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If you’ve inhaled HBO’s Game of Thrones like literally everyone else, you could probably recognize Maisie Williams’ voice anywhere. But her upcoming film will test just how familiar you are with the Game of Thrones regular; in Early Man, a stop-motion family film about a prehistoric power struggle, the actress we know as Westerosi assassin Arya Stark plays the outspoken, soccer-loving Goona opposite Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne—or their voices, at least. Quite a change from the young woman we’ve watched develop a hunger for revenge on GoT all these years. (Just as much of a change will be troubled teen Wolfsbane in The New Mutants, a terrifying next-gen X-Men spinoff film due in theaters early next year.)

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ELLE.com spoke with Williams about Goona’s extremely unusual accent, her thoughts on Time’s Up, and what might make her get Needle out IRL.

What drew you to Goona?

I’ve always been an Aardman fan, so I would have jumped at the opportunity no matter who I was playing. But I was thrilled to be playing Goona because she is such a good role model for young girls. She’s very straight-talking and practical, she’s talented, and she achieves her main goals in life by helping others.

It’s important to have strong female characters in films for children as well as adults!

Absolutely. There’s a million and one animations of female characters, and even though they’re cartoons, they’re really sexy and over-sexualized. It always seems strange to me. I never understood it. And one thing Aardman’s always been really good at is making real people. I don’t know why people feel the need to make these male/female stereotypes. Aardman is good at creating good men and women who aren’t overly pretty or promoting what you need to look like as a woman or the roles you need to play in life. In this movie, ultimately I think the message is about working together to overcome obstacles. That’s something we all definitely learn from, both on a small scale and on a huge scale in your community.

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Your accent in the movie is quite unique.

So basically when they came to me with the role, they said they wanted her to be sort of Norwegian, so I was on YouTube and I found someone with a great voice. I started to base it on her. Then I saw some of the animation and the woman who’d dubbed it temporarily for me to watch had a German accent. I feel like my accent landed somewhere between the two. The nice thing about this sort of movie is that you can create whatever voice you want to!

Has playing Arya for so long raised the bar on the characters you’re willing to play?

Not just as Arya, but yes. As I’ve gone through this industry I’ve loved every character I’ve played and I’ve been very lucky to play very well-rounded women. Because of that, I don’t want to play a woman who is not 100 per cent authentic. Arya’s got a huge part to play in that. I’ve been spoiled rotten with my first role I’ve ever gotten, so now I’ve got to keep on that streak. I can’t play anyone who’s not interesting and who’s not fully formed as a woman.

Maisie Williams

Maisie Williams as Arya in Game of Thrones

HBO

Is that what led you to form your own production company?

Kind of. It was more about opening up opportunities to people that I think have got it, but who don’t have those opportunities. I feel like the youth is so talented and it’s hard to get your foot in the door. I was lucky enough for that to happen to me before I could even blink. I feel like it would be really cool to give back to other people who are passionate about film, and have a lot of talent and drive. It would be great to make their movies and work with other young people.

Are you producing anything currently?

After we announced it, we got an influx of scripts, which was really exciting. There are a couple of things that have caught our eye. It’s all pre-production stuff. I’m realizing how long it takes to make movies and the reasons why it can take years and years and years. It’s a tough industry, but it’s something I’m very passionate about. When we find scripts we love, we won’t stop until we get them done.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve come across so far?

That not everyone’s experience was as pleasant as mine. Particularly for women. I do feel that I’ve learned a lot as I’ve grown up in this industry and my experience has been very different to some other women’s, and that’s very upsetting. It’s not right. I hope that in the future more women can feel the way I do about this industry and feel more positive about the way it’s run…. I would like to think that it’s not all doom and gloom, although I respect the fact that for a lot of women they haven’t had the experiences I’ve had.

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Maybe everyone is just terrified to cross Arya Stark.

Maybe they know I’d get Needle out! I’ll put them on the list.

Have you gotten involved in the #TimesUp movement?

I haven’t, but I’m 100 per cent supportive of the movement. It’s so wonderful to see so many women—and men—joining together to fight this issue. It’s wonderful that I get to play Goona, who is so strong but appeals to a younger audience. It’s showing the younger generation more interesting characters who have great messages.

Was there a character like that who inspired you when you were younger?

I loved Ginger from Chicken Run, which was another Aardman film. I just loved how she’d stop at nothing to get what she wanted. I really loved that. Which probably explains why I’m so bossy.

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“I don’t want to play a woman who is not 100 per cent authentic.”

Does Hollywood need to take more action in terms of how things are presented to audiences?

For all people of all ages, the way we represent women in film should be looked at. It’s really lovely that while this film does appeal to a younger audience, it’s still got the same messages you would hope to find in a film that appeals to an adult audience. They treat their audience with respect. They don’t dumb things down. Quite often it’s easy to treat the audience like children, but when you have a film that can appeal to people of all different ages it’s good to assume intelligence. You can treat the audience with the respect they deserve.

Have you been thinking much about how you want to pursue your career after Game of Thrones comes to an end?

I’ve been really lucky to get such good opportunities in my career so far. I hope I can be as ambitious as possible. And I hope I try as much as I can and don’t settle. I hope I continue to push myself. I wouldn’t want to look back when I’m older and think, “I wish I’d jumped at more opportunities.” It’s easier to say that than do it. It’s easier to do the thing that doesn’t scare you so much.

But you don’t want to be complacent.

Even as an actor you do worry about putting yourself out there and taking risks and playing characters you don’t feel comfortable with. It’s a huge thing to do, particularly in big movies that are going to be seen by a lot of people. It’s a big statement, and it is brave. I get nervous when I do new characters, so I hope that when faced with these opportunities that do scare me but are so incredible, I jump at them and don’t scare myself away.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

It might not be the biggest risk, but the most unexpected decision I’ve made is to do [The New Mutants], because the character is very, very different to any of the other characters I’ve ever played. It was very different for me as an actor to do that. I’m very excited.

Early Man is in theaters from February 16.



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