Last season on Game of Thrones, the writers decided to pair two characters together for several scenes that were not in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels: A captive young Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) working as a servant for the fearsome Lannister patriarch Tywin (Charles Dance), who doesn’t realize her true royal identity. The move could have backfired. They were lengthy chatty two-characters-in-a-room scenes between a then-14 year-old actress with no prior acting experience before Thrones and a 65-year-old British stage and screen veteran. Instead, they were among fans’ favorite moments of the season, with Williams/Arya holding her own against Dance/Tywin.
“He introduced himself and said, ‘Hello, I’m Charlie,’ and I’m all, ‘No you’re not!'” Williams recalls, having balked at the idea of addressing the actor by his first name. “He commands such respect when he walks in a room. But I could only call him Charlie.”
Fan response to the scenes, Williams says, took her by surprise. “I didn’t really go into scenes thinking they were going to be as popular as they were, but they were great fun,” she says while hanging out with Sophie Turner (Sansa) at the show’s production hotel in Belfast last September. “The books are fantastic but sometimes people are a little too protective of the story lines.”
Williams has been particularly effective at giving a devastating dead stare that seems beyond her years. “A lot of actors and actresses pull from past experiences,” she says. “I’m really good at convincing myself somebody’s killed my dad and sometimes I get myself really annoyed. You know sometimes when you’re in a really bad mood and you’re not sure why? That’s how I get sometimes. That’s the great fun about acting you can pretend to be somebody else all day.”
This season, having escaped the army camp dangers of Harrenhal, Arya is on the run along with brave blacksmith Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and the oafish Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey). But Arya is indisputably in charge. She no longer gives any concession to still technically being a kid. She has experienced too much. “She’s starting to stand up for herself and take control of her life,” Williams says. “And she’s starting to realize that most people don’t stick to their word. People don’t always do what they say they’re going to do. But if everybody else is going to do that, I can too.”
In a way, Arya’s second season was a bit like Jaimie Lannister’s — the bulk of it was spent as a captive. In season three, she’s very much on the move. “Arya last season she had a great storyline not much actually happened — she didn’t move North very much,” she says. “This season there’s a lot more happening. She meets a lot more people there’s a lot more twists and turns.”
And though her rather handy three-wishes assassin Jaqen H’gar (Tom Wlaschiha) may be gone (at least for now), magic will also play into Arya’s third season storyline. “She thought she knew magic when she met Jaqen H’gar but now she doesn’t even know what’s hit her.”
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.