Before she landed a role on Game of Thrones, Maisie Williams surprisingly had no acting experience. From growing up with a very different dream of making millions on screen, Williams’ stunning transformation is truly turning heads.
Maisie Williams grew up just like every other normal kid. She explained at a TED Talk in 2019, “I went to a very ordinary school. I got very ordinary grades. Everything about me was pretty damn ordinary, except for how I felt on the inside. I had big dreams.”
Williams was the youngest of four creative kids, growing up in a small town in England, and she seemed to be destined for a career in the arts. According to The Irish Times, her sister is a singer, her oldest brother creates body art, and her other brother is a breakdancing instructor, so Williams always knew she was meant to do more than simply sit at a desk.
In an interview with Rob Moore, Williams explained, “I’m the youngest of four. I love to make people laugh. I wanted to make people happy.” As a result, Williams began performing in school plays and dance recitals, which is where she found herself falling in love with dancing. When Maisie Williams was ten years old, she was willing to do whatever it took to become a professional dancer.
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She explained during a TED Talk, “I informed my mother that I didn’t want to go to school anymore. I wanted to be like Billy Elliot and go to stage school.” Williams auditioned for a spot and got in. Unfortunately, her mother didn’t have the money for tuition. Williams revealed during her TED Talk, “It broke my heart. I was good enough. I made the cut, but I wasn’t going anywhere.”
Hearing the horrible news, her dance teacher encouraged Williams to join a talent show where she would not only dance, but also sing act, and model and agents would be watching. One agent thought Williams stood out and signed her on the spot, but encouraged her to act instead.
She explained to FanSided, “I have always been in school plays and enjoyed drama but always really thought of myself as a dancer. But all auditions are a good experience.” After failing her first audition for the Nanny McPhee sequel, her agent sent her on a second audition for a television show called Game of Thrones. She would soon become a Stark.
Maisie Williams was 12 years old when she officially entered the world of acting and became Arya Stark. While she had absolutely no prior acting experience, she was seemingly a natural.
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Of the fight scenes, the actress told FanSided, “[It] was just like choreographing a dance, it took time and practice to get it right.” Throughout Williams’ nearly decade-long time working on Game of Thrones, she hadn’t imagined how dramatically the popularity of the television series would grow, along with her paycheck.
She told The Guardian, “The thing I was really obsessed about was whether I would earn enough money to buy myself a laptop. My stepdad, Gary, just looked at me and said: ‘I think there’ll be enough for a couple of laptops, Maisie.'” Game of Thrones was nominated for 160 Emmys during its eight-season run and, according to Deadline, set many records, averaging 44.2 million viewers for each of its highly anticipated final episodes.
In 2016 and 2019, Williams received Emmy nominations herself for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series. Though the show completely changed her life, Williams still can’t help but think back to what could have been. She admitted to The Guardian, “If I could have had a career in dancing, I would have left acting in a second.” In 2016, Maisie Williams became one of the youngest people ever to receive an Emmy nomination.
Realizing that chances like this don’t come often for young actors, she decided to create her very own creative outlet in the form of a production company. Williams told Screen Daily of her newest endeavor, “I hope to give other creatives the opportunities that I was lucky enough to receive at the beginning of my career.”
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The idea first came to her while working on the movie iBoy after having an interesting conversation with a young camera assistant named Dom Santry. She revealed to i-D, “Dom told me how difficult it was for young creatives to access opportunities that can progress their careers. […] He vouched that this [was] something we would change together.”
As a result, they partnered up to create Daisy Chain Productions. The company produces short films, full-length features, and television dramas that specifically focus on helping to build up aspiring talent, starting with young creators like herself. Even becoming an actress doesn’t stop bullies. The plot of Maisie Williams’ television movie Cyberbully became all too real for the young actress only a year after she began working on Game of Thrones.
She told The Guardian, “The problems are still the same. The comments still hurt just as much, whether it’s one person, whether it’s everyone in your school, whether it’s everyone in the London area.” “She’s been through a lot of trauma.” Williams worked closely with the writers to make sure the movie was as realistic as it could be.
The final outcome became incredibly hard to act out. Williams told RadioTimes.com, “It is the most intense shoot I have ever been a part of – it was eight days, it felt like about a year. When I waited, say, for a reply from the cyberbully it had the tension of a big explosion or a horse chase or a sword fight.”
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The young actress has a close relationship with her mother to thank for getting her through tough times online. Williams has since deleted some of her social media accounts, sharing with The Guardian, “Why do I need to hear what other people think of me? I’m happy.” “I’ve decided to just keep a tight lip on everything.”
Since viewing the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, Williams has become an advocate for dolphins and has publicly urged people everywhere to stop visiting them in captivity. As she told The Hollywood Reporter, “These animals travel the ocean. That’s what they explore daily. No tank will be big enough. No tank will ever be deep enough, ever be exciting enough.” The Cove sheds light on the many people who stalk and slaughter these creatures all along coastlines for meat and then sell others to aquariums around the world.
