Maisie Williams was a 12-year-old unknown when she was cast as Arya Stark in HBO’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones. The show proved to be one of the biggest TV hits of the 21st century, and made Williams a big name. However, there’s a lot more to young British actress than Game of Thrones, as we will explore now…
20. She originally intended to pursue dance
It probably goes without saying that, thanks to Game of Thrones, Maisie Williams is set for life where her acting career is concerned.
However, unlike the rest of her young co-stars, being an actor wasn’t initially in Williams’ game plan.
Having attended Bath’s Sue Hill School of Dance as a youngster, in a 2011 interview, Williams admitted: “My first love is dancing”.
Having attended Bath Dance College during her time on Game of Thrones, Williams is now proficient in musical theatre, ballet, tap, street and freestyle.
She told the Guardian in 2016: “If I could have had a career in dancing, I would have left acting in a second.”
19. She almost didn’t bother going to her Game of Thrones audition
Back when the cast were auditioning for the show, Game of Thrones was just another TV pilot in the early planning stages.
With acting then only a passing interest, an 11-year-old Williams wasn’t exactly keen on auditioning for a role in a TV series she knew nothing about.
Instead, Williams wanted to go on a school trip to a pig farm, but her agent insisted she attend.
Begrudgingly, Williams attended the audition, nailed it, and won herself a part on the biggest show of the decade.
In a 2019 interview on Lorraine, Williams admitted she came very close to missing her chance to play Arya.
“I desperately wanted to go on a school trip instead – good job I didn’t! I wouldn’t be here now.”
18. She left school at 14
With its huge ensemble, production Game of Thrones was always going to be a huge undertaking.
However, few could have anticipated just how deep an impact the show would have on the popular consciousness.
What’s more, as the series continued, so too did Maisie Williams’ role move ever further into the spotlight.
With the shooting schedule stretching out to up to nine months of the year, Williams made the decision to drop out of school at age 14.
As a result, Williams never sat her GSCE exams, though she had a tutor on the Game of Thrones set to learn in the gaps between filming.
In 2014, Williams’ mother told the Mail on Sunday: “Maisie was given a lot of opportunities that we didn’t feel we could turn down to concentrate on education.”
17. She criticised Emma Watson for being a ‘first-world feminist’
Refreshingly for a celeb, Maisie Williams isn’t afraid to be disarmingly open and honest about her take on the world.
This became obvious in 2014, when Williams criticised Emma Watson – another former child star – in an interview with the Guardian.
It wasn’t long after Watson gave a now-famous speech on feminism to the UN, and Williams – herself a staunch feminist – was asked her opinion.
- Credit: Paul Kagame/Gage Skidmore
Dismissing Watson’s “first-world feminism”, Williams said, “there are bigger things going on in other countries.”
“A lot of what Emma Watson spoke about, I just think, ‘that doesn’t bother me.'”
“I know things aren’t perfect for women in the UK and in America, but there are women in the rest of the world who have it far worse.”
16. She’s a devoted animal rights activist
Williams isn’t just proudly outspoken where politics and feminism are concerned: she’s also a keen advocate for animal welfare.
Williams has used her social media presence to encourage followers to protest corporate animal testing.
In 2015, Williams headed up a march through London in protest against the practice of hunting and capturing dolphins for captivity in Japan.
- Credit: @maisie_williams Instagram
She performed a charity jump out of a plane at 15,000 feet in the same year for the cause.
Williams was also a signatory in 2019 of an open letter urging Vladimir Putin to release dozens of captive whales from a so-called ‘whale jail’ in Srednyaya Bay.
Then in April 2021, Williams was named the World Wildlife Fund’s first Global Ambassador for Climate and Nature.
15. She’s been relentlessly bullied on social media
One unfortunate consequence of being famous and outspoken in today’s world is that social media bullying inevitably seems to come with the territory.
Williams has a strong social media presence, with millions of followers on Twitter and Instagram.
However, the young actress has been vocal about the dark side of her online experience, too.
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In a 2018 Guardian interview, Williams said she experienced online bullying “on a bigger scale” than the average person, something that left her “really bitter about life and people”.
Williams was so affected that she even starred in a 2015 TV film about cyberbullying called Cyberbully.
Speaking about the film, Williams said: “I’ve been on a train, right next to my mum with my phone in my hand, scrolling through constant abuse…and feeling completely on my own.”
14. She developed her own social media app
The pressure and negativity of social media has been a key concern of Williams’ throughout her career.
A lot of young actors and actresses choose to remove themselves completely from social media for this reason.
Williams, however, has chosen instead to fight back against the hate messages and cyber-bullying.
