'Game of Thrones' stars Maisie Williams & Isaac Hempstead-Wright on Arya and Bran's journeys
As I said yesterday , my original plan for this week of “Game of Thrones” interviews was to talk to all three Stark kids together, but scheduling issues split Sophie Turner off from TV siblings Maisie Williams and Isaac Hempstead-Wright. Fortunately, the latter two worked just as well as a duo as I’d been hoping they would in a trio, and we talked about the challenges and benefits of their respective roles, what it was like to watch the Red Wedding and, of course, their very tall traveling companions.
You guys haven't worked together since episode 2, right?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: Episode 1, isn't it? I think that was the only time we were ever together.
And yet when you're together in these interviews, or the DVD commentaries you do with Sophie, it's like you're the best of friends who have never parted.
Maisie Williams: Yeah, exactly. And I think the reason for that is because we're the only kids on the show — series regulars, anyway. And I'm really with him because there's no one else to talk to. We were all introduced into this together. We met from such a young age and we'd never done anything else before, so I'll always like be friends with these guys differently then I'll be with other kids that I work with, because we started on this together and we've all grown on this show.
How much has each of you read of the books at this point?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: I haven't read any of those.
Maisie Williams: I haven't read any of them, but I do know what happens for most of it.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: Wikipedia. Yeah.
Maisie Williams: Well, my parents told me. They've all read them, but I don't know the ways in which they get to these plot points.
But there's this entire population out there that's read all of these books. So when you're out in the world, do you ever have people coming up to you and wanting to talk about something that you don't know yet?
Maisie Williams: Kind of, yeah.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: And sometimes I'll feign some kind of pretended knowledge in it from what I've patched together from the Internet and what people have told me. But when they start talking about the thingy magiggy — some obscure long name — I have no idea.
Maisie Williams: Yeah. Exactly. When people come up and say, “I can't wait until this bit,” like a really specific and scene from the book, I say, “Sorry, I don't know what that is but I hope it plays out the same that you read it.”
Maisie, you’re running around in the woods with a sword, your hair is chopped off, you’re filthy pretty much all the time. Isaac, you don't get to walk but you get to hang out with Hodor and commune with animals. Which of you has the better job?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: I've always kind of wanted a sword.
Maisie Williams: Yeah, I've always kind of wanted to rule Winterfell.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: Well, we could switch. Nobody would notice.
Maisie Williams: No one would know and it would be cool to be carried around; that would be nice.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: That is nice.
Maisie Williams: My legs do get sore. My aching feet.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: Hodor is for rent.
Is there equipment out there for him to do any DJing in between takes?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: Yeah, I have a little deck placed on his shoulders.
Maisie Williams: Yeah, the wheelbarrow has got a portable deck underneath and it switches over and Hodor lays down some beats.
There's this long period where Bran is in the background of things, but then last season he meets the Reeds, and you start getting more of a sense of what his role in this is going to be. Before you got to that point, Isaac, what was your feeling about the character? Did you ever have any discussions with Dan and Dave about what you were doing here?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: Bran in seasons 1 and 2 was quite a passive character in the sense that he wasn't out there like Arya going out in Kings Landing and stabbing and stuff. And he was just waiting for other thing to happen, which would then have results on him.
Maisie Williams: Which is hugely understandable, though. He was so young. You know what I mean? And what I always say is I feel like the Stark kids are angry that their parents didn't tell them more about what happens in this world. For all they knew their parents were loyal good people, which they are, but that doesn't go a very long way in this world. And I think they're angry at the fact that they didn't know more about this, because they could be much more effective in who they trust.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: What was nice about season 3 was the fact that finally actually had a much more discernible storyline, which did follow in order and things were actually happening rather than just waiting around, which was really nice.
Arya has been spending a lot of time lately with the Hound. How do the two of you get along?
Maisie Williams: Me and Rory or Arya and the Hound?
You and Rory, first of all.
Maisie Williams: Fantastically. Rory is such a great guy and we have the most in-depth conversations about Sycamore trees and various birds that are flying past and flowers that are around because we're always outside, and weather and how his boat’s coming on, and my dancing. And he also gave me a strum stick, a guitar thing, so we exchanged tunes on that. The thing is, Rory doesn't have kids and it could have been a completely different relationship and it could've been really awkward, but what I like about Rory is that he treats me like another person rather than a kid. He treats me like a fellow actor and we're both in these scenes together and it's never like, “You're only 16.”
