Arya Stark isn’t our favorite Game of Thrones character just because she’s able to kill a person in cold blood and walk away with no trace of remorse. She’s our favorite character because she can do just that AND still be relatable, funny, and sympathetic. One of my favorite aspects of Game of Thrones is how multi-dimensional many of the characters are: insufferable queens are capable of feelings, king slayers can actually be kind, and young frightened girls have the capacity to conquer. Maisie Williams, the actress who plays Arya Stark, loves this role, and wouldn’t want to play any other. Why? Because like a true badass, she enjoys playing a badass.
Williams, who spent the weekend singing, hollering, and dancing at the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England this weekend, seems like a totally down-to-earth girl. She’s the kind of girl with whom I could split a party pack at Taco Bell and share dirty jokes. But she’s definitely not a normal teenage girl. When you see Williams on screen (and you will, since she told Huffington Post that she plans on acting “for as long as she can”), she’ll be in super fierce roles. I wouldn’t expect any mushy-gushy staring-into-the-depths-of-your-soul stuff from her. “I’m never going to be the romantic lead because that’s just not really who I am. . . I hope I’d be playing these badass, strong female characters for a long time because that’s what I enjoy,” she asserted.
And we do, too! It’s awesome to see a female play such a strong, independent character, because unfortunately, that rarely occurs in film or TV without some kind of stipulation. Most female superheroes or tough ladies (and there are more and more of them, granted!) are almost always sexualized, and always falling in love despite the best of their intentions. For example, Hathaway’s Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, Regina Mills and Emma Swan in the show Once Upon a Time, True Blood’s Sookie Stackhouse, and Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are all strong female protagonists, but they do end up romantically involved with someone.
We need more gritty characters like Arya, and we need more actors who stand by their firm desires to play tough, independent characters who don’t HAVE to fall in love to be interesting.
If you’re already missing your fearless Arya, you’ll be happy to know that Williams is taking on another brave role in a new film, Heatstroke, which is basically about a young girl trying to survive in the ruthless wild. It’s being filmed in South Africa, so it took Williams awhile to adjust to the dry weather and new environment. In an interview with Vulture, Williams said, “. . .we were out in the middle of nowhere and there wasn’t much shelter. It wasn’t like we were in a studio or something. Being in South Africa, that messed up my body a little bit. I broke out in spots, and I got really dehydrated. . . I am a really pale person naturally, and I burn really easily, so I did struggle a bit.” OH, and she had to interact with actual hyenas—hyenas that were not domesticated in the slightest. But the utterly un-phased Williams just said, “It’s not every day you get to [be surrounded by wild hyenas]! I mean, how many scenes have you seen with a hyena?”
Of course Maisie Williams is all, “Whatever! I get to hang out with a real live hyena!” Her genuine enthusiasm to play a character who isn’t afraid of doing whatever it takes to survive is incredibly refreshing. In Game of Thrones, Williams’ character is absolutely filthy. She is revenge-thirsty, killing any person who poses as an enemy to the Starks. She literally pours an entire bowl of stew into her mouth when she’s hungry. She is nothing like the female superheroes who came before her, and as a result, she’s changing the way women are represented in media. Note to network executives: most of us would be more than happy to watch a TV show dedicated to Arya’s adventures.