Cast as Arya Stark at the age of 12, Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams spent the entirety of her teenage years in the public eye. The actor, now 21, has spoken candidly in the past about the side effects of fame, which saw her turn to homeschooling to evade bullies at school. And in a new interview with the Guardian, Williams discussed the difficulties of teenage stardom: of determining who you are as the watching world attempts to decide it for you.
"Recently, I’ve had a chance to just live my life rather than living my life in front of people, and then telling them about it, you know?" Williams told the newspaper. "I feel like that’s basically how I spent my adolescence. I was living the life of an actor and then talking about it, but not actually ever feeling like I had lived a day in my life."
Williams — who has a string of post-Thrones roles lined up and is working on the networking app she cofounded, Daisie — isn't hungry for more fame. "My agents say things to me like, 'We’ll raise your profile,' and I don’t really understand what that means because to me it sounds like getting a whole lot more famous, which is something I’m not interested in."
"If this show is the greatest thing I ever do, I did OK. I didn’t do too bad," the actor said.
Asked about the pressures of fandom — with which Williams, playing one of Game of Thrones' most beloved characters, is all too familiar — the actor was cautious yet upfront. "There is just this ownership of people that I think fandom can sometimes feel…” she said. “It’s hugely supportive and it’s only ever to admire who it is that they are a fan of, but if we’re going to talk properly about the human race, I don’t think anyone is supposed to know how to deal with celebrity."
"I don’t know that there’s anything that can be done, but I think understanding that it can drive people insane is the first step," Williams said. "Amy Winehouse said it herself, she said: 'I don’t know what would happen if I got famous, I think it would drive me insane.'"
There's a constant hunger for new and inspiring teen idols, she acknowledged, discussing climate activist and Nobel peace prize nominee Greta Thunberg. "Reporting on a good cause is one thing," Williams said, "creating a teen idol is another. I think sometimes that line gets confused. It’s always reported as 'this girl is so cool,' when it’s just that she has a really interesting point to make. It morphs into pop culture, and the point that the person is trying to make can then leave their control."
Though Williams told the Guardian that she was shielded by Game of Thrones producers, she acknowledged a culture that fails to protect child stars. "It does feel like we never learn," she said. "I still see ignorant comments and I see it happening again with younger stars on other productions, where publicists actually want to create the media storm [around] child stars."
"I feel like I personally have to remove myself," Williams said, "because I had a taste of that sort of fame with this show and I made a vow to myself: I do not want that."