Maisie Williams: “People at the top of TV don’t want equality” | TV and radio


WWhen Maisie Williams was filming a fight scene in her latest TV project, Two Weeks to Live, she took a hit to the head. “I have been hit several times with a glass bottle,” she said neutrally over the phone. I can’t see his face but I can almost hear him smile, a slight chuckle detectable between sentences. “I also kicked my co-star in the chin and made her mouth bleed. Other than that, it was scratch free. “A kick to the face and multiple rounds of traffic jam might seem like the opposite of “no scratch,” but maybe it is for an actor like Williams, best known for his role as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones. As the nobleman turned murderer, Williams’ fight scenes included some of the show’s most crucial scenes, such as that of the bloody and battle-filled penultimate episode, The Long Night, which Williams trained for a year. to film.

In Two Weeks to Live, a dark and deadpan six-part comedy that airs on Sky One, it fights yet again, although this time around the punches come with punchlines as well. Williams plays Kim, a misfit who was raised by her surviving mother, Tina (played by Sian Clifford, AKA’s horribly tense sister of Fleabag, Claire) in a remote part of the British countryside reported only as “Northern England. “. On her 21st birthday, Kim runs away from home and walks into the real world for the first time, discovering lies, love and that no one wears high heels in the pub. While the series doesn’t seem entirely original (think a more polished version of The End of the F *** ing World, with high-jinx moments a la Killing Eve), Williams excels in his fishy role. out of the water, between unhappy and determined, worldly and childish.

For Williams, now 23, the project took some time. She first read the script four years ago while playing Stark. “I thought it was really funny,” she says. “But it was billed as a movie, and it’s hard to shoot a British movie, so we decided to make it into a TV show. It’s a cat-and-mouse chase with a lot of suspense, so it made sense to put it into episodes.

Game changer… Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones. Photograph: Helen Sloan / AP

Much has changed for Williams in those four years, since the days when Game of Thrones aired to millions of people around the world (not bad for her first professional acting gig, which she landed at 12 years). The show transported her from her home in the Bristol suburbs to destinations around the world, knocking her out of school and showing her in front of the public.

Indeed, if Stark has come of age before our eyes – going from a girl to a strong and daring young woman – then Williams has done the same. Four years ago, while working in youth media, I remember seeing her – blunt bangs with alternating pink or purple hair, a stud in the nose, decked out in androgynous high fashion outfits – on the Covers of style and culture titles such as Dazed, Nylon and Highsnobiety, not only an actor in the biggest TV show, but also an edgy idol of Gen Z.

Of course, it wasn’t just what she looked like but what she said. Williams has lent her voice to a range of struggles for justice – from water inequality, to trans rights, to Black Lives Matter (“Watching hate crime video after police brutality video does makes you desensitized to the murder of innocent black people. It’s poison and it’s sadistic, ”she wrote in an Instagram caption, after attending a protest – and used her status to encourage young people to vote (and to vote for Labor). She has joined environmental campaigns and has spoken out in favor of same-sex marriage, describing her own sexuality as one that resists labels (“I fall in love with personalities and not people or genders”). And she spoke about the problem of two-dimensional roles for actresses as a “hot room” or as a girlfriend.

Kim, luckily, is neither of those things. Would Williams describe her character as a feminist? “I think so, although I don’t think Kim knows what that means. She hasn’t lived in society for 16 years, so the concept of male or female thought hasn’t really crossed her mind. Indeed, it is this innocence that makes her so compelling – her ability to simplify matters of love and trust that adults often overcomplicate. “It was a lot of fun for me to see the world with rose-colored glasses,” she adds.

I ask her about heroines in movies and on TV – how they usually look a certain appearance (eg, skinny, beautiful) or are motivated by an acceptable female reason, eg, standing up for their children. Arguably Game of Thrones was revolutionary for having female characters who thirsted for money and power like everyone else. Does Williams think we are more receptive to these complex representations of women? “We are in an interesting period,” she said. “We definitely see a lot more female characters, which is a good thing for me as a female actor. But I think women are being used as a token. Rarely do you see women behind the camera or on the crew, or even directors, screenwriters or producers.

`` The public saw her go from a girl to a daring young woman '' ... Maisie Williams and Reuben Selby at Paris Fashion Week 2019.

“Audiences saw her go from a girl to a daring young woman”… Maisie Williams and Reuben Selby at Paris Fashion Week 2019. Photograph: Swan Gallet / WWD / REX / Shutterstock

“When the project is led by a man, the female characters need a lot of input from the actresses to bring out these ‘cool qualities, like relatability. So I am asked how to improve this character, because clearly they do not know what they are doing. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are some amazing women who can be hired, but they just aren’t.

While not explicitly extending this review to Two Weeks to Live, Williams notes that she and Clifford spent time working on their characters and “pushed to bring a little more reality” to their mother-daughter relationship. .

The show benefits the women behind the scenes, as writers and producers, and has a diverse cast. Two of the main characters are British and South Asian, and I tell Williams that I am delighted to see British Asians not playing terrorists or colonial subjects. However, I can’t help but think of the many British POC actors who, put off by the lack of roles in the UK, turned to the US. Are various projects easier to do in the UK or the US? ” [Diverse projects] are easy to do anywhere, ”she says. “The people at the top don’t want to. And that’s the problem. It’s the same as everything: any government can end poverty in their country, but they don’t do it because they want to spend money elsewhere. With the film industry, women can be paid equally and people of color can have equal opportunities overnight. But some people decided not to.

Williams congratulates Sky and production company Kudos for setting standards around gender equality (and even their carbon footprint) for Two Weeks to Live. Should high-level actors contribute to securing these standards by declining productions without them?

“It’s one way to do it, and I think it’s been pretty successful. I think a lot of the change will come with time. Right now, massive shockwaves are going through the industry, with everything from TV to the internet and businesses bursting out of nowhere and overtaking Fox or whatever. I feel invigorated by this, I am excited for the future. I just like figuring out how to improve this industry for myself and for the people who come after.

Seems like a lot to do for one person, surely? “I never really knew anything else. My career took place during and after #MeToo. [Change] is all I have ever known. But there are still things that I am unhappy with, and being at the start of my career, I have the energy to change them.

I get a message that our interview is coming to an end, but I have to ask Williams about Bristol before I leave: my in-laws live there and have given me a feeling of ‘Brizzle’ pride. Is she a local superstar?

“Sort of! Williams said. “Although I don’t come back a lot, and if I do, I usually stay with Mom. I feel like everyone knew me when I was a kid. Could she make a good Who do you think you are? One day? “I did a DNA test recently thinking I would get a little surprise. And I am 100% English. Specifically the South West, Devon and Somerset. My lineage of ancestors has not even left the southwest. It would make a boring show.

Or maybe it would make a great show: about the young lady who has broken ranks and traveled the world and who – whether on screen or off – is always up for a fight.

Two Weeks to Live starts at 10 p.m. on September 2 on Sky One and NOW TV


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