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In response to her social media experience, Williams recently launched a positive-thinking social media app of her own with business partner Dom Santry.
Daisie, a social media app for people who want to break into creative industries, was designed by Williams and Santry to encourage users to work together to create.
The idea behind Daisie, says Williams, is also for creatives from more humble backgrounds like herself to build a list of contacts from scratch.
13. She’s best mates with Sophie Turner in real life
Game of Thrones cast Williams and Sophie Turner as sisters Arya and Sansa Stark, who share blood but otherwise have little in common.
In real life, working alongside one another on the show proved to be the start of a very close friendship for Williams and Turner.
In a 2017 interview, Turner told Business Insider: “She’s my best friend, she’s my soulmate. I love that girl to pieces”.
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Williams thinks so too, having referred to Turner as “my best friend” and spoken at length about the close relationship that has developed from their decade of working together.
Williams told Glamour magazine in 2019: “Whenever I’m like, ‘I need help! This is bigger than anything I can sort out on my own,’ Sophie is my point of call.”
The pair even have matching tattoos, while Williams was one of the maids of honour at Turner’s wedding to partner Joe Jonas.
12. She learned to do things left-handed to play Arya
Let it never be said that Maisie Williams hasn’t put the effort in to play Arya Stark.
As readers of George R.R. Martin’s original novels will know, the author states that Arya is left-handed.
Based on this fairly minor detail from the books, the right-handed Williams learned how to do things southpaw.
Williams says that she began learning after her mum informed her that Arya was left-handed in A Song of Ice and Fire.
Williams would from then on often practice “in the garden and things I would do left-handed just to feel that rhythm”.
Watch the show closely, and you can see Arya even fights and wields a sword left-handed.
11. She thought that Game of Thrones sex scene was a prank
It wasn’t just you: Maisie Williams didn’t expect Arya would end up sharing a sex scene with Gendry in Game of Thrones’ final season, either.
Many viewers and critics were aghast at such a scene being included.
Williams herself was so shocked when she read the script, she assumed Thrones showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff were playing a practical joke on her.
“At first, I thought it was a prank. I was like, ‘Yo, good one'”, Williams told Entertainment Weekly.
“And [Weiss and Benioff were] like, ‘No, we haven’t done that this year.'”
Williams later tweeted: “If u feel uncomfortable just know that my mother and my stepdad and my 2 sisters and my 4 brothers have all probably watched this too”.
10. Her real name isn’t Maisie
Thanks to Game of Thrones, pretty much everybody knows the name of Maisie Williams.
You might not have known, however, that this is not legally the young actress’s real name.
Though she goes by Maisie in both private and public life, Williams was actually christened Margaret Constance Williams.
- Credit: Max Morse for TechCrunch
Not unlike GoT co-star Kit Harington, however, Williams has rarely ever gone by her birth name.
Instead, Williams has been referred to by the nickname Maisie for as long as she can remember.
Nicknamed by her family after the precocious Maisie in the cartoon strip The Perishers, Williams later carried the nickname over to her professional acting moniker, too.
9. Her mum is her personal assistant
Despite all those months spent away from home filming Game of Thrones, Williams has never lost touch with her roots.
Born in Bristol in April 1997, Williams was raised by her mother and stepfather in the village of Clutton, Somerset.
Coming from a big family with three older siblings, Williams has always remained closest to her mum.
- Credit: @maisie_williams Instagram
So close, in fact, that the pair, according to Williams, can’t go a day without speaking to one another.
Furthermore, Williams put Mum on her payroll, making her both manager and personal assistant.
Williams’ mother, Hilary Pitt Frances, actually quit her job in university administration to work at her daughter’s side.
8. She doesn’t have a relationship with her biological father
Though she bears his surname, Maisie Williams has never had much of a relationship with her father.
Williams’ parents divorced when she was very young, leaving her with a lasting distaste for marriage.
The actress once declared, “I’m never going to get married…my view on marriage is that it’s extremely pointless.”
- Credit: Enna Bartlett
After her parents’ split, Williams was raised by her mother and stepdad, with her father hardly featuring in her life.
Williams made this clear on Father’s Day, 2015, when she tweeted: “Happy Father’s Day to my mother who played both roles for me growing up”.
Williams also used Father’s Day to pay tribute to her stepdad, while in a 2014 interview with Vulture she declared “I would rather be a Pitt”, referring to her mother’s surname.
7. Lena Headey is her role model
Unsurprisingly a fan of strong women, Maisie Williams’ ultimate role model is none other than one of her Game of Thrones co-stars.
