'Awards Chatter' Podcast — Sophie Turner ('Game of Thrones')

The 20-year-old rising star discusses landing her first pro gig, the part of Sansa Stark, at 13, growing up in the public eye ("It can really get you down") and Sansa's season-six evolution ("She really showed people what she could do").
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Sophie Turner

"I didn't know HBO, I didn't know Game of Thrones, I didn't know George R.R. Martin — I barely knew what TV was," laughs Sophie Turner, the 20-year-old actress, while discussing how little she knew about the proposed series when she first auditioned for it seven years ago. Ever since Turner landed the part of Sansa Stark on the acclaimed series — her first professional gig — she and Sansa have been on quite a journey together. "She's always been a part of me," Turner adds as we sit down to record an episode of The Hollywood Reporter's 'Awards Chatter' podcast, "so I can kind of slip into me and then slip into Sansa again."

(Click above to listen to this episode now or click here to access all of our episodes via iTunes. Past guests include Steven SpielbergAmy Schumer, Louis C.K., Lady GagaWill SmithKristen Stewart, Harvey WeinsteinBrie LarsonJ.J. AbramsKate Winslet, Samuel L. JacksonJane Fonda and Michael Moore.)

Over the course of our conversation, Turner discusses how she discovered acting through classes that initially served as a form of daycare, but became her passion. She shares how Thrones' nationwide casting search arrived at her school, and how her drama teacher "just threw in me with a bunch of my other friends and we all auditioned together" one lunch-break. And she still seems amazed that she became one of seven finalists and ultimately won the part. "My mom woke me up one morning and was like, 'Good morning, Sansa,'" she recalls. "I woke up and was like, [in disbelief] 'No!!!' and just started crying. It was a really good day."

Turner says Thrones didn't change her life overnight. "None of us really knew at that point whether it was gonna be big or not," she explains. "It really nearly didn't get made. We really didn't know. I think it was only about the third season that it started to pick up its momentum. I mean, people watched it, but it wasn't the huge thing that is now, I suppose, until around the third or fourth season." Being a part of a cultural phenomenon easily could have changed her for the worse, but being tutored on set and chaperoned by her mother for the first three years kept her grounded. "I pretty much managed to maintain a normal adolescence, I thought, for a few years," she says.

Meanwhile, Sansa has been subjected to adversity and tragedy on an epic scale — (spoiler alert) father and aunt murdered, passed from one sadistic monster to another, slashed, raped and the list goes on. For a young actress, it easily could have become upsetting to have to play scenes of this nature, but not for Turner. "I can really separate myself from her," she says. Of the controversial rape scene, she acknowledges, "At the time of the shooting, it was a very awkward, intense experience." However, she adds of viewers' impassioned reaction to it, "I thought it was really good that we had a dialog going, whether people were complaining about the show or not... I think we did it in a tasteful way that isn't overexposing anything or dumbing it down, dulling it down. I think we did it justice."

To Turner's delight, Sansa seized control of her narrative during Thrones' celebrated sixth season, evolving from what many saw as a pawn into a leader. "From day one, I always saw her as a very strong, very clever girl," Turner insists. "Yes, she was kind of blinded by this fairytale of King's Landing and the capital and being queen — and, I mean, what 13-year-old isn't or wouldn't be?" She continues, "I was always like, 'Okay, and then there's gonna be a point where she finally uses everything — all of that knowledge that she's soaked up — and uses it to her advantage. And I think season six was the season that she really showed people what she could do and she utilized those skills."

She also talks about a wide variety of other topics, from her costar Maisie Williams ("She really is like a sister to me") to the instant-classic "Battle of the Bastards" episode ("the amount of hard work that went into that was just insane") to why she watches the show at her parents' place but apart from her parents ("Watching a sex scene with your parents is just the worst thing — and when you both know that person, it's just ten times worse") to what it was like appearing on the big screen, in May's X-Men: Apocalypse (I'd been playing this downtrodden character for so long that I was like, 'What's the polar-opposite of that?'").

She also explains why she's now more comfortable in her own skin than ever before, after a rather dark period: "A lot of it was to do with growing up in the public eye, going through puberty and all of a sudden I didn't have time to go to my ballet classes and I didn't have time to go to gymnastics classes — and I love pasta. And so the most difficult part of it was body confidence and that kind of thing. It can really get you down when, like, thousands of people are commenting, 'Oh, Sansa put on 10 pounds!' So when I got X-Men, it really was such a blessing in disguise when they said, 'We're gonna get you a trainer.' I was like, 'I hate you, please don't do this to me.' But I got the trainer, I got on a diet and it changed my entire mentality, everything. It really kind of got me out of this rut that I'd been in."

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