The actress who plays fan-favorite Arya Stark discussed her character’s journey, reading the final season scripts, Arya’s tighter bond with Sansa, and she teases the end of the series in a chat with EW. “There’s a lot of death this year,” Williams warns.
As previously reported, the final batch of six episodes will contain plenty of callbacks to the show’s debut 2011 season as Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) arrive at Winterfell where Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Arya ready the North for war against The Night King.
“After reading the scripts I went back and watched season 1 again because so much of it refers back to that season,” the 21-year-old says. “There are so many scenes that will look similar. And also I watched just to remind myself of the arc I’ve taken already. I wanted Arya to go full circle and try for some kind of normalcy like when she was younger. Basically this year it’s like she has a dual personality — there are so many emotions and memories that come flooding back when you’re with your family and the things that you fight for become very different, yet she’s also remaining on this path to try and kill Cersei and remembering her list and getting closer to that. So there’s this split with Arya between trying to be who she wants to be — getting back to the naïveté and innocence with her family — and unfinished business.”
As suggested by the season 7 finale, Arya and Sansa are very much united in the final season, which for Williams was more natural to portray given her longtime friendship with Turner.
“It’s not often you see a character siding with Sansa who’s not manipulating her,” Williams notes. “Last season it was really tough for Sansa because Jon was thinking with his penis and it kind of made Sansa look bitter. This season you see Arya teaming with Sansa and sometimes calling out Jon. It felt nice and powerful to stand next to Sophie. Sophie and I are the tightest of friends when sitting across from anyone, so no acting required.”
As previously detailed in our exclusive cover story on the upcoming Battle of Winterfell, Arya will also take part in her first major battle sequence, an episode that was particularly grueling for the cast and crew. “I feel like I’ve always been a part of this big show but in terms of being part of the episodes that really define us, this is my first taste of it,” she says.
Whether Arya survives to the finale remains to be seen. But the actress had some thoughts on how fans might react to the last episode. “People don’t want it to end,” Williams says. “No matter how you end it, people don’t want it to end. So the ending is not going to be okay, because ‘the end’ is not okay. You know what I mean? I think the way we end it is right. And I think it’s time.”
Looking beyond GoT, Williams has plenty on her plate with a major role in the new X-Men spin-off The New Mutants and was recently cast in a forthcoming film called The Owners, a comic book-based thriller about a deadly game of cat and mouse set in 1990s rural England.
“I’m nervous about what comes next and just want to prove myself as an actor now and make the most of this series,” Williams. “There are not many opportunities to do everything with one character and there’s a whole spectrum I get to do. So whatever happens after, I made this count.”
GoT returns April 14. Listen to our GoT podcast. EW.com will have daily GoT coverage until the end of Game of Thrones, including post-episode recaps and interviews. Follow @jameshibberd for GoT scoop. Bookmark our Game of Thrones content hub.
Get your copy of Entertainment Weekly’s biggest Game of Thrones issue ever: 78 pages of exclusive stories and photos on the past, present, and future of the HBO hit. Buy your choice of 16 different covers, and don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.