'Game of Thrones' Star: Arya Learns 'Brutality' This Season (Q&A)
Maisie Williams tells THR the young Stark heroine has "experienced so much and had so much ripped away from her."
It's tough being Arya Stark.
The plucky young heroine ended season three of Game of Thrones learning of her mother and brother's deaths at the Red Wedding – just as she was about to be reunited with them. In season four, she's dealing with the traumatic fallout from that.
"She's experienced so much and had so much ripped away from her so brutally that anyone that age – it's going to affect them," actress Maisie Williams tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Williams, 16, says when we pick back up with Arya, she's growing accustomed to her life on the road with The Hound (Rory McCann) – a man whose death she repeatedly wished for in season three.
"She's picking up on his brutality," she says.
Read THR's full conversation with Williams below, where she reveals what acting tips she learned from Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) and the secrets to her ever-growing popularity on social media ("get it perfect").
What can you tell us about where Arya is this season?
Arya has had a traumatic end to season three. She's one of the lowest characters right now. In the new season, it's a very different Arya to the one we got to know in season one. She's experienced so much and had so much ripped away from her so brutally that anyone that age – it's going to affect them. She's with The Hound still, and she's not sure where they're heading. She doesn't have an ultimate goal. She just knows she's kind of in safe hands with The Hound.
Arya and the Hound have an interesting dynamic. She still hates him?
Going into the fourth season, they're trying to get on a little better. They both have traits that the other needs. They are both learning from each other. She's picking up on his brutality, almost. The way she fights, she can see pros and cons to the ways he fights, and ultimately she's trying to make herself a better fighter. He's doing the same, I feel.
We got a hint in the season-three finale that Arya is going to go off looking for Jaqen H'ghar. Is that something you tackled in season four?
This year, none of that is really on Arya's priority list. I think she needs to get to a safe place first. This year, there's not much of that at all.
Looking back on season one, Arya is much different. Is it sad to you that she's had to become this killer?
I did a Comic-Con recently in Indiana, and they had loads of clips playing of Arya in season one. It's so weird looking back at that and how happy she was. She thought the whole world was against her. All she wanted to do was go out and fight and live on the edge a little more. Now that she's actually in that situation, she realizes it's not all that its cracked up to be, and there's a reason why her mother was so protective of her.
How much about the show's other storylines are you aware of before you see the finished product?
When I do come to watch the show it is a complete surprise because I have nothing to do with those storylines. It's completely new and it is interesting to watch because I've become quite a bit of a fan of the show. My storyline is such a tiny piece inside this massive, massive show.
What was the hardest thing for you this season?
It is fun, but some days it is tiring and you're on your feet all day. People say it's good when you're filming, because you get lots of different takes. But you have no control over what take they're going to use, so you have to be on your game every single time, otherwise the show goes out to millions and millions with something you absolutely hate about your performance.
Shooting a show this intense does sound tiring.
Sometimes after shooting for a long period of time you do start to flag. I can notice it when I start watching scenes. You can see I was tired that day. I'm not sure if others can tell, but it's tough watching your own performance because you're constantly criticizing and trying to make it better.
What is something you learned from working with the cast's veteran actors, such as Charles Dance?
One thing I picked up that makes a performance more natural is how they use props. How Charles incorporated the props on the table, or the way that he just relaxed into his chair. It's stuff that makes it more natural, when you realize "I'm sitting here uncomfortably, but maybe I should make myself more comfortable because that's what Arya would do." There's a massive camera on you, there's three people around the camera. There are loads of people watching you in the other room, and you feel all of these eyes staring at you. It's hard to relax into it, but that's what I've learned. Forget everyone else is there and pretend you are in this scene with just these two people and really get into that so you act naturally.
You are so funny on social media. You must have a good eye for what works. What's your secret?
I just love the fact that I can show people what I'm like. I am similar to Arya, but you see this character onscreen who's doing all of these very intense things, and people never really get to see me laugh. I like to show people my sense of humor. Otherwise you get typecast into this one person. For social media, a tip: Never post anything that is half-hearted. If you're trying to get a picture, no one wants to see your reflection in something. Get it perfect before you do it. For a Vine, get it perfect before you send it out. No one wants to see it half-done.
How do you plan on watching season four?
I have no idea how I'm going to watch this year. I moved out last year after the show finished and I live on my own. I don't have a television, so I'm probably going to have to catch up in the weekdays at my parents' house, or I can ask for a box set before. But I doubt they'll give it to me. People think working on the show means your entitled to these really cool things, and you get to have the DVDs early, but actually there's none of that at all. We don't get special priority, but it's kind of cool because we watch it with the rest of the world. I can identify with people's struggles when they say "I missed this week's episode and I read a spoiler," and I'm like, "Same."
Game of Thrones premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Stay tuned to THR.com/GOT for full post-episode coverage of the premiere, including new castmember Pedro Pascal's (The Red Viper) insights from shooting the first episode.