Bella Ramsey was at school when her mom arrived to tell her she’d been cast as the fierce Lady Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones’ sixth season, but diligent parenting meant the young actress hadn’t seen a single episode.
“I was so excited!” recalls Ramsey, who was just 11 years old at the time. “My mum was like, ‘Shhh, you’re not allowed to tell anyone!’ My best friend was there when my mum told me, so she knew, but she had to keep it quiet too!”
With the help of her older sister, Ramsey familiarized herself with the story of Thrones, watching snippets from the seven seasons — “I’ll watch the rest when I’m 18” — but when she got on set (her first ever), things were just as unfamiliar. “I was overwhelmed by the amount of people,” she says. “My first day somebody pointed out tufts of grass that been placed on a field and said, ‘You know it’s someone’s job just to place those tufts of grass.’ That was the perfect example of the scale of it.”
To overcome any nerves, Ramsey channeled Lyanna’s tenacious spirit. “I’m not that confident, really, but when I was her, I was,” she says. “I love her defiance; she’s a badass. Being able to stand up there and shame all these grown men was super-cool.”
Lucky, her veteran castmates were also ready to lend a helping hand — well those with their hands still intact. ” Everyone was so welcoming and helpful,” says Ramsey. “On set it’s like a whole new language: There’s all these crazy words that aren’t in everyday life. I didn’t quite know what to expect, if they’d be reserved or weird because I’m a kid, but they treated me like an adult, which was the best thing for me because then they’re treating me like an equal.”
A couple of empowering speeches later, Ramsey’s Lyanna was a fan favorite, being addressed as “m’lady” on the street. Even the King in the North can’t help but admire her. “One of the first times I ever interacted with Kit [Harington], I had my spotty Doc Martens on,” she remembers. “He called me ‘dude’ and told me they were cool!”
And they say Jon Snow knows nothing.
Game of Thrones returns for its eighth and final season April 14 on HBO.
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