In an extensive Rolling Stones feature, Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams reflected on their shared experience growing up on Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin talked about his early inspiration for Arya and Sansa—and how much of Season 8 will be based on his ending!
One of the most heart-warming aspects of any behind the scenes material for Game of Thrones has always been the palpable friendship between Williams and Turner. According to Rolling Stone, the two met for the first time at a chemistry read in 2009, when Williams was 12 and Turner was 13.
“We were pretty much best friends from that second on,” Turner said, now 22.
“I thought Sophie was the coolest thing I’d ever seen,” Williams, now 21, added. “I get why they do chemistry reads, because when it’s right, it’s so right. Like, we’re best friends. And they could see that all those years ago, and it must have been real magic watching these two girls have the best time together.”
While it might seem unfortunate that two actors who enjoy each other’s company so much weren’t able to share a single scene together from the end of season 1 until season 6, according to Turner, that was probably for the best.
“We’re a nightmare to work with,” she said. “If you’re working with your best friend, you will never get any work done, ever. Anytime we tried to be serious about anything, it’s just the hardest thing in the world. I think they really regretted putting us in scenes together. It was difficult.”
As much fun as Williams and Turner had as screen partners, they’re upfront about the inherent difficulty of effectively growing up on a television set. Williams in particular, struggled with the constraints of playing Arya, a tomboyish child, while she, herself, was maturing.
“I was becoming a woman and then having to wear this thing that … pushes [the] tits under [the] armpits. And it got worse, ’cause it kept growing, and they put this little fat belly on me to make it even out. I was, like, 15: ‘I just wanna be a girl and have a boyfriend!’ That was when it sucked. The first time they gave me a bra in my trailer, I was like, ‘Yes! I’m a woman!’ ”
Turner concurred that Williams went through a hard time: “She’s going through all these changes, and yet she has to still look like a child and cut her hair short and look completely different to how she’s feeling inside,” she reflected. “I think she really envied me because I got to wear the dresses and have nice makeup and nice hair. And I wanted the trousers and the boyish clothes!”
In the interview, Williams alluded vaguely to family issues that helped her tap into Arya’s rage.
“People would always say when I was 12, ‘How could you ever — what did you draw on?’ They just don’t know anything about my past. It’s such a freeing thing being able to explore these emotions in a really safe environment. I think it was really helpful for me when I was 12, 13, to just, like, go crazy, and then you go home and you’re like, ‘Phew, what a good day.’”
However, while filming season 8, Williams went through period of emotional inaccessibility … which, reportedly, contrasts with where Arya is in the final season.
“It was really amazing, perfect timing because Arya’s just starting to feel again for the first time,” she said. “So it was actually kinda beautiful the way it was working. Because usually I’m trying to play Arya with no emotion, whilst feeling everything. And this time I was feeling nothing while I was trying to feel something, and it worked … I think.”
Williams said that immediately after she wrapped production for season 8 she went back to her trailer and took a shower (“’cause I was dirty. Arya is always dirty”). Then she stood outside to enjoy the “really glorious sunshine, the nicest day,” headed over to the assistant directors’ trailer and grabbed a beer.
Turner, by contrast, wept when she completed filming “because I cry at everything,” as she put it. One especially memorable moment for her (and perhaps significant for us speculating fans) was when Benioff and Weiss gifted her with a storyboard of their favorite Sansa scene … which is also Sansa’s final scene in the show.
“Sansa, this whole show, the only reason she has willed herself to survive is for her family,” Turner said. “The power of family and unity is so strong that it can keep people alive. That’s the biggest thing I’ve taken away from the show: Family is everything. I think Papa Stark would be very proud of us,” she said with a smile.
Rolling Stone also interviewed George R.R. Martin about the Stark sisters and his inspiration for creating them.
Though his very first idea for A Song of Ice and Fire was the scene in which the exclusively male party happens upon direwolf pups on their way back to Winterfell, Martin knew he “wanted some girls, too” in House Stark. He soon developed the idea of “two sisters who were very, very different from each other.”
Arya and Sansa’s characterizations were built largely around how they reacted to the gender norms of Westerosi society, which Martin based on the Middle Ages.
“The Middle Ages was very patriarchal,” Martin said. “I’m wary of overgeneralizing, since that makes me seem like an idiot — I do recognize that the Middle Ages was hundreds of years long and took place in many different countries — but generally, women didn’t have a lot of rights, and they were used to make marriage alliances. . . . I’m talking highborn women, of course — peasant women had even fewer rights.
Of course it wasn’t all bad. Martin also incorporated the more romantic aspects of medieval culture into Westerosi society.
“This is also the era where the whole idea of courtly romance was born — the gallant knight, the princess,” he said. “In some sense, the Disney-princess archetype is a legacy of the troubadours of the romance era of medieval France.”
It’s this aspect of Westerosi culture that has young Sansa so enthralled, of course. But while the elder sister embraces Westerosi notions of femininity, Martin always intended for Arya to rebuff them, to be “a girl who chafes at the roles she was being pushed into, who didn’t want to sew, who wanted to fight with a sword . . . who liked hunting and wrestling in the mud.”
“A lot of the women I’ve known had aspects of Arya, especially when I was a young man in the Sixties and Seventies. I knew a lot of young women who weren’t buying into ‘Oh, I have to find a husband and be a housewife,’ who would say, ‘I don’t wanna be Mrs. Smith, I wanna be my own person.’ And that’s certainly part of Arya’s thing.”
Of course, no interview with Martin would be complete without an update on A Song of Ice and Fire.
“I’ve been so slow with these books,” Martin admitted, when asked how the show’s progress may impact his story plans. “The major points of the ending will be things I told them five or six years ago. But there may also be changes, and there’ll be a lot added.”