From the moment Game of Thrones’ thrilling fourth season began, we were treated to a new Arya Stark. In the wake of the Red Wedding, she’s no longer the lovable tomboy, but a guarded Stark bastard whose “heart is now black and she’s rotten on the inside,” according to star Maisie Williams.
In the season premiere, Arya and The Hound (Rory McCann) cross paths with Polliver, the man who knocked her to the ground during the attack on Yoren and his Night’s Watch recruits, stole Needle, the tiny sword Jon Snow made for her, and drove it through the throat of her pal, Lommy. So, Arya gets her revenge, reclaiming Needle before slowly driving it through the throat of an injured Polliver.
For the rest of the season, Arya and The Hound have been on the road to the Eyrie, where the mangled mega-warrior hopes to collect a ransom for her, and every night, Arya recites the names of the people on her “kill list” before she goes to sleep—including that of The Hound. At one point, she turns on her captor and attempts to take his life, but Needle can’t even pierce his armor. Later, she stabs Rorge, one of the prisoners in Yoren’s wagon, right through the heart.
The season finale, “The Children,” sees Arya incite a battle between Brienne of Tarth, Catelyn Stark’s sworn protector, and The Hound. After Brienne emerges victorious, Arya stands over the body of The Hound and, instead of granting his wish to end his life, steals his coins, boards a ship to Braavos, and sails off.
The Daily Beast spoke to Maisie Williams, the mega-talented 17-year-old Brit who plays Arya, about her big season on Thrones, celeb crushes, and much more.
I heard you were prepping for your driving test?
I’m working on it! Reading the books. The gear changes are tough, although you guys don’t use those—you have automatics, right? But apart from that, I’m really, really enjoying it.
What kind of car do you want to get?
I’ve been looking around a bit and I really, really want a Mini.
I’ve wanted one of those ever since seeing The Italian Job.
I know, exactly! But I’m not totally sure. I don’t really know a lot about cars, but I just think they look cool!
Season 4 of Thrones was a very exciting one for Arya. I’m curious: Did you actually get to witness that amazing throwdown between The Hound and Brienne?
Yeah! They were days when we were on set and not really being used, so it was nice to watch it from a backseat, really, and not have to do all the physical stuff that they had to do. We had front-row seats to this crazy, intense fight between the two strongest warrior characters on the show. It didn’t go without its difficulties, but it looked amazing.
I’m picturing you on the sidelines with a big bowl of popcorn cheering like crazy.
That was basically it! I was sitting there with my 3D glasses on with my popcorn with a little sign as well as a towel and a bottle of water for Rory, while Daniel Portman, who plays Podrick, sat on the other side of the monitor with his 3D glasses and a bottle of water and a towel for Gwen.
When we first see you in the season finale, you’re doing your best Syrio Forel impersonation, Needling on the mountaintop. How good have you gotten with the steel?
The stuff I do is all pretty choreographed, but the more I’ve used Needle the better I’ve become. For the past few years, I’ve had some swordfights but they’ve been with someone else’s sword, and even a wooden sword at one point, but Needle was built specifically for me. Anyone else with the sword would look absolutely ridiculous, but it fits me perfectly.
Why do you think Arya refuses to go off with Brienne?
The audience has gotten to know the other side of Jamie Lannister, but Arya doesn’t know any of that. All she knows is the Lannisters are bad news and this woman has been given a sword by the worst of the worst—the Kingslayer. And she’s been through way too much, risked too much, and lost too many members of her family already, so even if there’s a 20 percent chance this could turn out well, she’s not going to risk it. She’s doing fine, and is a bit angered by the fact that people are still trying to mother her and look after her, and thinks, “If I needed looking after, I wouldn’t have come this far.” She feels it’s patronizing. So it’s not that she doesn’t want to go with Brienne, she’s just fed up by people taking her to “safety” when there is no safety. And people who claim loyalty to her family—and her mother—means nothing to her either because she’s no longer here, so they clearly weren’t doing a very good job.
What’s your take on the Arya we’re left with at the end of Season 4—the one standing over the dying Hound, taking his coins, and basically saying, “Sorry, pal, you can’t keep up?”
I still think it’s the same Arya we’ve seen all year, she’s just putting everything she’s learned into practice now. When she picks up the silver, it’s not a spiteful thing—she’s just doing what The Hound taught her, since he was the one who said, “Dead men don’t need silver.” And in her eyes, she thinks he’s dead. But the big change for Arya happened in Episode 1 when she kills Polliver, and people have loved their relationship this season, but he’s also been telling her constantly how she doesn’t know how to fight and reminding her that everyone’s dead. They seem like funny scenes when you turn a blind eye to the fact that this is a little girl who’s trying to stay alive in this very unforgiving world, so having someone tell you these things all the time isn’t helpful. She’s not Arya anymore; she’s not the girl who everyone thinks she is and likes to believe she is. If anyone is in that environment long enough, they’re not going to have their head screwed on perfectly.
The Hound is begging her to kill him, but she won't grant him his last wish.
Exactly! It’s like that whole thing at the end of Breaking Bad when Walter gives Jesse the gun and says, “You want this,” and Jesse turns away the gun and says, “No, you want this.” She won’t grant him his last wish, and after everything they’ve been through together, Arya chooses to walk away.
