It was about 4pm in London, late February at Corinthia Hotel, where myself and tens of other journalists were packed in a suite; we were awaiting for the arrival of Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams, who played Sansa Stark and Arya Stark respectively in HBO’s acclaimed series, Game of Thrones. Filmed around the year-end of 2009, Game of Thrones debuted in 2011 on HBO with great fanfare. Based on the beloved “The Song of Fire & Ice” book series by George R. R. Martin, it is said to have sold 90 million copies worldwide. We spoke to the leading ladies on how they felt about the last chapter’s ending, being unprofessional on set and their best advice to their younger selves.
(Also, spoiler alert!)
Blossoming into young women
As they both sauntered into the room, Maisie, with her bleached pink hair and green ensemble, and Sophie, with her quiet confidence, coupled with a flashy engagement ring she was playing with throughout our interview session (she’s engaged to singer Joe Jonas), the duo displayed love and adoration for one another – just like blood sisters. Maisie, who was about 13 years old when she started filming Game of Thrones and Sophie, 16, both felt humbled with the success of the series. Having grown with the show, both have blossomed into young women, and Maisie resonated with her peers who were “figuring things out”, as she got to take some time of her own too, after completing the series: “People are like, they’re finishing university and now having to make, you know, big decisions about what they want to do next, and (this) actually feels like a really great time for me. I don’t feel like I look around at my peers. And I’m like, okay, none of us know what we’re doing; it’s fine. I’ve just really enjoyed taking time out to figure out what I want to do next.”
The last chapter ending was bittersweet
With each episode costing S$20 million a bomb according to a Variety report, the budget for the six episodes of Season 8 had doubled since Season 1. So it’s no wonder HBO had to pull the plug before it became ginormous. When asked about the last chapter ending, the actresses felt bittersweet, but recognised the need for closure. “Honestly, it’s been a huge part of our lives and the only part we can remember (laughs) but it’s definitely like, you can feel a chapter ending and a new one beginning,” Maisie pondered. “It’s necessary but really sad.”
Sophie chimed in: “It’s very bittersweet; it’s like we’re mourning death. It’s very interesting (pauses) it’s like the death of all characters, but not that our characters are dying (laughs), it’s the fact that we’re leaving these characters behind whenever we get to be them again. Yeah, it’s terrifying.”
Did Sophie let out a spoiler? Only time would tell.
From sacrifices to fat bank accounts and work ethics
Maisie, now 22, shared that she doesn’t come from a world of money and worked hard to be where she is now today. She dreamt of having a laptop before filming the show, and now she’s able to afford ten, or so she claimed. “For us when we were kids, I’ve really started to understand, like, how much my mother sacrificed for us. And I know that my siblings would love to be able to give back to them. But, you know, to be able to provide for my mom on behalf of all of my siblings is really lovely. And you know, just that alone is like, I just have to pinch myself sometimes when I look at my bank account, like ‘wow, this is insane,’” her eyes widened in disbelief.
For Sophie, she felt that she did not have any work ethics prior to Game of Thrones and filming the series was life-changing: “I didn’t have work ethics when I was 13 and now I feel like Game of Thrones was the school for everything. Not only was it a school for acting, but how to work, how to interact with other people, how to be a businesswoman and how to do so many things that we normally wouldn’t be able to learn till our age now.”
The duo, whose characters reunited on-screen for the finale, had so much fun on set and couldn’t take themselves seriously. Maisie remembered the camaraderie and not behaving between takes: “I think some of the crew were really shocked because I had never been that unprofessional in my life. A camera operator who’s known us as we were children, and all of a sudden we were these two 20-year-old girls on set together, being somewhat rude….”
“…. and like pretending to make out with each other during takes,” Sophie chimed in with a laugh.
Their characters are “falling in love with themselves”
Sophie’s character, Sansa Stark, had a few forced arranged marriages, and never had the chance to fall in love. She doesn’t think her character will find consummate love, but self-love is in the works. “Sansa doesn’t want to fall in love with anyone; I think she’s trying to fall in love with herself, and that’s the only love that counts.
“I think Arya’s asexual,” Maisie weighed in on her character, to Sophie’s agreeing.
“But with Sansa, I feel like she gets a little kinky,” Sophie added with a mischief.
Advice to their younger selves
Sophie hopes to remember everything, as the one thing she regretted was not taking enough photos on set. And taking down notes. Maisie agreed, and found ways to keep some bits of her costumes as memorabilia: “My mom was very good at that; I used to have this little see-through sandwich bag, and like any little thread that they cut off of my costume I’d keep it in there. I even kept an end of a bow; I have all of this things like a magpie. I think I’d also just tell my younger self to not take everything so seriously. I think I should have just allowed myself to be 13 instead of like, I was trying to be ‘I’m grown up and I know what I’m doing.’”
“Enjoy the child hours instead of ‘I want to work 12 hours a day!’ and now I’m like, ‘When’s my break?’” Sophie laughed.
Ground-breaking roles for women
The two characters who play sisters on-screen have emerged stronger and surer of themselves. We’ve seen in Season 7 how Sansa worked her way up as a power player when she takes over as Lady of Winterfell, thus cementing her political position. Arya, on the other hand, used her Faceless Man tricks by donning human face masks to trick her opponents. She’s also equally adept at sword-wielding. They are women who are fighting for survival and aren’t afraid to jump on opportunities.
“I’m proud to have been given a character over a 10-year span where I can play such a strong role but also again, we’ve been spoiled and and to find strong female characters (pauses) there’s a movement happening but it’s still difficult to find these (sort of roles) so it’s kind of like needles in a haystack. And so in those days, women weren’t really in a position of power, who didn’t really have much of a say and so it’s really refreshing to have a show set like this,” Sophie said.
The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones will debut in Asia same time as the US on Monday, 15 April at 9am, with a same day encore at 10pm, exclusively on HBO GO and HBO. The series will also be available on HBO On Demand. New episodes will premiere every Monday at the same time.
This story was the result of a trip paid for by HBO Asia.