As for the Hound, on the one hand Arya despises this guy who's keeping her prisoner, but on the other hand he's the latest in a long line of badass's that she gets to study under.
Maisie Williams: Yeah, so I think she's almost like, “I actually quite like you, I'll kill you last.” That's her view with the Hound, in that they don't get on, they're not friends. They're both evil to each other; they're awful. He is very physical with her, very verbally abusive and constantly shooting her down and talking bad about her family, and all the while I'm like, “You were with the biggest douchebag in this world for most of his life. Why didn't you kill him? You had the choice every single day.” She's angry at that, and they're awful to each other. But they both have qualities that each other needs, which is why they're together; they need each other to kind of get by. And they both know that but they've never mentioned it.
Is it difficult as someone of a smaller stature to be playing these scenes with him and all these other physically large actors, and Arya's trying to be tough in front of them?
Maisie Williams: Totally used to it. I'm used to standing and talking to people like this. On a daily basis I'm looking up to everyone. And with Arya, it's exactly the same. She's just used to it until someone points it out and then she's like, “Okay, here we go. We all know I'm small, but that's the easiest thing that you could've said. You pick on my physical stature because you're not smart enough to insult me in another way.” That's the way she sees it. She doesn't have an issue with being small, and being with this great big guy. She's cool with that until someone else brings it up and then she's why? Easy target.
And related to that, Isaac, you've grown as the series has gone along. Has Kristian started complaining yet?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: Yeah. And he's trying to get me to start smoking to stunt my growth.
Maisie Williams: Imagine.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: The good thing is that I don't have to stand up, because otherwise I would probably be a lot higher.
Maisie Williams: Isaac's taller than Sophie now.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: I know. I am.
Maisie Williams: Isaac is the tallest Stark child and he's the youngest Stark child. Crazy. Well, not Rickon, but out of us three.
Logistically, is he getting any help when he's carrying you?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: I think he had a car crash earlier this year so he's really hurt his back. So it was quite a problem this season, but luckily he doesn't have to carry me much. Because even if he didn't have a bad back, I think it would be trouble even for him. So I'm in a little travois this season. A little jingle bell sleigh, which is cool.
And I assume you're doing a lot of stuff in Iceland now?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: Well, this was the season I could have gone to Iceland, but they changed it to a summer location. And (Maisie) got to go, didn't you?
Maisie Williams: I did. So instead of shooting in Iceland in the winter they shot in Iceland in the summer, and they built a wonderful exterior set for (Isaac).
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: Yeah. Really nice. Lots of location stuff in lots of really nice damp forests with this horrible snow. Have you ever had the snow?
Maisie Williams: No.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: The fake snow they use looks very realistic but it's actually ash. They burn these snow candle things and they grow into your throat and you’re choking trying to say your lines. And there was one point where we were all there, you know, breathing this horrible stuff and we looked around, and the crew had gas masks on. Maybe this isn't very healthy.
Physically, what has been the hardest thing you've each had to do on the show?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: I think it's just location work.
Maisie Williams: Welcome to my life, bro. I haven't been inside since, like, episode 7, season 1. There's a lot of standing around and it's constantly putting on and taking off coats and it's not easy to do a scene because it's freezing cold. So someone wants to put a coat on you because you've got to stay warm to last the whole day, but then you're constantly putting it on and taking it off and you're trying to rehearse in this massive coat and it's not the way that you want it to be. And they're lining up shots with you in this huge coat and then all of a sudden you take it off, they've got to re-tape everything. It's just a massive hassle, which is so much easier when you're interior. But the early mornings, are they not pretty dire?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: The two-hour car journey to some beautiful but far flung location on the coast of Belfast. And from the car it looks wonderful, but you step out and it's bitterly cold. The costumes are great because they look fantastic and they're all so real; there's no Velcro or anything. But that also makes them very cold and you're in these beautiful boots, but they drench your feet.
Maisie Williams: They're not water-resistant.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: You're standing in mud and the elements are doing their best to grind you into the ground. But it's fun.
Maisie Williams: But apart from that, great.
How much are you aware of what else is happening on the show before you actually see it?
Maisie Williams: I read the script. You read the whole scripts?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: Kind of.
Maisie Williams: So we read the script so I know what's happening for everyone else. But you live and breathe your own story. I'm not going to remember every line and every scene that happens (to someone else) and every interaction. So it's so lovely to watch it back and see what everyone else has been getting up to while you've been shooting.
But you're not likely to forget, for instance, that your mother and your brother are going to be slaughtered at the wedding?