Throughout filming for Game of Thrones, the young actress took multiple trips to Japan, the location where the documentary takes place, in order to protest against the dolphin hunts that are happening there every day. When it comes to saving the dolphins, Williams explained to The Hollywood Reporter, “It was something that just struck a chord in my heart.
And I’m a firm believer that, if there is something that you really want to stand up and fight for, then you should. And with everyone doing their own little bit for what they believe in, hopefully together we can make the world a better place.” Growing up for all the world to see is extremely challenging. Having spent her entire childhood on camera, Maisie Williams told The Irish Times, “It’s very hard growing up in public […] You’re going through all these bodily changes, you’re laughing one minute and crying the next.”
To make matters worse, following season two of Game of Thrones, the actress was required to wear a strap across her chest in order to keep her character looking more childlike. Williams admitted to Vogue, “I felt kind of a bit ashamed for a while.” “There was a little bra, and it was very exciting, and I was like, ‘I don’t have to wear the strap any more.” Williams still struggles with self-doubt, as she emotionally revealed on the Happy Place podcast in 2019, “I still lie in bed at, like, 11 o’clock at night telling myself all the things I hate about myself.” When the cast finally wrapped up filming on the series finale in 2018, the starlet took advantage of this time to experiment with her own style, which is something she was never able to do during Game of Thrones.
The first thing she did was drastic. She dyed her hair her very favorite color, pink. Williams confessed to Rolling Stone, “I guess, subconsciously, I dyed it because I didn’t want to work. […] It’s a pretty good way of stopping that. And it just feels so good, so me. I’ve battled my whole adolescence with trying to put a stamp on my appearance, but also be a blank canvas as an actor.”
What better way is there to begin some extended time off than by dying your hair pink? After wrapping up on Game of Thrones, Arya Stark was no more, and Maisie Williams was left having to figure out her own style outside of the spotlight. In 2019, following her last Emmy nomination for the show, it seemed she finally was able to do that.
The actress told ELLE.com, “I’ve always wanted the perfect custom red carpet dress — something that I feel really confident and comfortable in.” Williams decided to get some help from her boyfriend, Reuben Selby, who works in the fashion industry. Selby partnered with designer JW Anderson to help make Williams’ perfect outfit.
As she explained to ELLE.com, “I asked Reuben if he would design something with me in mind; my height, my shape, my likes, and insecurities.” Since then, the couple has regularly been photographed wearing coordinated looks. Williams laughed as she told Vogue, “We like to wear matching outfits like a 70-year-old couple.”
Even after the massive amount of success that working on Game of Thrones had given her, it was the year that the show ended that she finally felt her best. Not only had she met her boyfriend, but as she wrote on Instagram, “I fell in love with myself.” You know that you’ve really made it big when you’re invited to give a TED Talk. When Maisie Williams was asked to present one in 2019, she was just 22 years old and wasn’t even sure where to begin.
She said during her talk, “What could I possibly say that could have any impact? What point am I trying to make? And who the hell thought it was a good idea to give me a TED Talk? [.. The very fact that I’m here giving a TED Talk right now is so far from anything I thought that I was capable of.” All Williams ever wanted to do was dance, so she decided to start there, describing her childhood and the heartbreak that came when she found out that she couldn’t afford to attend her dream dance school. However, she had come to the realization that this was all just a blessing in disguise. She declared proudly, “In a decade, everything in my life has changed.
I am an Emmy-nominated actress, an entrepreneur, and an activist.” To get there, she had simply followed her dancing dream and let fate take over. In a society overtaken by social media, and people everywhere wanting to live a life of fame and fortune, Williams revealed in her TED Talk, “I hope to inspire people to be talented instead. Talent will carry you so much further than your 15 minutes of fame.” Growing up in the spotlight does have its perks.
There are the adoring fans and red carpet events. However, as Maisie Williams told The Guardian, “People can sit back and say I was given an amazing opportunity, which is why I am where I am, but I also gave up being a normal teenager. I gave up a huge part of my adolescent life. I’m still petrified of my peers because I just didn’t spend a lot of time with them.”
Because of the major fame thrown at her throughout Game of Thrones, Williams admits that she sometimes misses being able to do the day to day things that average people around the world take for granted. Now that she has a less-demanding schedule, Williams chooses to spend time with family. She happily told the BBC, “I’m just Maisie again and not the girl off the telly.”
Though her fans will be happy to know that they’ll be seeing the young actress back on screen very soon, the British starlet only craves one thing. Williams told the Happy Place podcast, “Honestly, I want a normal life. I don’t want any of this crazy, crazy world because it’s not worth it.”