Fuse is celebrating Women's History Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Women's History before our eyes. Today we're paying tribute to Maisie Williams, the Game of Thrones actress whose confidence and wise words hit as hard as Valyrian steel.
HBO's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels premiered in 2011, two days after Williams' 14th birthday. As Arya Stark, she found her hopes of swordplay and glory thwarted for the first season before setting off on an independent hero's journey more powerful and harrowing than almost anyone's, one that's still in progress years later. Going into Season 7—the series' penultimate arc—the only characters who've appeared in more episodes than Williams' Arya are Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow and Tyrion and Cersei Lannister.
Williams, who turns 20 in April, was born in Bristol, England and grew up in the Somerset town of Clutton. She was a dancer rather than an actress as a youngster, until she was spotted at a Paris performance and quickly found herself with an agent, then beating hundreds of potential Arya Starks to land her first-ever role. Among other projects, she wound up on four episodes of Doctor Who and co-starred with Jason Sudeikis in the film The Book of Love. In January, she toplined Netflix's sci-fi thriller iBoy.
Williams' voice as an advocate for women, young people and animals is loud and clear. She once recounted to Entertainment Weekly the moment one of her first interviewers asked whether Arya is a feminist, a term she was still hazy on:
"And then someone explained it to me. And I remember thinking, 'Isn’t that just like everyone?' And then I realized everyone is not a feminist, unfortunately. But I also feel like we should stop calling feminists 'feminists' and just start calling people who aren’t feminist 'sexist'—and then everyone else is just a human. You are either a normal person or a sexist."
Helping launch Always' #likeagirl campaign in New York City in 2015, Williams gave an incredible speech that's a shining piece of history on its own:
"It’s time for society to stop telling girls what they should and shouldn’t do. And instead, through the quietest whispers and the loudest megaphones, tell them that they are unstoppable. It’s time for girls to be free; free to nurture and celebrate whatever qualities and talents make them different. It's the most liberating time moving into adulthood. But that transition should not happen with labels and expectations, but with an open heart and mind.
Judgement and expectations are limitations that stunt our creativity. Imagine if we blew up all those boxes and smashed all those ridiculous limitations. We could think of puberty as a time where, instead of losing all of our confidence, we gather it. A time where you can truly become you—strong and ready to share with the world. ... Confidence gives us what we need in life. So build yours, protect yours, fight for yours, grab it with both hands and hold it like the course of your future depends on it. Because it does."
In a Dazed magazine interview, Maisie revealed how fed up she was with adults' underestimation of kids. "People think we’re fucking stupid and we don’t know anything about anything. It’s really degrading," she said. "I get a lot of adults who are like, ‘You don’t know shit,’ and it’s like, ‘You don’t know shit. You have no idea what it’s like to be 17 years old.’” She also advocated for young women to be able to explore sexuality the way their male peers do. "We’re quite cool with talking about sexuality in women or boys and men, but not girls. ... I think, as a girl growing up with that taboo, you feel wrong for meeting boys and stuff.”
On Instagram, Williams' 4.8 million followers and countless other walk-ins are given no bio or official website on her profile. Instead, she simply links to Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project, aimed at protecting the ocean mammals in a variety of ways. Ditto for her Twitter, where she has 1.57 million followers.
Maisie Williams also excels at being a Game of Thrones fan right there with the regular, not-on-the-series-themselves fans. When the Red Wedding went down in 2013, her goofy Vine reaction launched 1,000 blog posts. Last April, she crashed a small viewing party some UCLA students were having for the Season 6 premiere. "I went there to surprise them with snacks," she recapped on Instagram, "but when I got there, I found myself trying one of every single snack they had made. ... Ps. Thanks for the dragon egg cookies, they were THA BOMB."
Hear Fuse's Back of the Class podcast break down the Game of Thrones Season 6 finale in the episode below: