh my God,’ says Maisie Williams, the actor who plays Game of Thrones’ baby-faced assassin, drooling over the Instagram feed of the professional organisers behind Gwyneth Paltrow and Mandy Moore’s obsessively curated pantries. ‘Shut up. Look at that! Gaaasp. Hold on…’ She pauses to click on the ‘follow’ button.

‘You know, I spent a bunch of time with Noomi Rapace. She keeps her clothes in colour order and it’s just incredible. I got home after visiting her house and was like, “Right, I am putting my wardrobe in colour order right this minute.” I did, and let me tell you, it feels a-may-zing.’

There’s a moment in every interview when you realise how thoroughly the person across the table diverges from the character through which you first made her acquaintance. With Williams, that moment lands early. Thankfully. Because although she has played a juvenile killer on Thrones for the past seven years – one who lulls herself to sleep by reciting, over and over again, the roster of enemies she plans to execute to avenge her family – Williams is, in fact, a freshly minted Londoner, with all the newcomer’s zeal that entails. ‘London in the summer, there’s no better place,’ she extols, ticking off ‘music festivals, being with my friends, going to the park and playing with other people’s dogs’ as a few of her favourite things. Home is an east London flat-share. And it’s pink.

‘When I was younger I felt this pressure to not be a girly girl. So I didn’t tell anyone my favourite colour was pink. I just… picked green, and told everyone that was my favourite colour.’ She shrugs. ‘It wasn’t until recently I realised I’d made this conscious decision not to say I liked pink. I told my boyfriend [her old schoolmate Ollie Jackson], “Green is not my favourite colour and it never has been. I like pink.”’ To that end, she has built a pink palace of a bedroom and bathroom, ‘with pink towels, pink floor mats and pink toilet paper’.

Does she think Arya Stark’s favourite colour might be pink as well?

‘No,’ she says flatly. ‘She likes red. Blood red.’

Looking even tinier in person than on screen, Williams has a heart-shaped face, huge hazel eyes and impish eyebrows. She shares with Arya a quickness of gesture and a certain freeform agility. During our hour-long interview she occupies her chair every way but in the manner intended: cross-legged with her arms over the back; one knee up and half-twisted around; a hand in her hair and another drumming on her knee.

The youngest of four siblings raised mainly by her mother after her parents’ divorce, Williams spent her childhood in Bristol, ‘climbing trees and running around, being very hyper, and dancing’. Acting wasn’t high on her agenda, until she was sent to an audition for Thrones. She remembers ‘meeting lots of really scary girls and really scary mums’, but also falling in friend-love-atfirst-sight with Sophie Turner, who would go on to be cast as Arya’s sister, Sansa. ‘She was just the nicest girl ever. To find out we were going to be

shooting together put me at ease, just knowing I already had a friend.’ (They’re just as close off set – the date hasn’t been decided but Williams has been asked to be Turner’s bridesmaid at her wedding to American singer Joe Jonas.)

At the time, no one knew what to expect of Thrones – shows based on fantasy-book series featuring incest and dragons are not usually big hits on TV. Filming wrenched Williams out of her preteen routine of school, friends and dance classes, and changed her family life too: her mother left her job as a university course administrator to become the then 12-year-old Williams’s personal assistant and chaperone. ‘I had a tough time at school and was asked to leave because of my attendance. Lots of people had not-very-nice things to say about me, and no one here had really heard of the show,’ she says, alluding to bullying. Then she went on her first press tour and was confronted by ‘hundreds, maybe thousands’ of fans at every turn, first in Los Angeles, then San Francisco, New York, Boston and so on. ‘It was a moment when my mum and I realised how big the show was and that this was my career now, and I was like, “We made the right choice. It’s all going to work out; it’s going to be OK.”’

It’s only grown bigger. During the show’s seventh season, which culminated (spoiler alert) in a dragon-assisted battle royal last August, Thrones averaged 31 million viewers per episode worldwide. It’s the most-awarded drama series in the history of the Emmys and surpassed The Sopranos as home network HBO’S most-watched series in 2015. And it’s estimated that each episode of the last series will cost £11 million to produce.

Williams says viewers have rooted for Arya since the beginning because ‘it was really refreshing to see a young girl who was so feisty and confident – she’s unlike a lot of other young female characters’. In the seasons since, Arya’s initial fresh-faced excitement about learning swordsmanship has been hardened by brutal plot twists (she witnessed her father’s execution) and a stint training with the Faceless Men of Braavos – training that saw Arya temporarily blinded, beaten and abused in the corridors and alleyways in and around the temple of the Many-faced God. She’s cut her share of throats and fed at least one of her enemies a pie made of his sons’ flesh. And for a few episodes last season, it looked like she might direct her rage toward her sister.

‘That was good fun – to feel like an enemy, like a bad guy,’ Williams says. ‘Often you’re cheering for her because she’s about to kill someone that everyone hates, but when you see her do that with a character everyone loves, to see her so furious at her sister, it’s really, really powerful. She’s one step away from spinning out of control.’

