The actor shares what it was like to be back at Winterfell and why she loved this season’s siblings storyline.
HBO: What was it like reuniting on-screen with Sophie Turner (Sansa) and Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran)?
Maisie Williams: I was thrilled to do so many scenes with Sansa, but also horrified that we’d be making each other’s lives hell. But we had so much fun on set. I haven’t even set foot on the Winterfell set since Season 1. It was quite emotional. We all started very young, and we’ve grown into our characters and learned a lot. I am really proud of the scenes, and I can’t wait to see what else we get to do together. It’s what people have been waiting for, the Stark reunion — we just need Jon to get home and Arya will be much happier, I’m sure.
HBO: What’s going on for Arya when Hot Pie tells her Jon is King in the North?
Maisie Williams: All she’s thinking about is that he’s alive and home. I wanted to play a little moment where you could see Arya’s child-self come back out again for a second. She can indulge in the possibility of how life used to be, and how life could possibly be again; she could not be looked after by someone who teaches her how to kill or sends an assassin to teach her a lesson, but a big brother who can really protect her. She can feel naive and young again.
HBO: Is home what she expected?
Maisie Williams: It’s been her dream for a really long time and I think that’s one of the biggest issues: When she gets back everything has changed and nothing will ever be the same again. When she gets there, she realizes she wanted to be home so she could be back with her family, but they’ve all been through so much it’s kind of bittersweet. So in typical Arya fashion, she goes hunting for trouble a little bit, and she finds it. It’s a shame.
HBO: How has her demeanor changed since she was last there?
Maisie Williams: What I really wanted to do with Arya this season was encapsulate the whole journey she’s had, and the lessons she’s learned, and put them all together inside this young girl. A lot of her emotions have left her; I wanted her to be colder and darker. She just trained to be a Faceless Man, where you basically have to completely forget who you are, and even though she’s gotten back on the track by going by the name of “Arya,” not every single aspect of her personality returned with her.
HBO: How was filming the fight with Gwendoline Christie (Brienne)?
Maisie Williams: We started training for that a long time before shooting. I always enjoy doing fight scenes, and it was really great working with Gwen; she’s an incredible actress, but also incredible at stunts. We worked really hard and it paid off. It was nice to do a sparring match; it was a fight in a fun, playful way, rather than fighting to the death, which Arya’s done a lot of. She’s been in a lot of danger, so it was nice to see her doing what she loves in a less-risky environment.
HBO: What do you think of the tension between Arya and Sansa?
Maisie Williams: Everyone wants a happy reunion but that’s not what’s going to happen on Game of Thrones; it’s not realistic for what they’ve been through. It’s important to have this test of loyalty between them; to have something they overcome together as a team. I’m thrilled that we got something cool to do and that they finally got rid of Littlefinger because he was the only real kink in the way that the North was running. You can’t have that great payoff in the final episode if there isn’t a journey to get you there.
HBO: Does Arya trust Sansa in any way? Why don’t they just talk it out?
Maisie Williams: Arya is struggling to accept the fact that it’s been hard for everyone. I think Sansa, too. They’ve all been through so much. It’s difficult to have sympathy for any other character coming out of what they’ve just lived.
Arya is very hot-headed; she’s always been. I’ve always been grateful that it’s been at the right people, and now it’s at the wrong person, but she’s still the same character with that flaw. She struggles to keep her mouth shut. She doesn’t know what Sansa has been through, and she won’t hear it. She’s kind of turned into a little bit of a monster, and it’s directed at the wrong person, but she doesn’t know that.
HBO: Was that difficult to play?
Maisie Williams: The things she’s seen have led her to believe Sansa is not doing things for House Stark, she’s doing them for herself. Arya doesn’t realize the circumstances under which Sansa was forced to write that letter. She just thinks she knows best. But Sansa and Arya are very different people. They really wouldn’t have survived what each other has survived; Arya would have been killed a long time ago if she had to live through all of the troubles Sansa’s been through. Arya’s not giving her the credit she deserves. But they realize Littlefinger is playing them and they ultimately pull through together.
HBO: What was the atmosphere on set filming Aidan Gillen’s [Littlefinger] final scene?
Maisie Williams: It was pretty sad. We all got to know Aidan really well. He’s a phenomenal person and a lovely human-being, despite who he plays on the show. He gave such an amazing performance, and for all Littlefinger’s faults, Aidan always managed to completely justify his actions. We see Baelish as bit of a snake and a bad person, but you really see the pain in his eyes and the struggle during his finals moments: the sheer panic. It was incredible to watch him go through the motions of how Littlefinger would be feeling, the connection he has to Sansa, and what this means to him.
Arya executes him, but it’s really Sansa’s scene. And it’s showing a huge progression for her. It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. I know it’s the moment Sophie’s been waiting for. It’s a beautiful way for her to end the season, and to end Littlefinger’s storyline.
HBO: What do you think of Arya’s role as executioner?
Maisie Williams: It’s sort of how she sees herself in life. She has her own personal list, but I think moving forward with House Stark, this is maybe how she’s going to be. Sophie and I always said it would amazing to see Sansa on the throne and Arya as her Hand, and although that’s not really the case, they’re still playing those sorts of roles with each other.
HBO: Now that Arya is home has she forgotten about killing Cersei?
Maisie Williams: I think Cersei is still very much on her list. I think they’re all still very much on her list. But at the moment she’s sidetracked. She’ll always have that list, though. That’s what keeps her ticking.
HBO: What do you think of the Army of the Dead in the North?
Maisie Williams: The White Walker and the dragon, Viserion, attacking the Wall is a pretty amazing moment, but also a scary moment. But then I remember Arya has a Valyrian steel dagger — not that a dagger could kill a dragon — but she can hopefully hold her own in the final season.
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