'Game of Thrones' Actor on What's Next for Arya Stark and the Faceless Men

"I think he's been constantly testing her to make sure she gets stronger and make sure she gets to be the best contender in Westeros that she can be," Tom Wlaschiha tells THR about the Faceless Men's plans for Arya.
Helen Sloan/HBO

[Warning: This story contains spoilers through episode eight of Game of Thrones' sixth season.]

A girl is not no one — she's Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) of Winterfell, and she's going home. And to hear her mentor tell it, that's exactly what he's wanted all along.

The mentor in question is none other than Jaqen H'Ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), the face-changing assassin introduced in season two of Game of Thrones. When viewers first met him, he was imprisoned in a caravan headed from King's Landing toward the Wall. Over the course of the season, he developed a bond with Arya, helping her kill her way out of captivity at Harrenhal and back out onto the open road.

Their paths crossed once again when Arya arrived at Braavos in season five. Jaqen welcomed her into the House of Black and White, the sanctuary for those devoted to serving the Many-Faced God. In subsequent episodes, Arya learned not only how to change faces, but also how to lie and kill with ruthless efficiency, even without the power of sight. Arya, already viciously violent, sharpened her killer instincts even further under Jaqen's tutelage.

But now, school's out. Arya survived a confrontation with her Faceless nemesis, The Waif (Faye Marsay), and announced her intention to return to the Seven Kingdoms. On the surface, it would seem that Arya failed in her Faceless training — but that's not the interpretation of the man who plays her mentor, actor Tom Wlaschiha. He spoke to The Hollywood Reporter all about his view of Jaqen and Arya's relationship, what the Faceless Men always wanted out of the young Stark, and how their belief system aligns with the show's bigger picture.

How would you describe Jaqen's journey, not just this season, but throughout the series?

Well, it's safe to say that the Faceless Men certainly have an interest in what's going on in Westeros. Jaqen just appears from nowhere in season two and picks Arya to train her. Now, by the end of season six, she's pretty much finished her training and going back to Westeros. Unless all of that was really selfless on his part, I think the Faceless Men want to have some sort of influence on what's happening in Westeros, and Arya being their weapon.

Interesting. When Arya leaves Jaqen, one wonders if he's disappointed in her choice — but there's almost a look of pride on his face as she walks away. Is that how you played it?

Yeah. I think Jaqen had a weak moment there. (Laughs.) I think, and it's my interpretation here, that he enjoyed seeing Arya succeed. The whole Waif thing, whatever it may have been, may have just been the ultimate test. He never told her that her training was going to be easy. I think he's been constantly testing her to make sure she gets stronger and make sure she gets to be the best contender in Westeros that she can be.

Jaqen assigns Arya the task of assassinating Lady Crane, and promises that another face will be added to the House of Black and White, whether she succeeds or fails. Arya ultimately chooses not to kill Crane. Some fans were wondering if this entire mission was a test. What's your interpretation? Did Jaqen want Arya to kill Lady Crane, or was there something more?

Well … I don't know. The way the Faceless Men work is if they get paid to kill someone, they do it, regardless of who that person is, regardless of if they're good or bad people. The job to kill Lady Crane was commissioned by the other actress, so Lady Crane, from the way I see it, had to die. That's the Faceless Men's logic. That's how they work. I don't think this was like a special assignment. Of course, Jaqen tells Arya: "A girl has been given a second chance; there will not be a third." And Lady Crane happens to be the next victim. That's why he assigns her to Arya.

Is there anything to the irony that Crane is playing Cersei Lannister on stage — one of the final names remaining on Arya's list? Do you see that at all as testing the limits between being Arya and being "no one," someone who is supposed to abandon personal grudges?

I'm not really sure. Jaqen had always said he wanted Arya to become "no one," but I think that was in order to give her the best possible training. I'm not sure he ever expected her to fully become "no one." If she had, then she would just become a Faceless Man in Braavos. I think the ultimate goal has always been for her to go back to Westeros and play some sort of important role in the final battle. I think this whole thing of becoming "no one," it's to give her the best training possible. I don't think he ever expected her to become "no one." That's why there's this smirk in the end, when she tells him that she's still Arya Stark, because I think he's pleased in a way. She's gone through with all the hard training, and now she's ready to go back.

Before she tells him that she's still Arya Stark, Jaqen makes the comment: "A girl is finally no one." Does that mean something less obvious, then? Not "no one" in the anonymous killer sense, but "no one" in terms of her training level?

Yeah, maybe it's that she's "no one" — she's reached a level where she can easily take on other personalities and work on her list. That's what she set out to do, and the list is there. She can only work on that list in Westeros. It's clear that at some point she would go back.

If the Faceless Men want Arya in Westeros, what's your sense of what they want out of that situation? Any guesses?

I have no idea. (Laughs.) I really have no idea. I'm having a hard time telling all the throne contenders apart and keeping track of who is who. I have no idea why they would have an interest in the throne.

In the final scene of "No One," Jaqen discovers the Waif's severed face, bloodily posted in the Hall of Faces. Seconds later, Arya stands with Needle pointed directly at Jaqen's chest. Do you think there's a moment where Jaqen thinks this might be the end — his moment to meet the Many-Faced God?

Well, for Jaqen, or for me as Jaqen? (Laughs.) The good thing about Jaqen is that he's a Faceless Man, and he could be behind anyone's face. If it's going to be my face again, that remains to be seen, but it's one of the great things about the Faceless Men. In a way, they're immortal, or they're exchangeable if you like. I lent my face to Jaqen, but the person behind his face could easily pick a different one, and so on. That's why this whole philosophy about being "no one," I think it comes from the Faceless Men not being afraid of death. Death is their trade. It's what they do. They administer death to people who are really sick, or people who want to die. The whole killing job is just a side job. The main thing of their sect is to administer the ultimate gift to people who seek it. 

More often than not, tragedy follows the Game of Thrones characters. The moments of sunshine are few and far between. That said, do you think it's a positive development for Arya to have learned what she learned in Braavos, and now to return with that knowledge to Westeros? 

I definitely think so. When she arrived in Braavos, she was just a girl. She sought revenge, but she didn't really know how to go about it. She's a grown-up now. She has a strategy. In a way, she'll be more careful and more aware of the things that will happen to her. I don't want to say she's going to be scheming, but she knows how to handle tricky situations better.

How about the Waif? Is Jaqen losing any sleep over losing her, or is he OK?

Yeah, that's just the way life goes! (Laughs.) At least that's the way life goes in Braavos. But I asked myself, how would Jaqen have reacted if it had worked out the other way — if the Waif killed Arya? I think in their philosophy, if that had happened, Jaqen would have regretted it. But it's the way things go. That would have meant she's not the right person to finish this training. He's always had confidence in her. That's why he gave her tricky tasks. But what I like about the whole Faceless Men thing is that they're very much above things. They don't care about the human [conflicts], all those wars and human imperfections — greed, scheming, everything. They're kind of above things.

That's sort of the audience's view, too. We know what so many of the characters don't: the pettiness between houses won't matter at all when the White Walkers arrive. 

Definitely. I think Jaqen says it several times during the seasons: "It's all the same to the Many-Faced God." Whatever happens, happens. You can't change the course of things, even though people might think they can. But in the end, in the bigger picture, it's a small thing that doesn't matter. 

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