Growing up as Arya has presented Williams

‘I had a tough time at school… Lots of people had not-very-nice things to say about me’

with an alternative set of milestones. Williams’ and Turner’s mothers stopped shielding them from the show’s graphic sex and violence early on, when they debated taking the girls out of a read-through of a scene featuring two girls ‘going at it’ – trying to keep their daughters in the dark only served to pique their interest. ‘The sex was just quite embarrassing and awkward for us,’ Williams says, matterof-factly. ‘Most of the gory stuff I was part of, you know, and it’s not scary when you’re there shooting it. No one’s really getting stabbed or getting their face ripped off. It’s just pretend, so it’s quite exciting really.’ She’s watched many episodes on the sofa next to her grandmother. ‘Bless her, my mum just plies her with more and more gin.’

The show has faced criticism for its violence (undeniable) and misogyny, which Williams dismisses. ‘I’ve never, ever felt like this is a misogynistic show. The best and most powerful characters are all women… I’ve only ever been inspired by the women, and how they gain power and control and take their destinies into their own hands.’ As one of the last women still standing in season eight, the final series, which is currently being filmed in and around Belfast, Williams is aware that the world will be watching Arya’s every move. Yes, she knows how it all ends. No, she’s not saying. ‘I think people are gonna like it,’ she says, smiling in a wolfish, Arya-like way.

Williams thinks she’s ready for the end of Thrones. She’s taken care to pursue other roles that couldn’t be farther in setting or tone from Westeros. Most recently, she appeared in Mary Shelley, Saudi Arabian director Haifaa al-mansour’s romantic period drama about the Frankenstein author, as a Scottish confidante of Elle Fanning’s Shelley. The accent coach from Thrones transcribed her lines phonetically to help Williams tackle the Aberdeen accent.

The show has faced criticism for its violence (undeniable) and misogyny, which Williams dismisses. ‘I’ve never, ever felt like this is a misogynistic show. The best and most powerful characters are all women… I’ve only ever been inspired by the women, and how they gain power and control and take their destinies into their own hands.’ As one of the last women still standing in season eight, the final series, which is currently being filmed in and around Belfast, Williams is aware that the world will be watching Arya’s every move. Yes, she knows how it all ends. No, she’s not saying. ‘I think people are gonna like it,’ she says, smiling in a wolfish, Arya-like way.

Williams thinks she’s ready for the end of Thrones. She’s taken care to pursue other roles that couldn’t be farther in setting or tone from Westeros. Most recently, she appeared in Mary Shelley, Saudi Arabian director Haifaa al-mansour’s romantic period drama about the Frankenstein author, as a Scottish confidante of Elle Fanning’s Shelley. The accent coach from Thrones transcribed her lines phonetically to help Williams tackle the Aberdeen accent.

She’d like to direct, but her first post-thrones project is in the tech sphere. It’s Daisie, a socialnetworking app for young ‘creators’ – defined as ‘filmmakers, writers, readers, listeners and speak- ers, poets, dancers, singers, chefs, entrepreneurs, developers and architects’ – that rewards members who build links (‘chains’) rather than high follower counts. ‘I’m getting to the point where I wanted to invest my money’ – she has an estimated net worth of £4.5 million and is said to earn £113,000 per episode of Thrones – ‘and why not go into tech? I believe in this. We’ve got something really special that will benefit a lot of people my age.’

Much like Turner and Emilia Clarke, who plays dragon-riding khaleesi (queen) Daenerys Targaryen, Williams has received her share of attention from the fashion industry. American brand Coach enlisted her as a ‘friend’, meaning she gets to wear its clothes for parties, premieres and high-profile events. ‘Maisie’s sense of optimism, authenticity and individuality make her the perfect Coach girl,’ says executive creative director Stuart Vevers. ‘I have a lot of respect for her dedication to causes close to her heart.’

She still finds fashion ‘quite scary’, but has cultivated a quirky, youthful style that ensures she stands out whether at Thrones promotional appearances or The Fashion Awards. ‘I’ve always wanted to be age-appropriate,’ she says. ‘I look at other 21-year-olds, like [model] Bella Hadid and [singer] Camila Cabello, and I don’t feel I’m a woman like that’ – meaning, it seems, one who comes across as being in full and frank command of her sexual powers. ‘They’re amazing but that’s not who I am.’ She loves wearing bandanas and things that ‘work for me and me only, something that’s my own stamp’. Recently, rather than buying a dress she would wear once for ‘a wedding’ (it turned out to be the wedding of Thrones co-stars Kit Harington and Rose Leslie), she treated herself to a Dries Van Noten trouser ensemble.

It’s just one of the outfits she Snapchats on her private account (other favourite subject: that perfectly organised wardrobe), though she also fills her rare free time with cooking, pranking her flatmate with fake blood splatters nicked from the Thrones prop department, watching The Bachelor dating show and Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed-martial-arts bouts, and practising yoga, which puts her in a reflective frame of mind.

‘I’ve been thinking a lot lately about before the show and how normal it was, and how I’m going to have a normal – well, maybe not completely normal – but I’m going to have a life after the show,’ she says. The constant is family: one brother is travelling around the world; the other is on an extended trip to America; her older sister is the mother of a toddler. She says they all consider Bristol their base and try to get home to see each other as often as possible. As for her now-remarried mother, they remain close, and she is the only person with whom Williams has shared scripts for the final episodes of Thrones.

‘I look back to the harder times we had and how much my mum struggled being a single mother with four kids – just thinking about how different my life could have been, and how lucky I am in that I’ve been able to provide for my family… It’s an amazing thing.’

She’s watched many episodes with her grandmother. ‘Bless her, my mum just plies her with gin’

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