Thrones Countdown #7: Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams were hanging out in public one day when they were approached by a Game of Thrones fan. Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on the show, and Williams, who plays Arya Stark, had struck up an immediate friendship when they first met at their Thrones auditions (Williams recalls leaving her test thinking, “Even if I don’t get the part of Arya I want Sophie to get the part of Sansa.”) So this fan comes up to the actresses and says to Williams, “You’re my favorite,” and then says to Turner, “You’re my least favorite.”
And that, of course, was totally rude. But it’s a reaction Turner says she received a surprising amount of since starting on the show — at least during the show’s first year or so. “At first it kind of came as a shock because people didn’t like Sansa; she isn’t a fan favorite,” says the 17-year-old Turner, who landed the role after her drama teacher encouraged her to try out for the HBO series. “A lot of fans that recognize me go, ‘I kind of hate you,’ and I’m all, ‘Cool, well, you’ve just made this sufficiently awkward.’ I thought I was being personally attacked, but I knew I wasn’t. It was all new to me.”
Some fans are doubtless reading this and wondering, “Why would anybody hate Sansa?” She’s totally sympathetic, Turner nails the part and last season had some terrific scenes (and has some of her best work yet coming up in season three). There’s probably a few factors at play. One is that, in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels that Game of Thrones is based on, Sansa is less sympathetic than on the show (she told Cersei her father’s plans to take his family away from King’s Landing in the first book, accidentally playing a pivotal role in his eventual execution — many book-readers still haven’t forgiven her for that). Even on the show, initially Sansa came across, by design, naive and selfish, protecting the devious Joffrey instead of her sister Arya in an early dispute. And then there’s the whole sibling-comparison factor — Robb Stark is fighting a war, bastard-born Jon Snow is infiltrating the Wildling camp, Arya is a badass tomboy, Bran and Rickon Stark are on the run (so to speak). They’re all taking charge of their destinies. Sansa is a hostage, alternately pampered and tormented. Her character has been less heroic, but she’s increasingly admirable and likable as the show progresses.
“[Sansa’s] the least favorite in the books so I guess I’m doing my job if I’m the least favorite in the show,” Turner says. “Now I don’t really read [online comments] and I’m pretty happy with reactions to Sansa because she’s a kick-ass character.”
In season 3, expect Sansa to be a “lot less naive,” Turner says. “Season 2 changed her. All the things she heard in songs and fairy tales — they’re all gone now. She’s lost her innocence, but for the better. You don’t want to be innocent in the world of Game of Thrones.”
Not innocent, perhaps, but she’s starting to get a little hopeful again. With Joffrey set to marry Margaery Tyrell, Sansa is largely out the psychopathic king’s cross-hairs this season. Plus, she might gain an ally in Margaery’s grandmother Lady Olenna (newcomer to the show Diana Rigg).
“She has some big events that are unexpected and a new experience for her,” Turner teases. “This time she actually becomes a woman and has a chance to live what could be her dream life.”
So things are looking up for Turner’s character, though there’s still one aspect of playing Sansa that she’d happily swap with Williams — the costumes.
“I find it so hard to move around in the dresses, you’re walking like a statue,” she says, “but I’m sure Maisie would love to wear a dress.”
17 DAYS OF THRONES
EW rolled out 17 Game of Thrones stories with exclusive and spoiler-free behind-the-scenes content, largely drawn from our Northern Ireland set visit last fall, leading up to the show’s season 3 premiere on March 31. After each episode air we’ll have our popular recaps (catch up on the recaps for the first two seasons here) and interviews. Follow me on Twitter @james_hibberd for Game of Thrones news and bookmark our Thrones hub here.