You may not yet recognize the name Maisie Williams, but if you watch HBO’s Game of Thrones, you’re probably already a big, big fan. On it she plays Arya Stark, the quiet, sharp, badass-in-blooming who is impossible to root against.
Williams is slowly expanding beyond the blood-soaked world of Westeros, though, and her first major project outside of Game of Thrones is Heatstroke (available now on VOD, iTunes and select theaters). In it she plays a bratty young girl who hates having to spend the summer with her father (played by Stephen Dorff) on a research expedition in the African desert, and who finds herself in a fight-or-die scenario after her family comes across some poachers.
The real Williams is far, far from her Heatstroke character, however. In fact, she’s not unlike Arya Stark in that she knows what she wants and doesn’t let frivolous things distract her. Basically, if you couldn’t already guess from her work on the show, she is not your average child star.
Movies.com: How many people does a project like Heatstroke have to filter through before it gets to you?
Maisie Williams: Not many. Heatstroke I actually filmed two years ago, so it’s been a long time to get to this point, but I work really closely with my agent. I think people like to overcomplicate things more than what happens. People send a script to my agent, she sends it to my mom, and then I read it. I think people make it out that this industry is filled with entourages and managers and stylists and personal assistants, but it’s just me and my mum and my agent shuffling along in this crazy world.
So that was how it went with Heatstroke. And I wanted to go to America, anyway, to take meetings out there, so after season one I went to America and met lots of people there. I also met with the casting director of Heatstroke, they wanted me, I did some research on it all, and that was that and I was in South Africa. It wasn’t a big process with loads of different scripts. It was just “Did you read the script? Did you like it? Cool, let’s go!”
Movies.com: Has the continued rise of Game of Thrones and your popularity on it added extra pressure on the kinds of movies and roles you’re choosing?
Williams: As cool as it would be to work on a big movie with lots of movie stars, the scripts that I’m interested in are a lot lower budget. A lot of scripts that I read that I fall in love with never even get made just because they don’t have the money. Those are my favorites, and those are the projects I enjoy doing, and I think casting directors on films like that aren’t looking for a big name, they’re just looking at who is right for the role. I still do auditions, I’ve still tried out for parts I didn’t get. It’s not like everyone is queuing up to put me in their movie. It’s never going to be like that, because if you’re not right for the part in their eyes, you’re just not right.
If I am right for a role, I can bring something to it. And now that I’ve got a little bit of a fan base on Twitter, it does help things. It is exciting that I can bring that to it, but at the end of the day I just want to make good films and have fun. I’ve been given the opportunity of doing something I enjoy and make money from it, so I’m not going to do anything I don’t want to do. I’m going to try and ride this out and have fun as long as I can, really.
Movies.com: It sounds like you’re more aware of the circumstances of your career than most would expect. Is that because of things you’ve picked up on and observed on the Game of Thrones set?
Williams: When all this started, my main thought about it all was that the only kid stars I’d seen were like High School Musical, Nickelodeon- or Disney-type stars, and they were 17 with amazing cars and with their own houses and stuff like that. And I guess that’s cool, but that’s really not my idea of happiness. I’ve never wanted a flashy car or a big mansion. I’d rather just go on a nice vacation, or hang out with my friends on the beach. There’s a big thing that money doesn’t buy you happiness, and I completely agree with that.
I’m the youngest of four kids. I have a stepbrother and stepsister and we grew up in a little three bedroom house in the middle of nowhere, so I’m not really from that world. And since this was never really my dream to be in this world, now that I am, I don’t want to change and start acting out like other actors my age have done. I’d rather do things that make me happy and spend my time doing what I enjoy.
There’s a lot of things about child stars, that they’re really rude and bratty, and I think since I was given the opportunity to work with so many massive, established actors who have seen it all, who have seen lovely kids to horrible kids, I was desperate to prove to them that just because we’re kids, we don’t know any less than you or are not as good, and are going to misbehave and mess around when we didn’t have to act. I was very keen to disprove that just because we were younger, we didn’t know how to act like adults.
Movies.com: So what’s the next step in your career?
Williams: There are rumors throughout the cast that we’re going to get the script soon. So the next major thing will be Game of Thrones. I’m heading out to L.A. for a photo shoot soon. I can’t say what it’s for, but it’s going to be very exciting.
Heatstroke is available now on VOD, iTunes and select theaters.
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