Rory was so great this season… is this the last we’ve seen of The Hound?
I really hope it isn’t! And I feel on Game of Thrones, if you don’t see a dagger in the heart, there’s a lot of hope for people. I know a lot of people are hoping to see The Hound again, and if it were up to me, he’d be back in an instant.
You shot pretty much all your scenes with Rory this season. Did you two engage in any hobbies or games together in your downtime?
When we were having downtime and back at the hotel, I just slept a lot. Sleep is my best friend when we’re shooting Game of Thrones because there are very long days and intense scenes. But when we were on set together in between shooting, there were a lot of awful puns on Rory’s part. We have this language—called “egg language”—that he taught me back in Season 1. You basically change the words slightly using the word “egg,” and it’s different for every word. I don’t want to tell, otherwise everyone will know what we’re saying! But it’s interesting to watch everyone else’s faces going, “What the hell are they doing?” They think me and Rory have gotten cabin fever and been on set too long, just talking in this random language. But that really makes us laugh and entertains us for hours. And, since Rory is Scottish, he’d teach me all these Scottish phrases, and how to do a Scottish accent.
Do you have a favorite Scottish phrase that he taught you?
It’s slightly rude: “I need to pish,” which means “I need to piss” in Scottish. He’d say it all the time and it’s quite funny.
We last leave Arya on a ship sailing off to Braavos. Where do you see her heading in Season 5?
Well, we start shooting in July, and I know what happens in the books, but I think Arya is going to become someone new. In that moment when she’s in the back of the ship sailing away, and looking out at Westeros and her previous life drifting away from her, and then she turns around, I feel it’s a huge breath of fresh air for her. She can go to a place where nobody knows who she is; where she can start afresh, forget all the things that have happened to her, and the huge burden she’s been carrying with all these people that have lost their lives. She’s never going to forget the pain, heartache, and the revenge she’s seeking on those who have wronged her and her loved ones, but she now has the ability to not be so angry about it anymore. She’s looking ahead. I’m so thrilled that we got two more seasons, but if this was it for Game of Thrones, I think it would have been a lovely ending for Arya. She hasn’t gotten to kill the people she wants to kill, but I think it’s her happiest moment since she was playing in Winterfell four years ago.
As a viewer, did you have a favorite moment from Season 4? That scene where The Mountain crushes the Red Viper’s head in until it explodes really turned me into that guy yelling at the TV screen.
It’s crazy to read in the script, but you can’t really prepare yourself for what you see on the show. It reads, “The Mountain squishes the Red Viper’s head in,” and as a cast member, when you finally get to watch it, it’s like, “Wow, they nailed that!” and when you see everyone on Twitter going, “Oh my god! This is mad!” it’s the best feeling ever.
The Twitter informed me that you saw The Fault in Our Stars recently. How much crying are we talking about here?
[Laughs] It wasn’t even as if there was one moment where everyone burst out crying. I was crying during the happy bits! It was so, so beautiful. There’s one scene where the movie goes black and you could hear everyone sniffling in the audience. It was kind of annoying, but very funny.
There was another funny tweet about you winking at your crush… do you have a celebrity crush? Everyone loves the Gosling.
Yeah, isn’t everyone in love with him? I think that’s just the role of being a woman! [Laughs] I am in love with Andrew Garfield. But everyone thinks he’s kind of cute… and then I was like, “Oh my god, he’s dating Emma Stone!” But if there’s anyone he’s going to go out with, I’m kind of happy it’s Emma Stone because I’m sort of in love with her, too. So it’s cool. There aren’t too many people in this industry who are my age, so it’s fine for me to have a crush on these people. But whenever there are people my age, it’s embarrassing to mention it because…
…because it’s still a possibility!
[Laughs] Oh no, it’s never a possibility because I’m too weird and annoying. But they’re my peers and I could meet them and we could be friends—although no one ever really wants to be my friend.
Oh, that can’t be true!
Well… I think people want to be my friend and then they meet me and I don’t stop talking and they find me really annoying. They’re like, “OK… I’m going to walk away now…” [Laughs] But Andrew Garfield is number one. I have so many Amazing Spider-Man posters on my wall, it’s crazy. I moved out of my house last year and my mum got me a poster that said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and I said, “Oh my god, it’s a Spider-Man poster!” But then I thought about what it meant: the “great power” of being in this industry and being able to move out at 16 years old, and to not mess it up and ruin every bit of trust I’ve built up with my mother to let me move out at this age.
How’s it been living on your own?
It’s been fantastic! People ask me, “Isn’t it scary living on your own?” but in this industry, being at events, doing interviews, and doing promotion and constantly chatting about yourself, sometimes it’s really nice to just sit in silence, or take a day where you can sleep in until 3 p.m. and then stay up as late as you like. It gives me that freedom a lot more of just being a normal teenager. If I went on this crazy world tour and then came home to my mom helping me unpack my bags, it would still feel like I was away in this crazy world, but it’s nice to return to reality with a crash by opening the door and seeing all your clothes all over the floor.