In the show, Arya Stark is a sworn enemy of Cersei Lannister, portrayed by Lena Headey.
In real life, however, Williams has stated that Headey is a huge personal inspiration.
- Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez via Getty
In 2014, Williams told the Guardian she thought Headey represented the perfect balance between personal life and working life.
“She’s a fantastic actress but she doesn’t live in the limelight. I never see headlines about her.”
The duo have worked together again since Game of Thrones: in 2021, Williams appeared in a music video which Headey directed.
6. Game of Thrones was her first ever acting role
Almost none of the young ‘newcomers’ who made their names on Game of Thrones were really new to acting at all.
Kit Harington began his career on stage in War Horse, Emilia Clarke had the 2010 SyFy TV movie Triassic Attack, while Richard Madden had made his film debut all the way back in 2000.
On the other hand Maisie Williams, like ‘siblings’ Sophie Turner and Isaac Hempstead Wright, had never appeared on-screen before.
Though Williams had previously auditioned for Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, Game of Thrones was the first acting role she ever got.
In 2011, Williams told WinterIsComing.net that being turned down for Nanny McPhee 2 almost put her off auditioning again.
However, she ultimately figured “all auditions are good experience so I went along, and after the first audition in London I knew I wanted to be Arya.”
5. She set up her own film production company at 19
Not content with just inventing and running a new social media app, Williams also has a film production company all of her own.
Along with Dom Santry, who also worked with Williams on Daisie, Williams runs Daisy Chain Productions.
The company, built to develop and produce TV and film, was set up when Williams was just 19 years old.
“I want to give other people the opportunity to make incredible things,” Williams told Highsnobiety in 2017.
The actress explained, “There are so many members of my generation that have all the talent and just no platform.”
Daisy Chain has already made its first film, a 2018 short called Stealing Silver, which Williams both produced and starred in.
4. Fellow child star Bill Milner is her flatmate
Maisie Williams and Son of Rambow star Bill Milner have a few things in common.
Both have acted professionally since they were 12, and they’ve both been in their fair share of high profile productions.
Williams has Game of Thrones, and Milner has Dunkirk and X-Men: First Class, while both have iBoy, which the duo starred in in 2017.
- Credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
It makes sense, then, that these two up-and-coming Brit (former child) actors would choose to be roomies.
Milner, who also founded Daisy Chain Productions along with Williams and Santry, recently revealed he and the Thrones star had been living together with a telling tweet in 2019.
Whilst the show’s final season was airing, Milner tweeted, “You all think it’s hard avoiding
#GameofThrones spoilers? Try living with Arya. I’m dodging them in my own goddamn kitchen.”
3. She revealed a massive Game of Thrones ‘spoiler’ live on television as an April Fool’s joke
Back when Game of Thrones was still on the air, viewers frequently struggled to avoid spoilers online if they didn’t catch each episode immediately.
Maisie Williams decided to have a little fun with this in the run-up to the show’s final season.
The Arya actress appeared on US talk show Jimmy Fallon to promote Game of Thrones season eight – on April 1st.
Before anyone knew what was happening, Williams ‘accidentally’ let slip a seemingly huge spoiler.
The actress declared, “When I found out that Arya died in like the second episode…” – to audible gasps from the audience.
This was later revealed to be just an April Fool’s gag, much to the relief of many Game of Thrones fans.
2. She’s a campaigner for sustainable fashion
On top of her acting, producing and activism, Williams has also become deeply involved in fashion.
The young celebrity has been praised by Vogue magazine for her “quirky, youthful style.”
However, Williams is eager to balance her love of fashion with her environmentalist values.
In April 2021, Williams was named the first global sustainability ambassador of high street clothing retailer H&M.
The idea was to help promote the fashion retailer’s moves toward a more environmentally friendly business model.
However, some critics accused H&M of ‘greenwashing’ and criticised Williams for going into business with them.
1. She was an incessant prop-stealer on the Game of Thrones set
Once production on a film or TV show has wrapped, it’s not unheard of for cast members to take props home with them.
Maisie Williams, on the other hand, has been lifting bits and pieces from the Game of Thrones set seemingly from day one.
In a 2015 Esquire interview, Williams revealed she had amassed a sizeable faceless man coin collection (“I have no idea where they went”) while also eyeing up Arya’s iconic sword Needle (“I’m hoping to steal one in the future”).
In a 2018 interview with BBC Radio One, meanwhile, Williams admitted she had taken a favourite leather jacket from the GoT wardrobe department.
Add to this a breakable prop stick Arya used to hit Joffrey in season one, and Williams has herself a veritable treasure trove of Thrones memorabilia.