Maisie Williams: No. I wouldn't forget that.
You did that memorable Vine about it.
Maisie Williams: Oh God. I hadn't even watched the episode when I did that Vine. I just knew it happened because everyone was tweeting me. They were like, “I'm never watching ‘Game of Thrones’ again.” It's quite sad.
Even though neither of you had worked with a Richard or Michelle in quite a while, they're still your TV family, so what was it like watching that sequence?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: It was really sad, because actually these were people we'd known. Richard, we'd been with since the pilot and we'd been in the same boat as him. He hadn't really done much before and we were all on this journey together and it all been so much fun. And Michelle had certainly been a motherly figure to us all; always taking care of us.
Maisie Williams: Every day, whenever we'd see her, she’d give us all a big hug. Although we didn't work together it is sad that they're not around. They were the life and soul of the Fitzwilliam Hotel, where we stayed. If you like didn't know who was about, they were always around at every meal or whatever.
Without necessarily knowing what's coming up, are there characters on this show whom you wish you could interact with?
Maisie Williams: Cersei. But it wouldn't really work for the storyline because one of them would end up dead at the end. When I watch Cersei, I don't Lena (Headey) at all, and that's just amazing. I'd love to be on set for that and see how it goes down for her, because I see nothing of Lena when I'm watching the show at all. Everything is gone. She's completely lost and there's this new character, from the way she holds herself to the way she talks — she’s just completely gone. So it would be so lovely to see that happen right in front of you and see how she does that kind of thing.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: I'd like to work with Joffrey, with Jack (Gleeson) just because it would be really interesting to be on the receiving end of his bile and hatred. And I think it would be quite cool to see what Bran would do if suddenly there was someone being truly foul and knowing that he was responsible for the deaths of quite a lot of his family. And I also think Jack does such a brilliant job transforming himself from this wonderful lovely scholar into this absolutely just…
Maisie Williams: It makes your skin crawl, how awful he is.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: So that'd be fun.
What was it like working with him back in Season 1?
Maisie Williams: I can't even remember. All I remember from Season 1 is being cold. It was a fantastic year and I learned so much; it was like the most eventful year ever. We hung out, and I never remember it being intense, but he wasn't the king then; he was only the prince. And since he got given that kingly title, I think it spiraled even further out of control. But I remember Jack was just onset smoking a pipe — not drugs, but this tasty tobacco stuff and the whole set smelled of this amazing fruity tobacco. That's what I remember from shooting with Jack. And just having a laugh really. It was not intense at all.
As you said earlier, this is really the first thing you've ever done; it’s a special experience. In talking to some of the older actors that you work with, what have they told you about how this compares to what you may face as actors for the rest of your careers?
Maisie Williams: I'm constantly being told, “It's only downhill from here, Maisie.” Just because the crew are fantastic. And lots of people go through turmoil and difficulties to get their end goal of a breakthrough role, and we were given that first time up. So I feel like there's still a lot of hard work for us to go. We have not made it. You've never made it, but I feel like this is the breakthrough role, but it's not. There's something else to come that we still have to prove ourselves almost. This has been fantastic, but as soon as this finishes, there are going to be things that I have to do in order to get the next thing for people to take us seriously. We were right for the roles, but it was extremely lucky, I feel. And I think now there is a lot of hard work still to go until people are going to take us seriously as actors.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: As Maisie, said everyone is so nice. There's not really a single person who's a diva or who's unpleasant or you have to tiptoe around. Everyone's friendly. I come in and I chat with Pete the props guy. He was teaching me Japanese one day. And one of the nice things is it's a really relaxed set but not in a way that everything's chaos and nothing’s working. It's serious but it's not —
Maisie Williams: Not shoutie; no one ever looks stressed. If there's an issue, we'll sort it. There's none of that (stress), because that doesn't help anyone and the crew are just perfect at gliding over any hitches or difficulties that happen throughout the shoot. The way that this show deals with that is very different than anything else I've worked on. I haven't done much, I can understand why more experienced actors say how great the crew are, because I can see it too.
Isaac Hempstead-Wright: I really haven't done anything else other than this, too, and to be able to have this as my first and only experience of the acting world is really sort of lucky.
Maisie Williams: And helpful. We've grown a lot of confidence I feel. So now we've got a nice platform to go from here.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: No more comments on any "Game of Thrones" posts. I tried setting up separate message board threads for readers and non-readers, but that unfortunately didn't work out so well. Sorry.